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Friday, May 8, 2009

Mustapha Barghouti: We are Heading For A Third Intifada

08/05/2009 | AlmanarTV

Mustafa Barghouti, an eminent personality and exponent of Palestinian civil society, a former candidate at the presidential elections of the Palestinian National Authority in 2005, then Information Minister in the national unity government headed by Ismail Haniye, is also a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

He participated at the VII International Conference of the Palestinians in Europe for the Right of Return, held in Milan, at the sidelines of which Arabmonitor met with him to get his opinion on crucial issues.

How do you evaluate the ongoing reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo ? Is there any possibility of an understanding coming out from them ?

“Reaching an understanding would be of vital importance for the Palestinians. On some points progress was achieved, for example regarding the need to reform the PLO and on the call for simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections as well as regarding the necessity to form a unity government. On other issues however, the gap between the parties remains huge, for instance regarding the future government's program and the management of the security issue”.

Has any agreement been reached regarding the name of the eventual future Prime Minister ?

“That argument was not yet discussed. What was agreed upon is that the government would be formed by independents or technicians instead of by members of either one of the blocs”.

Do you see any chance for an accord to be reached ?

“It all depends on (US President Barack) Obama”.

On Obama ?

“Yes, certainly, because it's the White House which must guarantee that the future Palestinian government does not get boycotted, otherwise no understanding will be possible”.

Are you optimistic ?

“At least, with the present (US) administration we can say: let's wait and see”.

In the present administration who could be considered to be the most sympathetic towards the Palestinians, certainly not the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton ?

“That's absolutely right, in fact, it's the first time that the President is more open than his own Secretary of State”.

What about the Arab states, what kind of support do they give the Palestinians ?

“For the Arab states, what's on the table is the Arab Peace Initiative. They're not discussing anything else”.

Is Egypt interfering heavily with the talks among Hamas and Fatah ?

“No, they seem to have taken upon themselves an authentic role of facilitators for the talks, apparently they are not putting any pressure on the parties”.

Should an understanding with Hamas not be forthcoming, how would Fatah react?

“They would be absolutely relaxed. They've got all the power in the West Bank. They collect the international donations and manage them. For all the rest they have little concern”.

And there are no divisions inside the Fatah bloc ?

“Oh, yes there are, and how, but they are sparked essentially by a struggle for power: who gets a hold on power and on how much of it”.

And what about the struggle between the old and the new generation ?

“That's a Western simplification. There's much talking about the old ones being corrupt, however they forget that the most corrupt of them all is a so-called young leader (Mohammed Dahlan ?)".

And Marwan Barghouti, does he still enjoy grass-root support ?

“He certainly is the most popular among the leaders, but I wouldn't exaggerate”.

How about Abu Mazen, what's the degree of popularity he can rely on ?

“Well, he never actually enjoyed such a great deal of popularity to start with and with the Israeli war against Gaza he lost some more of it”.

And Salam Fayyad ?

“He's cleverer. He gets around much, talks to the people, claims to be against armed resistance, but he keeps himself active. His appeal is greater than that of Abu Mazen”.

But Abu Mazen also declares himself opposed to armed resistance ?

“Abu Mazen is opposed also to verbal resistance”.

The question about the end of Abu Mazen's term as President (expired in January) doesn't come up any more in the talks between Hamas and Fatah ?

“Hamas doesn't mention it. As of now, the issue has been put on hold. If the reconciliation talks will succeed, this issue won't come up any more. If they fail, it will resurface prominently”.

Do you recognize any Israeli partner with whom peace talks might be forthcoming ?

“At this point in time, I see nobody”.

Not even Ehud Barak ?

“I would say, he's the worst of all sitting cabinet ministers, he's the one committed to perform the role of Labourist”.

You came to Milan to talk about the Right of Return.

“That is the central issue of the Palestinian question. It is a right and as such it is not negotiable. Would you forsake your rights ? Your right to your citizenship ? The right to live as a free man in your country ?”.

Thinking about the upcoming visit of the Pope to Palestine, do you believe it will have an impact on the situation on the ground ?

“I would say it will have zero impact. The Palestinians don't overestimate this visit, although Israel will surely try to exploit it”.

In case the Gaza Strip remains isolated for a longer time to come, do you see any risk of a renewed upsurge in violence ?

“What I see on the horizon is the outbreak of a new Intifada in all of the Occupied Territories of Palestine and that is going to be pretty tumultuous”.

Within short ?

“I wouldn't be able to predict a timeline, but the suffering is enormous”.

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