Meeting Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad

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Thursday, 27 August, 2009

Jimmy Carter reflects on the Elders' meeting with Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad and describes the Prime Minister's vision for a Palestinian state.

It's always a pleasure to meet with Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad. He classifies himself as a technocrat, but he's an outstanding economist who is respected by the entire world, he's becoming increasingly knowledgeable about and competent in politics. He has just put forward a plan that's very intriguing, and we talked about it at length: He recommends that Palestine go ahead, with its own plan for economic and political development, and not postpone those detailed plans until after a comprehensive peace comes – which may be many years in the future. He's very enthusiastic about this.

He is deeply concerned about the plight of the people in Gaza who are deprived of their basic human rights. And he's also very deeply committed to continuing with plans for elections to be held in January for all of Palestine, East Jerusalem and obviously the West Bank and Gaza. He's always frank in expressing opinions and putting forth ideas – I think it was a lesson for all of us, particularly for those who hadn't met him before.

As you know, he's outside the political realm, in that he's in the cabinet and he's an anointed Prime Minister, not an elected Prime Minister. And so he leaves decisions about negotiations between political parties to others in the cabinet, particularly to President Mahmoud Abbas. But he's very concerned about the division between Hamas and Fatah; he knows that it will be difficult to have an election that's respected and accepted by both sides unless there is reconciliation between the two political factions. But he didn't want to let that become the impediment to going ahead with the elections; and he has confidence that progress can be made either by Egyptians or by some outside entity that might bring the two parties together in a more effective way.

I think Fayyad's plan is a startling development, because he has put forth for the first time a plan for a future state. It was a surprising initiative that hadn't occurred to me. It's idealistic, and it's a vision of their own state. Actually it's unprecedented, that the Palestinians have initiated this. Obviously, it can’t be a substitute for an overall political settlement.

At this point, the plan is the Prime Minister's initiative, it has not been endorsed by the whole cabinet. One of the things in the plan is a proposal for the Palestinians to have their own international airport in the Jordan Valley. He said that Air Force One is the first plane he wants to see land there, carrying President Barack Obama – I told him I would be very pleased to pass that message along.

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