Former Palestinian prime minister joins election contest

Former Palestinian prime minister joins election contest
Former prime minister Salam Fayyad, right, called for a national effort to strengthen Palestinian steadfastness with authority and justice. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 10 March 2021

Former Palestinian prime minister joins election contest

Former Palestinian prime minister joins election contest
  • Salam Fayyad: ‘Don’t ask us to choose between hunger and surrender’


AMMAN: Former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad has announced he will submit a list of independent candidates in the May 22 elections.

Fayyad’s decision was revealed in a front-page interview on Tuesday in the Palestinian daily Al-Quds.

Speaking to the newspaper’s editor, Mohammad Abu Libdeh, Fayyad said that his list “will be of independent faces that have had a presence in Palestinian life.”

He called for a national effort to strengthen Palestinian steadfastness with authority and justice.

Fayyad, a former International Monetary Fund official and finance minister, said that the rules of the game must change. “We need to insist on our right for equal treatment and we should stop expecting salvation through Washington.”

He said that it is unfair to ask Palestinians to choose between hunger and surrender.

Fayyad told Arab News that he has been surprised by the huge response to his decision.

“There has been an exceptionally large volume of calls of good wishes, with some talking about the interview, but all taking it rightly as a confirmation of my intention to take part on a list of independents.”

Fayyad’s social media accounts have more than 1.7 million followers.

While refusing to discuss specific political solutions in his Al-Quds interview, Fayyad called for “a return to beginnings.”

He said: “What I mean by beginnings is a return to the PLO position before the 1988 Palestinian peace initiative and not just before the Oslo Accords.”

The Palestinian bet on an independent state based on 1967 border has failed totally, he added.

However, Fayyad said that Palestinians should not be forced to choose between the two-state solution and a one-state solution with equal rights.

Instead, Palestinians must “insist that Israel recognize the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination.”

“This is a logical request that can be defended internationally, and we can use it to gain the global support of those who support peace, justice, and equality,” he said.

Fayyad, a former head of the Third Way party that won two legislative seats in 2007, said in the interview that he is opposed to participating in a majority government.

“What is needed to face the current challenges is a national unity government in which we have all sectors of the Palestinian political landscape, and not a majority government. This is a principled and final decision that we will not leave no matter what,” he said.

Jamal Nazzal, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and a Fatah spokesman, told Arab News that Fayyad is a “fabulous” person but was part of the problems he is now criticizing retrospectively.

“He was in charge of leading the country for over eight years. It is easy to criticize the mistakes he pointed out, but he is partially responsible for problems he created as a prime minister.”

Fayyad has been a visiting senior scholar and was Daniella Lipper Coules ’95 Distinguished Visitor in Foreign Affairs at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs in 2018.

The US academic appointment came after a UN plan to name Fayyad as a peace envoy to Libya in 2017 was blocked by US envoy Nikki Haley.

Ali Jirbawi, professor of political studies at Bir Zeit University, welcomed Fayyad’s decision. “Diversity in the lists is very important after a long wait without elections,” he told Arab News.

Fellow lecturer and former minister Ghassan Khatib called the move “good and courageous.”

Hazem Kawasmi, the Jerusalem-based director of the Arab World Observatory on Democracy and Elections, told Arab News that Fayyad is a “respected person” in Palestinian society.

“During his rule as minister of finance and afterward as prime minister, he tried to build democratic institutions of the state of Palestine and supported the rule of law. He is an economist and thus gave good attention to entrepreneurship and believes in civil society.”

Kawasmi said that Palestine needs Fayyad’s participation, “like we need Nasser Al-Qudwa’s new initiative and Marwan Barghouti’s involvement” in shaping a new vision for Palestine.

“We need to build a strong Palestinian democratic leadership, from different factions and independents in order to stand up strongly and finish the colonial Israeli occupation.”