Jerusalem, Asharq Al-Awsat - Ahmad Quray, member of the PLO Executive
Committee and former chief negotiator, describes the Palestinian mentality
as experimental, and says that the mechanism that the Palestinians have
tried for many years at the negotiations has failed, and he calls for
changing it by including Arab and international sides in negotiating the
most important dossiers, such as Jerusalem, the refugees, and security.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] I would like to start with the two-state solution, which
you said this week is dead. Can it be resurrected?
[Quray] I have said that the two-state solution has been exposed to lethal
blows. I am convinced that Israel talks about the two-state project, while
it is carrying out its assassination. There can never be a Palestinian State
without Jerusalem. If the state project is a living body, then Jerusalem is
its head, and if the head is severed, the body cannot live.
Secondly, pay attention to the settlement blocs. Everybody ought to know
where their borders are. I will start from the north, Ariel Settlement (near
Nabulus) extends for 24 km from west to east into the belly of the West
Bank, and they will add to it Shilo Settlement, which will expand by some
500 housing units; all of it will be transformed into a single bloc that
will reach the Jordan River Ghawr, and splits the West Bank. In the middle
there is Givat Zeev, which puts an end to the connectivity of Ramallah, and
extends to South Jerusalem and to the west until Bayt Sira, and then Maale
Adumim is added to it in the east, and hence it will reach Al-Khan al-Ahmar
(on the road to Jericho). This is without even mentioning the "E1 plan,"
which if built would seal Jerusalem from the east, and there would be no
scope for visiting it except from the west, or by permission from the
Israeli controller. As for the Jerusalem settlements, there is no need to
talk about them.
I do not believe that it is possible to deal with such blocs in the project
of a solution for a Palestinian State. Israel has built the wall, and drawn
up the settlement blocs, and I am afraid that it might say: This is your
state until God changes the situation. This will be the end of it, without
Jerusalem, without refugees, and with the Jordan River Ghawr staying as a
We want the two-state solution. However, if Israel is not committed to the
two-state solution on the basis of international legitimacy, international
law, and the authority related to the peace process, the talk about the
two-state solution will become mere intellectual exercise, and will not lead
to any results.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you think is a satisfactory solution?
[Quray] A two-state solution that is based on a Palestinian State on the
lines of 4 June 1967 with exchanges in borders equivalent in value and
similar to each other, but not in the settlements.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is what the Israelis doing today going to be fate?
[Quray] I do not say that what the occupation plans is going to be fate, but
what the occupation plans if the situation stays as it is, the occupation
will have the opportunity to impose on the ground. The Palestinian internal
state is not healthy, and the Arab state is not healthy, as it has become
neutral. I do not want a statement from the Arab summit, I want real Arab
participation. This is Palestine, and it is the center of the region that
separates the octopus from the Arab world. The Palestinian cause needs a
different Arab stance. What are they offering to Jerusalem? What the Arabs
offer is nothing worth mentioning. [Jerusalem Mayor] Nir Barkat (chairman of
the Jerusalem Jewish Municipal Council) has a budget bigger than all the
Arab countries offer.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But they have allocated large funds to Jerusalem, the last
of which at the Baghdad summit. Have these funds arrived?
[Quray] No, no they have not. None of the countries has paid, except Saudi
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Then, in the light of this diagnosis, what is the
necessary next step at the Palestinian level?
[Quray] In order to be objective, we should know clearly the magnitude of
our strength, and our stance now. The Palestinian stance to some extent is
not bad. Second, we need an Arab stance. If the Arab stance is not serious
about making the Palestinian cause one of its priorities, this will be a
point of weakness. Unfortunately, we no longer are one of the priorities of
the Arab stance, neither are we one of the priorities of the international
stance. The United States is turning toward East Asia; this is not a secret;
Hillary Clinton wrote about that. There is a transformation that might
create a vacuum.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You have said that the Palestinian stance toward the
negotiations is not bad. Are you really satisfied with it?
[Quray] The Palestinian stance still is experimenting, and the policy of
experimenting sometimes leads to mistakes. I am not against the
negotiations, but the negotiations with the mechanisms to which we are used
no longer lead to any results, and will not lead to any result. The
mechanism of the bilateral meetings that are published in the newspapers
before they start is no longer beneficial; this is first.
Second, there are issues that the Palestinian side cannot decide alone. Let
me give you an example; the issue of the refugees, you cannot decide this
issue without Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. These are the rights of
citizens, the rights of peoples, and the right of the host country.
Therefore, you need these sides. Also some international sides ought to be
informed step by step as we proceed.
This also applies to the issue of Jerusalem in which we need indirect
participation by the Arab and Muslim countries.
The same applies to security. Israel talks everyday about security, and has
transformed it into a condition for negotiations. There ought to be an
understanding of the issue of security at the regional level.
I do not call for partnership at the negotiations table, but there has to be
participation and a change of mechanism.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But you are talking about the most important sovereignty
issues in the negotiations?
[Quray] Yes, (the decision) is ours, but we cannot contract it on our own.
We want Arab, regional, and international sides to be present with us. We
ought to depart from the logic of bilateral negotiations. This is no longer
beneficial, and for this reason these bilateral negotiations one time are
transformed into overview negotiations, and another time are exploratory
negotiations. If there are negotiations, let them be through the new
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Had you been still the chairman of the negotiating team or
had you had the power to decide, how would you act now?
[Quray] I am not saying that our stance is correct. The condition of halting
the settlement activities is right and correct. However, it is important to
say that I will not under any circumstances recognize any settlement bloc
that has been built on the 1967 territories, and I will never accept it.
Syria has not said stop the settlement activities, but it said no
settlements after the agreement. Egypt did not say, for instance, stop the
building activities in Yamit (settlement in Sinai), but when the situation
was resolved the settlement was demolished. In Gaza, have they [the
Israelis] not left it? Therefore, our stance ought to be clear, but without
making it understood that the required amendments are in exchange for the
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But the Israelis say that you have agreed that the
settlements can stay in exchange for land?
[Quray] The PA has not agreed to this not even once.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have they not agreed even that principal settlements can
[Quray] No, no, in Camp David we said there can be amendments to the
borders. Let me be frank, neither Abu-Ammar (Yasser Arafat), nor Abu-Mazin
(Mahmud Abbas) agreed that settlements could stay.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Then, you are in favor of announcing a categorical stance
toward the settlements and going to the negotiations?
[Quray] Of course, if there are clear mechanisms I am not against the
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But is this not a new experiment?
[Quray] No, no, the international community will be present, the
International Quartet and Arab and regional sides, and also there will be a
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But rather than doing this, the PA has addressed a letter
to Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu. Have you seen it?
[Quray] Not at all, I heard about it the same as you have.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you in favor of sending it?
[Quray] God willing, it will lead to a result. Our stance is known, and
Netanyahu's stance has become known.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Netanyahu has said that he will reply with a letter. In
your opinion, will this lead to negotiations through letters?
[Quray] I do not know how that will be. However, he answered in advance
saying no to the return of the refugees, no to Jerusalem, and that the
settlement blocs will stay. Therefore, he has answered.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you mean that the step is futile?
[Quray] God willing, it will be useful.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have other options that could have been activated
rather than, for instance, the letter?
[Quray] Of course we have options. We have a cause and we do not lack
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the options that you consider that they have not
[Quray] Popular resistance, for instance, is an important option.
Consolidating the Palestinian presence, providing its requirements, and
strengthening it, is also an important option. Also the option of a state
for two peoples, a single democratic state is also an option. Our options
exist as long as our national rights are not fulfilled.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You talk about the one-state solution; do you consider it
possible to apply?
[Quray] This has been a Fatah project since 1967, a secular democratic state
in which the Muslim, the Christian, and the Jew coexist. This originally is
a Fatah option, but it was amended in 1974 when it started to talk about the
establishment of a state on any part from which the occupation withdraws,
and hence the National Council adopted its resolution in 1988 to establish a
Palestinian State. Later on, the negotiations started on the basis of the
National Council resolution. However, I say if this vision is not achieved,
what can we do? We can activate our other options, including the one-state
option. We - this generation - might not be able to fulfil the aspirations
of the people, but we should not squander them. The options ought to remain
open to the people.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But these options have been proposed by the PA every now
and then, which has made them lose their seriousness?
[Quray] They should not be brandished for the sake of threatening; these are
strategic options of a people and a cause.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you agree with those who say that the two-state
solution is dead, and the option now is the one-state solution?
[Quray] No, I say that Israel is killing the two-state solution, and I look
up to the international community to tell Israel to stop, and also to say
that the requirements of the two-state solution are the following.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] And then we start waiting again?
[Quray] Our issue is not a picnic; it is an issue of a people, a homeland,
and international and regional equations.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some people consider that there is the option of
dissolving the PA rather than all this?
[Quray] No, this is as if we are in the middle of a race and then we shoot
ourselves in the foot. The PA is an achievement, and one of the signposts of
the Palestinian national struggle. It was not achieved free of charge; it
was achieved through long struggle and a great uprising. This is a temporary
transitional authority for a transitional stage during which the
Palestinians hold the reins of their affairs until the occupation ends. It
is forbidden that a Palestinian should say that he wants to dissolve the PA;
this is despite the fact that Israel indeed has taken away much of the
powers of the PA when it returned to Ramallah and put Arafat under siege;
nevertheless we ought to preserve the PA.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are those who call for thinking about the job of the
PA and its relationship with Israel, and redrafting all this?
[Quray] I do not negotiate over the PA rather than negotiating over the
permanent solution. For instance, some people say that the economic
agreement is unfair; this is true, but I do not negotiate over the economic
agreement. I do not want to improve the conditions of the transitional
solution; this is not what we want. We want an agreement over the permanent
solution; this is what will give us complete sovereignty.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The PA has tried to obtain sovereignty through going to
the United Nations. In your opinion, was this step correct?
[Quray] This is a correct, good, and required step.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Does it contradict the negotiations?
[Quray] No, no, this is our right. I am in favor of any step that brings us
closer to our right.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you also in favor of going back again to the United
[Quray] I believe that obtaining the status of non-member state is an
important achievement. This will enable us to participate in many
organizations and bodies along the way to the UN Security Council.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But it has been raised that a non-member state might
cancel the legitimate representation of the PLO?
[Quray] A non-member state means that the PLO exists as a sole legitimate
representative until the independent state is established.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some people link the failure of the UN Security Council
step and the divisions. Do you think that there is a link?
[Quray] The divisions are one of the factors of the erosion of the
Palestinian status. This is a small country, and we have a cause, and we are
under occupation. This situation should not continue; cohesion must be
restored to the people. These divisions most certainly weaken us in front of
Israel, and in front of the world. The internal situation cannot continue
like this, and I fear that the divisions could turn into a fait accompli
with which everybody deals. The two sides, wittingly or unwittingly, are
dividing the country; there are many examples on this that arouse concern.
The divisions are a national issue that ought to end.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Then, what do you think is the way out after all the
previous agreements have failed?
[Quray] I do not believe that the Doha agreement has failed. There is a
possibility. We should not allow the divisions to remain. I went to China
and Vietnam earlier, and they were saying to us: Comrades, make it your
priority to consolidate your national unity, because it is the guarantee of
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You are a member of the PLO; are you satisfied with the
work, role, and status of the PLO?
[Quray] I wish the work of the PLO to be institutionalized, and that the
resolutions are adopted through a great deal of serious consultations,
because this is a difficult stage. The PLO needs activation in all its
departments, which need care, attention, and support. The PLO, with its
departments, committee, two councils, and embassies ought to enjoy real care
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The PLO sometimes is accused of being absent, or of not
participating seriously in decision making?
[Quray] I said that it needs activation (Quray smiles).
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You were a close friend of Arafat, and he always said that
he could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Do you still see it?
[Quray] As long as our people are standing fast and firmly on their land, we
will continue to see light at the end of the tunnel.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] As we are talking about Arafat, do you miss him today?
[Quray] Yes, of course, always.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you miss him on a personal or a national level?
[Quray] I miss him on both levels. On the national level, he was a leader
and had special charisma, and he was always present. On the personal level
he was loyal and committed to the cadres, and the people.
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Received on Sun Apr 22 2012 - 17:01:02 EDT