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Palestinians still hope for state by summer

JERUSALEM — Palestinian plans to establish a state by summer in agreement with Israel remain on track, and Palestinians do not intend to seek alternatives such as unilateral recognition from the international community, a top Palestinian official said in an interview aired Saturday.

Given the stalemate in peace talks, some Palestinian officials have been trying to rally international recognition for an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem even without a deal with Israel.

However, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in a rare interview this is not his goal.

"What we are looking for now is a state of Palestine. We are not looking for yet another declaration of statehood. We are not looking for a unilateral declaration of statehood," he told Israel's Channel 2 TV. "I really do not have a Plan B."

The interview was the first Fayyad — who heads the moderate West Bank government under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — has granted to an Israeli TV station since becoming prime minister in 2007.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are at an impasse over Israel's refusal to meet Palestinian demands for a freeze on Jewish settlements in areas Palestinians want for a future state.

He used his appearance before the Israeli public to reaffirm his rejection of violence and call on Israelis not to give up hope for peace. "We should not be discouraged because we have failed so many times before," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman, Nir Hefetz, welcomed the comments.

Fayyad, a former World Bank economist, is credited with an economic upturn in the West Bank and improving law and order after a decade of violence.

He is well respected by both American and Israeli officials, though he has angered some in Israel with his aggressive boycott of West Bank settlements. In one famous incident, he tossed products made in Jewish settlements into a bonfire.

"The issue is not the de-legitimization of Israel but the de-legitimization of the occupation," he said. "We want to make peace with Israel. We have recognized their right to exist. The issue for us is the continued occupation."

Israeli air strike kills 5 militants

An Israeli air strike has killed five Gaza militants in the deadliest attack against the coastal strip in months. The Israeli military said the men were about to launch a rocket attack against southern Israeli communities. Palestinian officials confirmed the five dead were militants. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, while the rival Palestinian Authority governs the West Bank.

Associated Press

Palestinians still hope for state by summer 12/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:42pm]

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