Nayef Hawatmeh is a man of action and thought within his people’s resistance movement. He is considered one of the reference points of the left in the Levant and leads the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) which he founded in 1969. He has published over 30 books and other articles, and defends a negotiated settlement for the conflict with Israel. While on a visit to Cuba, he talked with our journal about the possible solutions for a seemingly endless problem.
—The first peace talks between Israel and Palestine in three years’ time began in July, under the auspices of the United States. Do you believe that the solution to the conflict might be reached at a negotiating table?
—In Israel there is an ultra-rightwing government that continues its aggressive actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, infringing on the land in the Gaza Strip and Arab Jerusalem, and building colonies in the West Bank. (Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin) Netanyahu’s government is not a government of peace.
"Negotiations have been ongoing for 21 years and have not reached any positive result whatsoever. These latest ones that resumed in July are going on without a legal base; that is why they will spin around a vacuum. We are calling on a withdrawal from those talks and for the establishment of other talks on appropriate bases, which would have United Nations resolutions as a point of reference. In the first place, the 29 November 2012 recognition by the UN of the Palestinian State within the borders of 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and resolution 194 (of 1948) that promotes the return of refugees. Besides, for negotiations to be successful, the operations of colonization of all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 must cease. The present negotiations will conclude in April 2014, and up to this minute there are no horizons. We do not expect the United States to pressurize for the achievement of political solutions, because the North American Administration in allied to Israel”.
—Does this mean that, for Israel to change its attitude it would have to be pressurized by the United States?
—I do not think that the North American administration would pressurize Israel. All the pressures must be made by the Palestinian side. The Israeli government wishes to annex all of Jerusalem, a portion of the West Bank and to keep an Israeli presence all along the Palestinian-Jordanian border, to turn it into an Israeli-Jordanian border. They want to possess the passages towards the Palestinian territories that are in the hands of Israel, that the airspace would remain in their hands, and that the Palestinian State be totally disarmed.
These demands mean that Israel does not want peace. Israel and the North American Administrations have prevented the establishment of the Palestinian State as recommended in General Assembly resolution 181 (of 1947), when it called for the creation of two States.
—If Israel lacks intentions of achieving a peace agreement now, why did it sit down to talk?
—A solution through a military path cannot be achieved. Israel wants to make propaganda, public relations, with these negotiations, while all the policies that they adopt close the doors and prevent that a peace be reached. They feel emboldened by the support of the North American administration. The United States gives Israel three billion dollars per year, and strategic weapons for it to remain as the strongest country in the Middle East. Thus, it has been eluding its responsibility, disrespecting UN resolutions and not bearing in mind world public opinion.
—Would it be possible to reach a negotiated solution with another Israeli government that would not be ultra-rightwing such as Netanyahu’s?
— That is a hypothetical question, so I will give you a hypothetical answer. If Netanyahu formed another government, with the participation of his Likud Party, which is ultra-rightwing, the Israeli Labor Party that is center-left, the Shas, that is a religious party, the Meretz, that accepts the Palestinian State within the borders of 1967, perhaps the doors to the path towards peace might be opened. Nevertheless, he does not want to do this, but to build a coalition with the ultra-rightwing forces, and the peace process is stagnant. Besides, the latest polls demonstrate that most Israeli continue to support Netanyahu’s government.
—Do you believe that the United States has an interest in putting an end to the conflict?
—The United States wants a peace that would favor the expansionist appetites of Israel. That is why on 29 November 2012 they voted against the recognition of the State of Palestine. After negotiations resumed last July, (Secretary of State, John) Kerrry said to Congress that he is sure that Israel will be able to annex 85 % of the colonies that they made in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The North American administration is not seeking a balanced peace on the basis of UN resolutions.
—Then, the moment of peace does not appear to be near?
—There are no perspectives that it might be achieved on the short run. The ongoing negotiations are facing a dead end, and while they are going on, Israel has announced that it will build thousands of lodging units in the West Bank and in Arab Jerusalem.
—As I can gather from your answers, you think that the path that Palestine should follow is to insist at the United Nations and not to talk directly to Israel in the present terms. Is this correct?
—We are calling on a walkout from these negotiations, and that our access to other United Nations bodies continues to be materialized. There are many United Nations institutions, including the International Court of Justice at The Hague and the Human Rights Council. To gain access would be the internationalization, the exercise of our rights, the independent State within the borders of 1967, and this represents a political and legal base for further negotiations. In the second place, this would mean that the new dialogues would take place under the auspices of the five permanents UN Security Council and not only of the United States. It would also imply that if Israel does not respect the resolutions, it would be taken to international courts, just as it happened with the Apartheid government in South Africa. Thus, balanced negotiations would take place and could lead to peace.
—Apart from the Palestinian topic, I would like you to share with me your assessment about the present situation in the Middle East and North Africa, especially what is going on in Syria and the recent agreement on the Iranian nuclear topic.
—The Middle East is living a stage of revolutions and popular Intifadas under the slogan that peoples wish to unseat dictatorial and despotic regimes, whether they are monarchic of republican, and to put an end to corruption. They were led by the youth, university students, women, and afterwards the popular and the middle classes join in, as do the workers, the poor peasants, the unemployed, the outcasts, demanding the construction of a new society that would guarantee bread, human dignity, freedoms and social justice.
The United States Administration and the conservative rightwing forces of the Arab countries are trying to frustrate those revolutions. There will be turmoil until the demands of the peoples are met. That is what is happening today in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Yemen. In Libya, a product of the North American and NATO aggression, there is a great anarchy, the situation has not stabilized.
"In Syria there is a gigantic, bloody crisis that cannot be solved through violence. The solution must be through the staging of Geneva II, with the participation of the Syrian government and all the parties of the opposition, with a regional and international participation, until achieving the complete cessation of military actions.
"Each country is occupied with these matters I mentioned, and this has contributed to displace the Palestinian cause to the background. The situation will persist until regimes are established that will endeavour towards the accomplishment of the principles that animated the revolutions.
"With respect to the G5+1 agreement with Iran, this came about as the result of two factors. In the first place, there is a reformist president who, in his electoral program, revealed that he would solve the Iranian nuclear crisis through negotiations. The second question is the economic sanctions, very harmful for the Persian economy. That is why negotiations resumed. Certainly the Iranian people will economically benefit with this agreement. This will also contribute to make the government reconsider its policies at a regional and international level, so that it would build bridges of confidence with the neighboring countries of the Middle East, especially those of the Arabian Gulf.”
—What is it that differentiates the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine from other similar organizations?
—All the Palestinian parties coincide on a minimum program of action that would be centered around the importance of maintaining the coalition, the unity, within the framework of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (OLP), with a view to face occupation and to guarantee that the Palestinian people can exercise their right to self-determination. The PLO is a wide national front to which all those who take part in this common struggle to put an end to Israeli occupation belong. Within the Palestinian people, as among all peoples, there are different social classes and different political currents, that is, within the field of resistance there are rightwing, center and leftwing forces. The DFLP is an organization of the revolutionary left.
"Alter the constitution of the Palestinian State, our struggle will continue to develop with socialist perspectives; socialism, that reconciles economic development and social justice, and guarantees freedoms for all. After independence, there will be diverse programs. The one of the rightwing forces would want to develop a capitalist economy, and the one of the leftwing forces will call on the constitution of a civic, secular state; on the equality of citizens before the law, the equality of duties and rights and equality between man and woman. But this will happen when we achieve the victory at the stage of national liberation, when the occupying power would leave our country and the independent Palestinian State is established".