'Israel should start rolling back occupation now'

WASHINGTON — Israel should loosen restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza immediately as a sign of good faith that new peace talks can produce a deal within a year, the Palestinian prime minister said on Thursday.

By (AFP)

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Published: Fri 24 Sep 2010, 8:45 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:39 AM

“Part of what really needs to happen in a hurry, if not the end to the occupation itself, is for there to begin to be signs of it ending,” Salam Fayyad told an audience in Washington.

Palestinians want “manifestations or events suggestive of an occupation on its way to ending, an occupation that’s viewed as being rolled back. We do not see that,” he said.

Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks for the first time in nearly two years on September 2, pledging to reach a comprehensive deal within a year.

But the resumption of talks has been accompanied by renewed violence, including deadly assaults on settlers in the West Bank and a shooting attack by a settler guard on a Palestinian that sparked riots in East Jerusalem.

Fayyad said his government was committed to the peace process, despite the violence and questions over whether Israel will allow a freeze on settlement construction to expire over vehement Palestinian objections.

But he warned that Israel had taken few concrete measures that suggested it believed peace was possible within a year.

“If that’s going to happen, then it stands to reason that we should be right in expecting to begin to see the occupation begin to be rolled back.”

He said Israel should “dismantle the capricious control regime” composed of multiple checkpoints in the West Bank, and “allow us Palestinians to begin to have formal security presence in Palestinian population centers.”

“That begins to suggest to our people that things are happening,” he said at the New America Foundation, a US think-tank.

Fayyad also responded to calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Palestinians to recognize Israel specifically as a “Jewish state.”

“We recognize Israel’s existence, actually we did more than just recognize Israel’s existence,” he said.

“It was a lot more profound than just recognizing Israel’s existence, we recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.”

Fayyad also questioned why Netanyahu was insisting on the specific declaration now.

“This issue never really came up in the peace talks between either Israel and Jordan on the one hand, or Egypt, before that, and Israel,” he said.

“Nor am I aware of that being raised as an issue or expectation of any other country around the world.”

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