Salam Fayyad: The two-state solution needs action as well as words

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There is growing expectation that Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may soon endorse the two-state solution. His speech tonight outlining his government's approach to Middle East peace affords him an opportunity he should not miss. No doubt some will laud any change in his opposition to the two-state solution as a "breakthrough". But what does a genuine endorsement of it entail?

First and foremost, it entails accepting the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and with it Palestinian sovereignty and statehood. In 1988, the PLO made the historic decision to recognise Israel on 78 per cent of historical Palestine. What has been missing is recognition by Israel of a Palestinian state on the remaining 22 per cent.

The guidelines for what this state must look like are in place. International law, UN resolutions and existing agreements between Israel and the PLO all converge around the vision of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 border, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative together point the way forward.

Palestinians have made significant progress in implementing our Road Map obligations. Police have been deployed in major Palestinian cities to restore law and order. We have strengthened the institutions of state, with significant advances in financial and security sector reform. Initiatives have been created to encourage economic growth. This progress, however, cannot continue in a vacuum. Israel's failure to fulfil its obligations has undermined the credibility of the peace process, and the voices of those committed to non-violence. Genuine support for the two-state solution requires a fundamental reversal in Israel's policies on the ground. This includes taking concrete steps to roll back the occupation and to implement those obligations Israel has already agreed to.

First, Prime Minister Netanyahu must implement an immediate and comprehensive freeze on all settlement activity, including all "natural growth" and the construction of Israel's Wall. Israeli settlements and their supporting infrastructure take the land and resources essential to the viability of a Palestinian state.

Second, Israel must withdraw from, and end all incursions and other military activities in, areas under Palestinian control. Palestinian successes in security have occurred in spite of recurrent Israeli incursions, but if our gains are not to be lost there needs to be a paradigm shift in Israel's security behaviour. Third, freedom of movement and access for Palestinian and goods both in and out of, and within, the occupied Palestinian territory must be restored in keeping with existing agreements. This includes an immediate end to Israel's siege of Gaza. Restrictions on movement remain the major obstacle to Palestinian economic development.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will no doubt argue that the two-state solution hinges on first guaranteeing Israel's security. However, Israel's security is not served by continuing the occupation, by undermining Palestinian security and reform efforts, or by denying Palestinians their rights.

Past Israeli leaders have professed their support for the two-state solution only to continue with policies completely at odds with what it demands. What is needed now is a genuine demonstration of intent by Israel to end the occupation and respect the rights of Palestinians. That would be a true breakthrough.

Salam Fayyad is the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority

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