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New Palestinian PM wants to work with Israel

Story Highlights

• Salam Fayyad urges "intensive and active cooperation" with Israel
• Rebellion of last few years has worsened Palestinian condition, he says
• Civilians should not have weapons, prime minister declares
• He advocates Palestinian state "side by side with the state of Israel"
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- The new Palestinian government is seeking "intensive and active cooperation" with Israel to ensure that the chaos that recently gripped Gaza does not re-emerge in the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told CNN on Thursday.

"We have sent that message [to Israel], and we are waiting to get started with this," Fayyad said in his first interview with a Western network since he was appointed to the post more than a week ago.

Fayyad rejected the notion that his stance on dealing with Israel might be seen by some Palestinians as collaborating with the occupying force in the West Bank.

"I have thick skin when it comes to these characterizations," he said. "They don't matter in the least; it doesn't concern me.

"I know what I want to do, I know what the mission is -- to serve the interests of the Palestinian people." (Watch Fayyad assess the state of the Palestinians Video)

Fayyad said security is a top priority, and he cautioned Palestinians not to use armed resistance as the only way to fight for an independent state.

"It's about time that we know what works and what doesn't work," he said. "And it's not enough to stop at statements and pronouncements like, 'Resistance is [the] right of any occupied people.'

"We certainly are [occupied], and that certainly is a right. But I think we have to have some sense of what has happened over the past ... seven, eight years.

"Simple, basic question: Are we better off now than we were then? Then, the situation was not great, but guess what it is like today? It's catastrophic."

Fayyad vowed to crack down on weapons in the hands of Palestinian civilians.

"Guns and arms are exclusively the property of the official agencies of the ... Palestinian National Authority, meaning that no more will guns out of the purview of the national authority ... be tolerated."

Rejecting 'chaos,' hoping for peace

He said that the recent division among Palestinians has "destroyed" the vision of a Palestinian state.

"This is complete chaos," he said. "Anyone resisting, however which way they want, whenever they want, from wherever they want, is that resistance? That has destroyed our national project completely."

Fayyad hopes to get the process toward "an independent Palestinian state living side by side with the state of Israel" back on track through peaceful means.

Although Fayyad is a political independent, he was appointed by Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas following Hamas' recent military seizure of Gaza.

That military action split the former Fatah-Hamas unity government, with Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah in control of the West Bank. (Watch boys run from gunfire in Gaza Video)

Fayyad denied there are two Palestinian governments, saying the previous Hamas leaders are "not legitimate under our basic law."

Hamas leaders have said the same thing about Fayyad and his government.

Despite strong backing from the United States and the European Union -- which had cut off funding to the Palestinian government after Hamas' victory last year -- the new government has a long way to go to shed the image of corruption that surrounds Abbas' Fatah party.

Fayyad acknowledged that a key goal of his government is "an entirely different mind-set" in approaching the problems that the Palestinian people face.

"What really matters to me now the most -- before money, before anything else -- is a change in attitude," Fayyad said. "If we continue in this nickel-and-dime approach to dealing with the issues, I'm afraid we are never going to get anywhere, because that has been what has been happening over the past 13, 14 years."


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New Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said armed resistance has only brought misery.

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