Salam Fayyad

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Segev

Palestine's Prime Minister is trying to build a state, much as David Ben-Gurion did in 1948. The leading Israeli historian of that period looks at how he's doing.

You're still working on your plan [to build an independent Palestinian state]. You have nine months left. Will it be ready? I think so. My vision is for better-functioning institutions for the state, more adequate infrastructure, various services.

Is there a specific date? The 26th of August.

On the 26th of August you'll say, "I have a state." No, that's when we're supposed to have attained a state of readiness. The reality of it will grow on you.

So you believe in the power of optimism? Most definitely.

How do you explain the fact that most Israelis don't believe in the possibility of peace anymore? Right now, in all the opinion polls, there is still a majority that favors a two-state solution, both in Palestine and Israel.

But most Israelis don't believe it's possible. As we build more, as we create more and more facts on the ground--this has enormous power. I'm betting on change, positive change.

Let's assume you succeed. There is still Gaza. Why should we talk with you at all if Gaza is not part of it? That is also thinking of matters in a static way.

Really? What if we were really to begin to think, for a change, of what is possible, rather than of what is not possible?

OK. What is possible in Jerusalem? What is possible in Jerusalem is for East Jerusalem to be viewed just like the rest of the West Bank--territory seized by Israel in 1967.

These kinds of answers frighten Israelis very much. The last thing in the world I want is to frighten the Israelis.

Would you say the wall [the border fence Israel has built in recent years] was useful to your efforts? The wall? Useful?

I'm thinking of Ben-Gurion, who talked about the Arab shutdown of the Jaffa harbor in the 1930s. He said, well, it compelled us to build our own. The wall has basically resulted in the loss of a significant portion of the West Bank. …