In an attempt to understand the impact of Hamas's proposal to establish a free trade zone in Sinai on the future of the Palestinian cause and the possibilities of reviewing the efforts of the internal reconciliation and other issues on the Palestinian arena, Al-Ahram newspaper hosted Dr. Nayef Hawatmeh, Secretary-General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and made the following interview.
Question: What's your opinion about the insistence of Hamas to establish a free trade zone on the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip?
Answer: we reject this idea as a whole. We officially told Egypt our rejection amid the internal division, because this serves the objectives of Israel and encourages it to enclose the six commercial crossings that connect the Gaza Strip with the other parts of the Palestinian territories and makes Egypt responsible for the Gaza Strip and Jordan responsible for the West Bank to eliminate the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state. This was what Yegal Allon, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, raised 30 years ago, and what Netanyahu and Lieberman are working on to implement it now.
We reject the establishment of an independent state in the Gaza Strip on the shoulders of Egypt because this will help Israel to swallow Jerusalem and the settlement blocs in the West Bank, leaving some crumbs for the Palestinians under the Jordanian sovereignty.
We felt pleased when Dr Hesham Qandil, Egyptian Prime Minister, told us that if necessary to establish a free trade zone with the Gaza Strip, it will be after achieving the Palestinian reconciliation and the formation of one government running the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Q: Where is the leadership of the DFLP now, and have you left Syria as most Palestinian factions did, particularly Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movements due to the events taking place and the escalation of violence?
A: The DFLP has a historical presence in the Palestinian camps in Syria, and we will remain there to protect their residents who count more than 600 thousand people. Their presence needs to be regulated on the Syrian territories. Since the outbreak of the current events we have decided not to repeat the mistake of the Palestinian leadership during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which cost the Palestinians in Kuwait and other Gulf States a heavy price. They were subject to killing and displacement after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Naher Al-Bared Camp in the north of Lebanon, as well, was attacked and fully destructed due to the folly of "Fatah Al-Islam". We reject another destructive disaster to the Palestinian camps in Syria.
We have learned from our experiences in Jordan and Lebanon not to interfere in the internal affairs of the country we are living in, and not to stand with a party against another one aiming at putting the camps and the Palestinians in the hell of the internal armed conflict. We have our own circumstances. We have a central issue, which is the liberation of our land and the return to our properties and homes.
Q: How can the internal reconciliation be achieved?
A: The reconciliation has not been achieved yet due to Hamas's insistence on remaining in power and separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. We asked Egypt to resume its role to achieve the reconciliation by inviting all Palestinian factions to meet in Cairo and set a timetable for implementing the reconciliation agreements signed and brokered by Egypt, whose the last of which was 4May 2011 Agreement. This is Egypt's role by virtue of its geographical position and its sponsorship of all previous agreements.
We hope that Egypt, by virtue of its impact on Hamas, will be able to do something in this respect, although the latter is consolidating its relations with Egypt and promoting division as a substitute for reconciliation. Everyone has to realize that the implementation of 4 May Agreement is the way to face the Israeli aggressive practices and rebuild the political process which ends with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the borders of 4 June 1967 with Jerusalem its capital. Any move to any other direction will be a kind of fantasies, and without reconciliation everything will be lost.