Fayyad Says Palestinians ‘Marginalized’ by Arab Spring

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said efforts to achieve a state through peace talks with Israel have been “marginalized” by the Arab Spring and the financial crisis in Europe.

“Conditions are not ripe for resumption of the political process,” Fayyad said today in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Our cause has been marginalized to an extent unsurpassed for decades.”

The Quartet, which includes the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, had set yesterday as the deadline for Israel and the Palestinians to resolve preliminary conditions ahead of the resumption of official negotiations that stalled more than a year ago.

After five meetings in Amman, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians failed to come to terms that could allow talks to go forward, and a Palestinian official said yesterday there would be no more meetings unless Israel agrees to stop construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Talks fell apart in September 2010 after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to renew a 10-month freeze on settlement-building and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ruled out negotiations while West Bank construction continues.

‘Seriously Narrowed’

Israeli President Shimon Peres, speaking yesterday in Davos, was more upbeat than Fayyad. Peres said that in Amman gaps between the sides were “seriously narrowed, and neither the Palestinians nor the Israeli have any choice but to make peace.”

Fayyad said negotiations were now unlikely to gain traction because of the U.S. election this year, the European debt crisis and political turmoil in the region that has toppled leaders in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Domestic issues will keep leaders preoccupied, he said.

Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia in January 2011, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled a month later and is currently on trial, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi was killed in October and Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed an accord to relinquish power in November.

Fayyad said that the Quartet efforts to get talks back on track has come “at the expense” of giving “adequate attention to issues of the here and now and what is happening on the ground, including the fact that the Palestinian Authority is facing a severe financial crisis that isn’t getting much attention.”

The Palestinian Authority’s budget deficit is widening as foreign aid dwindles, said Fayyad, an economist who previously worked for the International Monetary Fund.

Saudi Arabia said on Sept. 20 that it would pay $200 million to help ease a financial crisis that left the Palestinian Authority struggling to pay employees and reliant on foreign aid to narrow a budget deficit of about $1 billion. Jihad Al Wazir, head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, said in September that the Palestinian Authority was facing a funding deficit for 2011 of about $300 million.

To contact the reporters on this story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net; Olivia Sterns in London at osterns1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Fraher at jfraher@bloomberg.net

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