The New Palestinian Prime Minister Looks AheadPolitics
Meeting a Brand-New Prime Minister
The road to building peace between the Palestinians and Israelis remains fraught with obstacles, but on June 6 the Palestinian Authority came under the leadership of a new prime minister, Dr. Rami Hamdallah. Just a few days later, on June 11, he met the chairman of the Nippon Foundation, Sasakawa Yōhei, who was visiting Palestine during a trip to the Middle East.
During his discussion with Sasakawa, Prime Minister Hamdallah noted that “good relations now exist” between the cabinet he leads and the executive branch, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. The discussion touched on a number of topics, including the current conditions for Palestinians. The prime minister noted that, despite the negative economic impact of the global financial crisis, the Palestinians are taking concrete steps to prepare for a transition from the current United Nations “observer state” status to that of an independent nation, such as fostering their tourism and agriculture industries.
He also shared the view of the Palestinian leaders that a two-state vision is the way forward toward peace. Hamdallah said that the Palestinian government emphasizes the importance of making Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state and of securing the release of all political prisoners.
The new prime minister expressed his appreciation to Sasakawa for the roughly $1.2 billion in aid that the Palestinian Authority has received from the Japanese government since 1993. He also noted the importance of investing in the human resources of Palestine, since it lacks natural resources. Hamdallah expressed his hopes regarding future bilateral cooperation in the area of education, particularly higher education and training, and for the development of academic exchanges.
Sasakawa, for his part, asked how the Palestinian Authority views its relationship with the Islamist political organization Hamas, which currently wields effective control over Gaza. In response, the prime minister said that “the Gaza Strip is one part of our nation,” expressing his wish that Japan will also support this position. He added: “Our hope is that a general election will be held this year. In August, all the parties involved will gather in Cairo to discuss this matter. That meeting is of vital importance and we hope to make progress there. An election is an important moment for all of the people to express their will. We think that there is no reason for Hamas to oppose the election, which is an important step in the peace process.”
(Originally written in Japanese; photograph courtesy of the Nippon Foundation.)