Fatah official: Conditions for third intifada are not yet ripe

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Abbas Zaki, the PLO's former representative in Lebanon. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

By: Rami Nawfal

Published Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Before the latest war, Fatah and Hamas achieved a political reconciliation that almost fractured due to the salary crisis in Gaza. The Israeli war, however, not only postponed the dispute between the two organizations and its potential repercussions, it also brought the two movements back together in a political delegation to negotiate in the name of Palestinians.

Abbas Zaki (born as Sherif Mishaal in Hebron), once a former representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon, is currently a member in the Central Committee of the Fatah movement. He returned to the Palestinian territories in 1995 after the signing of the Oslo Accords and was appointed by the late President Yasser Arafat to the Emergency Committee. He was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces in 2010 but was later released.

In an exclusive interview with Al-Akhbar, Zaki explains the position of his organization regarding the current situation.

For the first time, Palestinians have united behind their demands. But the negotiations have taken almost two weeks. What is going on?

In the past few days, the ideas that were put forward have been at a standstill because they are not enough. Every idea is either vague or dubious. Israel is experienced at evading admitting defeat. For example, they link the ceasefire with ceasing hostilities, as though the legitimate struggle for liberation is tantamount to an act of aggression. They tie our right to an airport, seaport and even reconstruction to disarming the Resistance. This was rejected by the Palestinian delegation and was not repeated by our Egyptian brothers. As such, our unified delegation was given clear instructions to act in the spirit of victory.

Could things be kept afloat without reaching a comprehensive agreement, especially with what the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing internally?

Netanyahu tried to reposition himself and evade any commitment for fear of the danger of admitting defeat, which leading Israeli figures have talked about. The Israelis do not have the courage to engage in a war of attrition or a major land operation. Although there is a consensus in Israel to slaughter Palestinians, this consensus is no longer the same after the war, as reactions on social networking sites revealed.

How do you see the US position regarding the war on Gaza?

US actions are a clear reflection of the Israeli position. Washington was the first to legitimize the war through statements by the White House which considered the war on Gaza part of Israel’s right to self-defense. Then came State Secretary John Kerry’s efforts which resulted in a sheepish call for a ceasefire. We can summarize what Washington did as follows: First, it provided international and regional support for the war and prevented any condemnation or intervention by international organizations. Second, it helped prevent the Arab League from playing any role and influenced the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in order to block convening an Islamic summit about Gaza. Third, and most dangerously, it tried to deprive the Resistance of political cover and prevent Palestinians from forming a unified delegation.

But [US] President Barack Obama pressured Israel to extend the ceasefire a few days ago, although at the last minute.

Perhaps they were influenced by the public opinion in the United States which helped tone down media support for Israel but it did not change US positions towards the occupation or its aggression. In addition, there is no doubt that the price of supporting this assault is high for the US treasury. We have known this since the start of our revolution in 1965. What is needed is to exert pressure on US interests in the region to secure our national and humanitarian interests.

Will the Israelis listen to reason after the failure of their war?

The Israeli mind is originally based on a criminal and supremacist mentality and on usurping rights by force. That is why this mind can not be guided in the right way. The Zionist movement severed the communities that constitute Israeli society from their ethnic and national origins and turned them into an aggressive force unwilling to live a normal life within its regional surroundings. That is why the only way left is to deter it and isolate it into the corner of racist regimes that erode automatically from within.

The occupied West Bank tried to be present in the picture through shootings and stone throwing. What about the possibility of a third intifada erupting?

What is happening in Jerusalem and the West Bank is a popular uprising created by the violence of the crimes carried out by the gangs of settlers and soldiers. [It’s] as if history is repeating itself. The new price-tag militias are similar to the Stern, Irgun and Haganah gangs during the time of Israel’s founder David Ben Gurion who ordered massacres under the slogan, “let’s use terror to defeat the Arabs.” The popular uprising is ongoing but there are modest forms of armed resistance in the West Bank. The conditions for an intifada have not ripened yet because they require national unity and a culture of solidarity on a large scale within a unified leadership that assumes its responsibilities to face such a major challenge.

How far along has the Palestinian Authority (PA) gotten in going after Israel through international courts?

This time, Israel will not escape justice. The Palestinian leadership is intent on doing everything in this regard and preparing the necessary documents and testimonies for that. But why doesn’t the Union of Arab Jurists and the International Association of Lawyers convene a trial for Israel? Nevertheless, I believe that the step of joining international courts does not coincide with carrying on with our struggle in the battle of national liberation that we we are waging. It is an important step for people whose land is not under occupation. It would be appropriate for us to join these courts after establishing a Palestinian state on our land.

It was said at the Cairo talks that Israel will release the fourth batch of prisoners based on an agreement with the PA on condition of returning to the negotiating table…

It is no secret that the Cairo talks are not limited to implementing previous agreements with Israel, especially releasing the fourth batch of prisoners and so on. They also represent an opening for thorough negotiations about the Palestinian situation and all our rights, not just the port, airport and crossings, but also reining in and stopping the Israeli aggression.

The Palestinian delegation insisted on opening the prospects of reconstructing Gaza first and sheltering the displaced people before the onset of winter, then regulating Gaza’s relationship to its sea and land ports that connect it to the world and clearing its sky of occupation jet fighters and the siege by Israeli cannons and tanks.

Could the campaign to boycott Israeli products develop into a boycott of everything that connects us to Israel or is it impossible under the Paris Protocol?

We realize that since April 1, the Israelis put to death the opportunity for a settlement. That is why we are in the process of a complete boycott of Israel at all levels. We are also continuing our efforts to unite within the framework of the PLO and devise a new strategy based on the Resistance with mechanisms that ensure sound work on the ground and in politics. This includes boycott of Israel and looking for alternatives and other markets without abiding by the Paris Protocol which has not been activated or renewed since it was signed.

Finally, what is happening with Fatah’s forthcoming elections and its seventh convention in light of the current circumstances?

Fatah is hard at work and it is preparing itself for a transitional period. The conference will be delayed due to the current circumstances.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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