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Marwan Barghouthi: Israel is no peace partner

Oct. 4, 2009 8:55 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2009 9:49 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi called for Palestinians to form a unified campaign of peaceful, popular resistance to Israeli settlements in an interview made public on Sunday.

In an interview from Israel’s Hadarim Prison through his lawyers, Barghouthi said that “there is no Israeli peace partner.

“Anyone who thinks that peace is possible with the current Israeli government and was not possible with the previous governments is being delusional,” he was quoted as saying.

In the interview he also praised caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to establish a Palestinian state, de facto, in the next two years. He called on the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership, specifically, to endorse the plan, along with a program of peaceful resistance.

Barghouthi, a Fatah figure thought to have a political base extending beyond his own party, was jailed by Israel in 2002 for militant activity during the Second Intifada. In 2004 he briefly campaigned for the presidency from prison before endorsing Mahmoud Abbas.

The following are excerpts from the interview:

What are your thoughts on the anniversary of the Second Intifada?

I would like to express my deep respect for all Palestinians for their steadfastness, for not giving up their rights, no matter how much suffering they are facing and will face, because there is no compromise on freedom, return, and independence.

Do you think that a third Intifada is on its way?

The question that should be asked is why did the Al-Aqsa Intifada break out? Was it not because of the collapse of the peace process? Because the negotiation reached a dead end? Was it not because of continued settlement and Judaization in Jerusalem? The refusal [of Israel] to end the occupation and accept Palestinians’ rights? And now is there an Israeli partner for peace? The answer is a big ‘no.’ Did the settlements stop?

What is happening now is the height of settlement activity since 1967. In addition there is the Judaization of Jerusalem. First it was one home after another, now it’s one neighborhood after another. I am saying this loudly: anyone who thinks that peace is possible with the current Israeli government and was not possible with the previous governments, is being delusional.

The problem is that there is no leader in Israel either like Charles de Gualle in France who ended the colonization of Algeria, or like De Klerk, the president of Apartheid South Africa who handed over power to Mandela. Israel does not peace and is not ready to end the occupation.

Intifada does not result from a decision by this official or that leader, or this faction or that. It comes from the collective will of the Palestinians. That’s what happened in the First and Second Intifadas.

What is needed now is a popular movement of peaceful resistance to confront settlement, a movement that has the participation of all the leaders, factions, organizations, and the Palestinian Authority. It is clear that the conditions that were in place when the Second Intifada broke out are still in place.

What do think of the New York summit between President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and US President Barack Obama?

Honestly, I hoped it would not take place because the conditions of its failure are clear. It is regrettable that the American stance, as articulated by Obama and welcomed by Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, has begun to evaporate. The Israelis and Americans are the ones who benefitted from this summit.

It was important that President Abbas’ refused to resume negotiations before settlements come to a halt, and he should maintain this position. If the negotiations resume with such an [Israeli] government, what will we win?

I urge the Executive Committee of the PLO to insist that Israel commit to the principle of ending the occupation, withdraw to the 1967 borders, recognize Palestinians’ right to self-determination, establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, recognize [UN] resolution 194, stop settlements, and release prisoners as a precondition to hold any negotiations with the Israeli government.

I hope we do not repeat the experience of previous years in which the Israelis took advantage of the negotiations in order to give them cover to continue expanding settlements and mislead world public opinion.

Is is possible to successfully confront Israel’s settlement project?

First, what is needed is a firm and consistent political stance on the basis we already discussed. Secondly, the PLO Executive Committee, with all of the factions, should set a plan and vision for a wide popular and peaceful movement against settlements. We need the Executive committee, the factions, and PLC members to turn up the heat on popular demonstrations.

What is needed from Israel and the US is a decision to end the occupation, not more negotiations. Negotiations have been going on for years and that’s enough. The Palestinian leadership should work to isolate Israel and put it under siege and force it to implement international resolutions.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad had presented his plan titled “Palestine: Ending the occupation, establishing the state. Have you read this document? What you think of it?

I read the document more than once. I think it’s a good plan. It makes a the argument that ending the occupation is a precondition to establishing the state. But the PLO and the factions should compliment this plan with a blueprint for peaceful, popular resistance.

What are your thoughts on the efforts toward reconciliation and the current Egyptian proposal, especially since you were the one who initiated the national reconciliation document [the Prisoners’ Letter]?

The prisoners’ document was in fact the product of the collective will of the leaders of all the factions inside the prisons. It was an honor for me to participate in it along with the leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, DFLP and Fatah. It is still the best program for national unity.

I read the Egyptian proposal. It was sent to me through my lawyer Khader Ishqerat. I welcome this proposal. I am calling on all the national and Islamic factions to seize this opportunity to hold a comprehensive national dialogue to sign an agreement before the end of October, along with an urgent announcement of a date for new elections for the presidency, parliament, and PNC members, along with an end to media incitement, and political arrests. The factions must also release prisoners and turn a new page in relations on new bases of national partnership and pluralism, with regular elections.

When do you expect a prisoner exchange deal

We are following up with the media reports about this issue. We hope that a prisoner exchange will be carried out, in which all the prisoners will be released. The list submitted by Hamas did not exclude anyone and we support this firm stance.
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