A campaign by the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority to achieve statehood is gaining traction among Palestinians living in the West Bank. 

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Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad hugs a girl during a rally marking Land Day in the West Bank village of Ezbat Altabib near Qalqilya on March 27, 2010. ((Abed Omar Qusini /Reuters))

Salam Fayyad, a former economist, is championing what's being called a "white intifada" — a new style of Palestinian politics that combines institution building and non-violent resistance.

He promotes this agenda at every chance he gets, planting trees, kissing babies and visiting village fairs and public festivals across the territory's rocky terrain. 

"He's very modest, he participates in people's activities, he comes to the villages and participates in people's celebrations," villager Suzanne Al Jazera told CBC News.

Other supporters say he offers an alternative to Palestinians who feel diplomacy and the armed struggle have both failed.

"We are firmly committed to non-violence," Fayyad said. "And I reiterate this on every occasion I possibly can because this is the path to freedom that we're taking." 

Peace talks still possible

Statehood has proved elusive for the Palestinians, in part because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said established Jewish settlements in areas like the West Bank must be allowed to expand to accommodate the natural growth of settler families.

Most recently, the Palestinians called off starting indirect peace talks after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new settlement houses in occupied East Jerusalem.

The announcement came during a visit to Israel by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden in early March and set off a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Washington.

Now there are growing signs that Israel and the Palestinians are on the verge of resuming peace talks after they broke down more than a year ago.

Netanyahu said Tuesday he will discuss resuming the talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when he travels early next week to Egypt, which is a key mediator between the sides.

On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signalled he is ready to start indirect negotiations. 

Fayyad perseveres

Meanwhile, Fayyad says he will continue his campaign with or without Israeli support, and insists it will be difficult for even Israel to deny the Palestinians statehood if the foundations for a state are in place.

"Our job as we see it is to do everything we possibly can … on the way of getting ready for statehood," he said. 

Critics, including economist Naser Abdel Karim, accuse Fayyad of selling unrealistic illusions.

"The problem is not whether he'll be able to build institutions," said Karim, an economist at Birzeit University, seven kilometres north of Ramallah on the West Bank. "The problem is whether institutions are sufficient conditions to end the occupation."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to endorse a two-state solution. In fact, Netanyahu has endorsed a two-state solution but with several conditions attached.
    Apr 30, 2010 2:45 PM ET
With files from the CBC's Margaret Evans