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Why I’m building Palestine

By: Salam Fayad, Foreign Policy

01.12.2010

Soon, the only obstacle in our way will be the occupation itself.

When we launched our state-building plan for Palestine in August 2009, many dismissed it as an exercise in eggheadedness, extraordinary optimism, a dream. But here we are, feeling exceptionally, extremely validated by the scorecard so far: We have completed more than 1,500 projects, including the establishment of dozens of new schools, clinics, and housing projects and the construction of new roads throughout Palestine. Building a Palestinian state was never intended to replace the political process, but to reinforce, and benefit, from it. The idea was to impart a sense of possibility about what might happen, what we would want to see happen: an end to the Israeli occupation and an opportunity for Palestinians to be able to live as free people in a country of our own.
 
Much is wrong with the context in which we're operating. But if we can reduce our problems to just the continuation of the occupation, then we are much better positioned to end it. It's the power of ideas translated into facts on the ground -- taking Palestinian statehood from abstract concept to reality.
 
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Often, people come to the conclusion that it's hopeless. I understand that. But they're thinking about things in a static way. The state-building program goes well beyond the world as it is now. You begin to move; you begin to act; you begin to create new realities; and that in itself provides a much better dynamic. All this, I believe, feeds into a sense of inevitability that undercuts the pervasive feeling of despair. And this is a state that's going to be founded on the basis of values that are universally shared: openness, tolerance, coexistence, equality, nondiscrimination, and full sensitivity to the rights, needs, and concerns of others.
 
We want to have lasting peace with Israel. But you can't get to that point if everything you do is unidirectionally negative; we must create positive facts on the ground, and a sense of real mutual respect must begin to develop. Our late poet Mahmoud Darwish once wrote: "When peace is made it will be made between equals." That's what inspires me.
 
Salam Fayyad is prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.