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Hawatmeh: Our People Has Confirmed its Unity in the Field by Blood and We Must Support it
By: Samer Elias
April 16, 2018

The Secretary-General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Nayef Hawatmeh, condemned the massacre carried out by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the 48 areas. He called for the immediate transfer of the issue to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, then the Secretary-General Nayef Hawatmeh, considered what he called narrow interests of the authoritarian projects of "Fatah" and "Hamas", responsible for the failure of completing the Palestinian reconciliation.

He considered, in an interview with Al-Hourriah in Moscow, that the return to bilateral negotiations sponsored by the US is a continuation for “the reproduction of the disasters that have afflicted us since 1993”. He urged to propose draft resolutions in the United Nations, including the call for an international peace conference with reference to the international resolutions that form the political and legal framework of negotiations, and then the transition of membership of the State of Palestine under occupation from an observer to an active member.

He also considered that the continuation of division and the failure of implement facts on the ground, have paved the way for Trump's decision on Jerusalem and the reduction of aid to UNRWA, pointing out that there are still bets on the US administration among circles in the Palestinian Authority, and orientations for not ending the division in response to American and Israeli pressures.

He said that the Palestinian situation is difficult and the Palestinian people does not have a range of choices about its political future to choose from. Rather, we must build facts on the ground to correct the balance of power in the field and the new resolutions in the United Nations, explaining that the proposal is "Greater Israel", including Palestinian autonomy without sovereignty, or a return to worse than it was before 1967.

Hawatmeh explained, from Moscow, that taking advantage of the rise of Russia requires creating facts on the ground and strengthening the Palestinian situation, and then directing toward the United Nations to give Russia the ability to pressure on the Israeli right government.

The following is the text of the dialogue:

All of Palestine, especially in the Gaza Strip, has witnessed the march of the Land and Return, in which has the occupation forces have committed brutal massacres. How do you read what has happened?

What has happened on 30/3/2018, and after, confirms that the struggling doctrine of the masses of our people is constantly regenerating and is of high national responsibility in the struggle against occupation, settlement and siege for our national rights to return and self-determination. It also emphasizes the unity of the struggle of our people and its political forces in the field, the unity that must be consolidated by ending all forms of division, and rebuilding the national consensus on the program of resistance , uprising and the internationalization of the issue and national rights in the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, on participatory basis, which requires the immediate implementation of the decisions of the Central Council, in its last two sessions, by the disengagement from Oslo and the Paris Economic Protocol, the withdrawal of recognition of Israel, stopping security coordination with the occupation, and the disengagement from the Israeli economy, the withdrawal of labor from the work in settlements and stop dealing in Israeli shekels.

The Palestinian official leadership through Kuwait called for a session of the Security Council, to reach to a position in favor of Palestine but the representative of the United States disrupted it. It called also the representative of Palestine in the United Nations to seek protection for the Palestinian people. What is your position on these two positions?

We condemn the American policy that is increasingly biased towards the bloody policy of the Israeli occupation. The position of the Washington representative in the Security Council affirms the insistence of the American project to eliminate the cause and national rights of our people, and to provide political cover for the bloody Israeli policy of extremism looting of the land, putting thousands of our people in prisons and Judaizing Jerusalem.

The official leadership should not only ask the representative of Palestine to seek international protection, but also it should mobilize all its energies and potentials and its Arab and international relations to seize this historic opportunity to propose the entire Palestinian issue on the international community through a series of steps; the most important, is requesting the active membership of the State of Palestine in the General Assembly and calling for holding an international conference on the Palestinian issue under the United Nations, in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy and under the auspices of the five permanent members, in order to achieve all our rights and a full withdrawal of the occupation and settlement.

In this context, we call for an immediate meeting of the PLO Activation and Development Committee to carry out a comprehensive review and rebuild our national and coalition unity.

This year, Palestinians commemorate the 70th anniversary of Nakba and 25 years of the Oslo Accords. How do you esteem this stage in the history of the Palestinian cause? Where did the Palestinian leadership make a mistake and where did it make right?

The stage of our national cause is difficult and tough. We are stuck between the Trump hammer and his "Deal of Century" project, and between the anvil of Netanyahu and his expansionist colonial government in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Bank and its blockade of the Gaza Strip. This situation has not come at once, but it is the result of the negotiations of 25 years since Oslo, failed negotiations on the Palestinian side, while Netanyahu's government daily implements its strategic and interim plans by looting the land, demolishing houses and displacing people, reaching to what is called by the Israeli right and extreme right “Greater Israel” from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.

All this is because of the illusions of those who went to Oslo, and who have continued the same policy: taking unilateral and exclusive decisions represented by the Fatah PA, and because of division in the Palestinian ranks, which has led to the dismantling of the unity of the people and the land, that Hamas bears a major responsibility for it because of its military coup in June 2007. The Palestinian struggle has focused on overcoming these two projects: The authoritarian projects of Fatah and Hamas over these years. And we in the Democratic Front and all Palestinian national and liberal forces have been able to achieve a comprehensive national dialogue, involving 14 factions (the factions of the PLO, Hamas and Islamic Jihad).

We have completed four programs to end the division and rebuild the national unity through the formation of a comprehensive national coalition government, parallel to the agreement to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections and for a Palestinian National Council, elected within the occupied territories and the countries of asylum and Diaspora in accordance with the law of proportional representation. But all these programs have been disrupted by the two division parties, and we have agreed upon the decisions of the Palestinian Central Council at its session on March 5, 2015, which called for:

1. Withdrawing the recognition of Israel as long as its governments do not recognize the State of Palestine.

2. Suspending the negotiations until the complete cessation of settlement.

3. Disengaging the Palestinian economy from the Israeli economy.

4. Withdrawing the Palestinian labor from settlements.

The previous decisions are a guarantee to end the division. And if they were implemented then, we would not have reached to the Trump decision on Jerusalem, as implementing them means establishing facts on the ground that do not allow such decisions from any American administration. But everything has been disrupted, and we adopted again the same decisions in the Central Council, on January 13, 2018. These decisions are also being suspended, because there are still bets from the PA, and orientations to not end the division in response to American and Israeli pressure, in addition to pressures of Arab and Middle Eastern parties with conflicting projects. Therefore, again, it was not a surprise to us that Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and frozen support for the UNRWA.

The framework of solution

In what framework do you see the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, is it the two-state solution, the bi-national state solution, or the state with two regimes. What are the chances of the Palestinians to change the current political reality?

I say in a clear and straightforward language that the Palestinian people doesn’t have many choices. The two-state solution is being buried after 25 years of US-sponsored bilateral negotiations, including nine months under the auspices of former Secretary of State John Kerry in Obama's administration, from July 2013 to April 2014. During this period, Kerry worked daily with security, political and legal frameworks within a team of more than 200 experts who lived in Jerusalem and he reached a dead end under the pressure of Israeli expansionist ambitions. The two-state solution is not even to be chosen or not. We, as Palestinian, agreed on it, a state with the borders of 4th June, 1967 with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital, and to solve the problem of the refugees according to Resolution 194. However, the negotiations with the Israeli side were not within this framework, but its reference was what on the table of negotiations and not the resolutions of international legitimacy, we, therefore, opposed these negotiations and called for negotiations on the basis of the resolutions of international legitimacy and under the auspices of the five permanent members in order to achieve a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. But Israeli governments have disrupted this, and US administrations have sided with varying degrees to Israeli expansionist desires.

From the beginning, there were Palestinian decisions that we adopted on the eve of the Madrid Conference in October 1991, and also prior to the Oslo negotiations, and unanimously we agreed on the obligations of the negotiations and their goals led by a delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organization. However, no one committed to all of this, and now they are admitting their failure. Later, the division has taken place and both sides recognized that it is a destructive act that serves the interest of Israel, which has exploited this period and the American bias by imposing facts on the ground.

It was not proposed for us, the two-state solution, or one-state solution on the basis of equality in citizenship, because Israeli public opinion overwhelmingly rejects the one-state on the basis of equality in citizenship. I drew attention to the fact that the Palestinian Council in 1969 discussed two projects for one Palestinian state, from the Mediterranean to the river. We, in the Democratic Front, called for a unified democratic state for the entire Arab Palestinian and Israeli Jewish population on the basis of equality of citizenship, and the brothers in Fatah presented a Palestinian one-state (with Israel), but on the basis of Muslims, Jews and Christians, which is a division on a sectarian basis that we rejected it .

What is proposed before us today from Israel is "Greater Israel", with rejecting the principle of equality in citizenship. In fact, Israel does not adhere to this principle with almost 1.5 million Palestinians in the territories of 1948 and works every day to adopt new racist laws and regulations, so, how about 4.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip?

The alternative to "Greater Israel" is retained in Netanyahu's drawer, as the matter was with Ariel Sharon. It is a project presented to him by his national security adviser, Giora Eiland, who is now a retired general, and the project is based on the return to pre -1967, even worse than it was then, as Gaza to be returned to Egypt's control, and what is agreed upon in the West Bank as a result of the negotiations would be annexed to Jordan, which is a project that was interrupted by the struggle of the Palestinian people, Arab peoples, the world and Arab and international resolutions that confirmed the existence of the Palestinian people and its rights to self-determination, a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and solving the refugee problem in accordance with Resolution 194.

What is required now, negotiations that may be resumed one day, based on international legitimacy and sponsorship or may not, because the return to US-sponsored bilateral negotiations is a return to the disasters that have plagued us since 1993, in return for large benefits to the Israeli side to continue: settlement work freely, house demolitions, the siege of the Gaza Strip and the fragmentation of the West Bank into cantons.

In statements made by Netanyahu a few days after his returning from the United States, he said that Israel is with the separation from the Palestinians, and he was confident that the majority of Israelis wants it, and that the Palestinians want to separate from Israel, therefore, he is with this separation, and giving the Palestinians an autonomy. He did not mention a state, because he wants to preserve Israel's full sovereignty over land, borders and passages by land, sea and air, with civilian autonomy, and on the context, the record of land and population has been in Israel's hands since the occupation of 1967. Thus, Netanyahu's statements mean that he has withdrawn what he said about his approval on the two-state solution, in Bar Ilan, after Obama's 2009 speech. The two-state project is ended for the right-wing government and replaced by the “Greater Israel” project. This is the case, and we must offer a realistic political and legal alternative that stems from the decisions of the Arab League, the continental organizations and the United Nations.

Jerusalem and the right of return

What do you think of the "Deal of the Century"? And what is the Palestinian way to resist it? Have we lost Jerusalem? Will we lose the right to return under the war on the UNRWA?

The government of Netanyahu, which includes the broad coalition and represents the majority of the right and the extreme right in Israel, is, as I said, "Greater Israel", and if this project fails, the alternative is not to give rights to the Palestinian people. We must return to the United Nations for a resolution to convene an international peace conference with reference of the resolutions of international legitimacy and the sponsorship of the five permanent members of the Security Council. A UN resolution must be issued to transfer Palestine from an observer member to a full member under the occupation until the United Nations affords the responsibility to end the occupation, dismantle settlements under international resolutions and solve the refugee problem in accordance with Resolution 194.

We must understand the principles of the American administration, as Trump considers that settlement does not constitute an obstacle to peace. Secondly, he declared that Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Thirdly, he declared the reduction of aid provided by the US administrations since the establishment of UNRWA in 1949 to half, in addition to pressure on other countries and donors to reduce their contributions to support the Agency to dry its sources of funding and end the international commitment to the refugee issue based on UN resolutions, as a budget of up to $ 1.5 billion per year is allocated to UNRWA. Therefore, the reduction of aid aims at finding a solution to the problem of refugees in the framework of resettlement in the Arab countries where they reside, or to be displaced again to other countries. We must offer the realistic alternative that is internationally approved as an alternative to Israeli expansionist Zionist projects, and American exclusive projects that are more biased to the ambitions of Israel. In November 2012, a UN resolution was released recognizing the State of Palestine as an observer member of the United Nations in accordance with previous UN resolutions.

In the new Cold War

With the remarkable rise of Russia's role and the new atmosphere of the Cold War, can the Palestinians achieve any step that serves their cause?

We hope that Russia, China, the EU, as well as India, Japan and Brazil can actually accelerate the building of a new multipolar world based on increasingly democratic relations among nations, not on exclusiveness, arrogance and hegemony, as the Trump administration, who declared that it wants "America First", but in fact he wants a much more. Trump has not pay attention to the American interior. On the contrary, he has canceled the gains of the people, such as the “Obama Care” law, and strengthened the racial tendencies by his bias toward the whites. He practically wants America to be above all in his global politics, and that reminds us of mottos of the 1930s of 20 century and early 1940s that ended in a devastating second world war.

In order to take advantage of the rise of Russia, we first have to create facts on the ground, including the withdrawal of recognition of Israel, the suspension of the negotiations until the cessation of settlement activities throughout the negotiations, the disengagement of the Palestinian economy from the Israeli one, resisting all forms of racial discrimination on Palestinian ground and in 1948 areas, the democratization of Palestinian life with its various institutions, the formation of a national unity government and conducting presidential and parliamentary elections in accordance with full proportional representation. Internationally, we should return to the United Nations with three draft resolutions, the first an international peace conference, as I have said, with the reference of the international resolutions that form the political and legal framework of negotiations under an international supervision. And then the transition of membership from an observer to an active membership of the State of Palestine under occupation. The United Nations must take its role in protecting the land and people of the State of Palestine under occupation.

After all this, all the ways are open to Russia and the different poles in the world to participate in solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and other regional conflicts in the Middle East and in different regions of the world, because American provocations and interventions are not limited to what it does in our region. As the American laws consider Russia as an enemy, and we do not believe that any other projects to resolve the Middle East crisis, such as 4 + 5 or 4 + 3, as a new framework for the work of the international quartet, which has been disrupted by the successive US administrations.

On February 20 this year, Mahmoud Abbas called for an international conference not dominated by the United States, but in return he left everything to the unknown. The most secure formula that can produce results, is the return to the United Nations for holding an international peace conference: we have tried the bilateral one under American sponsorship, the Quartet formula and the Annapolis conference have been tried too, and also we have tried a nine-month US sponsorship and continuous work for Kerry through visits to Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and capitals of the middle east. We returned to the United Nations in 2012, and Palestine has been accepted as a member, and then we solved three major unsolved issues since 1991, namely, the legal and political framework for borders, capital and refugee issues.

Returning to the United Nations is the real way that enables Russia, and during our meetings with Russian officials in Moscow, we have proposed practical alternatives that create facts on the field in Palestine, the Middle East and the world. What enables Russia, China and France (that declares positions that support us) and reduces the way to start negotiations of a different kind within a legal and political framework in accordance with United Nations resolutions and under the sponsorship of the five permanent members of the Security Council. We must submit complaints to the International Criminal Court, and since 2015 we have prepared files on settlement crimes, water looting and the demolition of houses and families, and we agreed to submit them, and if what we agreed upon was implemented, we would have been in a new situation.

Russia and Israel

Does Russia have the desire and the power to pressure on Israel?

Russia can’t pressure on Israel unless the Palestinians implement the previous steps, which in turn opens the way for joint Arab action towards the central cause of the Arab and Muslim peoples. The Palestinian steps that I mentioned, pressure on the Israeli-right governments, which are doing what they want without a strong Palestinian response, and form Arab and international circles to pressure on Israel to increase the number of Israelis, seeking a solution within international legitimacy resolutions. The equations can’t be changed as long as the right gives the Israelis what they want easily. For example, in 1973 there were only 37,000 settlers in the 1967 occupied territories, and at the Oslo signing in 1993 they raised to 97,000, now they are 850,000, and there are plans for Netanyahu to raise the number to more than one million in the West Bank and Jerusalem until the next Israeli elections 2019. The absence of an international conference with international reference means stay at the same position, and disabling national consensus decisions at the Palestinian Central Council's meetings in 2015 and 2018.

What is the real reason of the division? We see that Hamas is politically close to Fatah with its program, but the reconciliation has not succeeded. What are the basic reasons of the division and the suspension of reconciliation?

We hoped that the national consensus solutions in the dialogues and the Central Council would move forward to end the division, but everything is still in its position. The latest agreements between Fatah and Hamas on October 12, 2017, and the consensus decision of 14 factions on November 22, 2017, have not been implemented, and despite Egyptian efforts to accelerate the getting out of the situation, we have not succeeded. The implementation of reconciliation clashes with conditions on the part of the PA and “Fatah” that there is neither a step towards a national unity government and elections, nor a step to bring “Hamas” into the PLO before the PA government is fully empowered in the situation in Gaza. According to Abu Mazen: "one authority, one security, one weapon and one money".

Hamas on the other hand, condition that it will not hand over the money to the Ramallah's government before absorbing the 47,000 employees who form the force of the movement. It is now rumored that there is no way for agreement by both parties on any steps before responding to the conditions they have set. This is due to the family, social, financial, factional and individual interests of the comrades in Fatah, which have increased since comrades in Fatah took over power in 1994. They are continuous interests in the West Bank and have been deeply affected in Gaza for 11 years.

Since Hamas has taken power in June 2007, there have been big interests of the same kind for Hamas. Otherwise, how do we explain the adherence of the PA in Ramallah with all its might and desire to extend its influence to Gaza? As well as, Hamas, which does not want to leave power before the absorption of 47,000 of Hamas employees, while there is no development in our occupied territories, and we do not achieve an economic development due to the Paris Agreement and the arbitrary measures of occupation which also prevent the building of a strong Palestinian economy, and there is no social progress because 80 percent of the budget go to pensions.

That means that the disagreement is not political?

The political dispute exists, but the second important thing is the Arab regional axis in the Middle East. These are conflicting axes and have different projects, and everyone tries to drag the Palestinian situation to its project, using Palestinian tools and mechanisms.

We have presented solutions to the paralyzed factors to end the division within the framework of the PLO coalition and within the framework of the national consensus, and we presented them in the National Council's Preparatory Committee meeting, held in Beirut under the chairmanship of the Council Salim Zanoun, on January 10 and 11, 2017. We adopted two resolutions in order to be implemented in parallel: the first is to form a comprehensive national unity government and its task is to end the division through the development of practical mechanisms. The second is that the Preparatory Committee to complete the practical mechanisms to go to elections because the electoral law exists, which is a modern law and we have agreed on it previously since 2013.

In accordance with this process, which is carried out in parallel, the factors of division end, then we go to the presidential and parliamentary elections and the election of a new Palestinian National Council, elected in the homeland and diaspora, as an alternative to the old council, which has an average age of more than 70 years, and has been disrupted since 1996 and was formed in 1979, and there are three generations that were deprived of participation in it. This proposal was also hindered by the PA in Ramallah and the comrades in Fatah because of the conditions I mentioned earlier, in addition to American and Israeli pressures because they consider Hamas as a terrorist organization, which impedes the restoration of Palestinian unity among all the forces, including Hamas, Jihad, within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization. USA and Israel do not accept a government at the negotiating table that includes an organization that they classify it as terrorist. The division can be overcome if we cancel the preconditions and continue the effort with Hamas to enter into a new elected National Council.

Notes: Translated by Al-Hourriah English Staff

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