(Q) The International Quartet Commission recently released a statement praising "the Israeli prime minister”s courage." Referring to the Palestinians, it confined itself to merely expressing appreciation of their "responsible behavior." How far does this exaggerated praise of the occupying power reveal clear bias to the Israeli position?
(A) I have described this excessive exaggeration as an absurd thing that detracts from the Quartet”s political sobriety. What is it thanking Sharon for? For an incomplete withdrawal, for which he gets a daily price that is multiplied hundreds of times? I am astonished at this. I have read but have not heard directly that the Israeli foreign minister remarked," We have withdrawn from the Palestinian territories. So the Arab and Islamic countries must now come to us." If this is their idea of withdrawal, namely, that this is the whole withdrawal, not merely one withdrawal, then I do not understand why they are being thanked. Why should they be thanked for a withdrawal from territories where their presence was illegal to begin with? Truly, I could only describe the praise as extremely silly.
This is one thing. On another issue, namely, the Palestinian responsibility for preparing the ground for future events including the establishment of a state, this is a normal and required matter. On this point, I can say that the Quarter is adopting a responsible stance. It also acted responsibly when it stated that the building of Israeli settlements should stop. For this reason if you take the entire statement together, you will find that the seeds of good balance were starting to appear in it.
(Q) Nevertheless, the Quartet places the basic burden again on the Palestinian Authority by urging it to behave as a free, independent, and sovereign state although its territories are still occupied. How realistic are the Quartet”s demands? How could they be implemented?
(A) What I understood from my discussions with some parties that attended that meeting is that the discussions were very constructive. The Quartet members understand the limits that constrain the Palestinian position and the difficult Palestinian situation. They also discussed the Israeli attitude to the Palestinian elections. There was no general satisfaction within the Quartet with Israel”s stance, which obstructs the Palestinian people”s democratic progress. It interferes too much in Palestinian affairs. Although Israel claims that it is a democratic state, it hinders democracy. The important thing is to have a constructive discussion. When you ask me for my opinion about the Quartet”s statement, I take into account not merely the statement that was issued but also the discussions that took place in the meeting.
We, the Arabs, also would like to see a united Palestinian stance and a united Palestinian policy towards the existing challenges. We also would like to see the Palestinian domestic front prepared to govern a state at any moment. For this reason we approve of the demand for a united Palestinian stance and the Palestinian factions” agreement on a clear policy line. I mean that it is not right for Israel to face three or four Palestinian policies and be able to manipulate them. Political sobriety requires the Palestinians to adopt a united stand. We want the land and the state, and we also want Jerusalem. Based on this, these are our political suggestions. We say that violence and counter violence, aggression and resistance are both present because there is an occupation and a lawful resistance to this occupation. Nevertheless today, we need to give peace a chance. We need to give the political process a chance. This should be done on the basis of a united Palestinian political position. As long as President Abu Mazen is leading this process, let us give him a chance and support him.
(Q) Does this mean that you support the calls and pressure that seek to disarm HAMAS?
(A) Egypt is currently carrying out a political process in this connection. Let us discuss this stage and decide how to behave. This is part of the special effort to unite the Palestinian ranks.
(Q) How do you view HAMAS” role in the coming stage?
(A) HAMAS, like Fatah and the other Palestinian organizations, all agree on a certain policy line. The roots of this agreement exist and the efforts to develop them are underway. How do we deal with the weapons and other matters? There is more than one way to do this. Let us allow the Palestinians themselves to reach agreement on these matters, or as Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu-al-Ghayt said: Let them agree on a solution, benefit from the Irish experience or any other experience. If there is a previous Palestinian experience, let them follow it. The important thing is to operate within a united Palestinian policy line under Abu-Mazen”s leadership and decide on what we think is suitable. If it turns out that Israel is playing games as many people think or expect, then we will decide on what to do if this happens.
(Q) The Israeli settlements continue to be the biggest challenge. The Quartet stressed that expanding the settlements should stop and that Israel should remove the "illegal" settlement outposts. Does this mean that there are settlements that are "legal?" What is your interpretation of the Quartet”s position on this issue? Did you raise this matter with them?
(A) We told them all this of course. First of all there are no legal or illegal settlements. All of them are illegal, built on land that is not Israeli and hence illegitimate. Everything that is based on illegality is illegal. This is a clear legal point. Any international, regional, or national court would have to agree. However, if Israel would like to remove what it calls "illegal" settlements, let it remove them immediately. This does not change the fact that the other settlements that the Israeli Government says it has approved are also illegal. It approved them without having the legal authority to do so and they were built on land where it had no legal jurisdiction.
(Q) Although Palestinian rights are legitimate according to international law, the Arabs seem unable to make the necessary gains in the sphere of public relations on the global scene, something that the Israelis are good at. Is there now a greater understanding of the Palestinian position on the settlements?
(A) When you read the Quartet”s statement, it proves to you that the international position on the settlements has developed. I mean, even with the presence of the United States on the Quartet, they can still say this thing. I cannot say that we have succeeded in public relations worldwide. However, Israel”s behavior helps us in this connection. Actually, Israel is our biggest public relations tool because it does things that are hateful from a humanitarian point of view, that are illegal, regionally unacceptable, and in violation of international law. This makes our public relations efforts easier.
(Q) Still Israel can make some important diplomatic successes as in the case of the withdrawal from Gaza.
(A) Yes, but that happened not because it is smart but because it enjoys protection. Israeli policy does not carry out these successes based on its own intrinsic power or clever planning but because it enjoys unprecedented support that has enabled it to violate international law with impunity. Hence one should talk not with the Israeli Government but with its protector, Washington.
(Q) Have the Arab countries succeeded in achieving any success in influencing Washington in a way that serves the Palestinians?
(A) There is some progress. I hope this is not wishful thinking.
(Q) How much aid is the Arab League giving to the PA to help it govern the Gaza Strip? It is already known that the EU has promised 280 million euros. How much aid is the Arab League thinking of giving?
(A) We are giving very substantial aid. It is part of our unsuccessful (as published) public relations effort. The UAE alone is offering $150 million to build residential neighborhoods for the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia has fulfilled all its commitments. Algeria has paid every cent it promised the Palestinians and it recently gave me a check for $50 million. I personally delivered it to the Palestinians. The Palestinians are very satisfied with the way the Arab League is dealing with them. It does not keep one cent of this money. But perhaps you would like to talk about a broader project to develop Gaza. I myself would like to talk about Palestine itself, not merely Gaza, that is, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. For this reason, we must follow up the developments and see how far Israel will withdraw from the West Bank”s towns and villages in order to embark on a development plan for both Gaza and the West Bank. I have discussed this issue with the Europeans and Arabs, namely, to proceed with a development plan as soon as we become certain of how the peace process is moving.
(Q) Israeli officials have been saying for some time that they have begun secret communications with 10 Arab countries. Do you think that it is likely that the Israeli Government has actually carried out contacts with such a number of Arab countries, or is it exaggerating and trying to deceive?
(A) Perhaps our cousin the son of Shalom (apparent reference to Israel) wishes to say that he has made a breakthrough somewhere. However, every Arab or Muslim minister who visited Israel returned to tell us first of all what happened and why, namely, that they came under pressure. They all insisted that any future step should be linked to progress on the ground with regard to both Jerusalem and the West Bank. In my opinion, Israeli policy does not deserve a friendly Arab gesture. I do not understand why they praise Sharon”s withdrawal from Gaza. First this withdrawal is incomplete. Secondly, does not everyone know that while Israel was withdrawing from Gaza the settlements in the West Bank continued to be built or expanded? The separation wall is still being built. Does not everyone know that a large number of Gaza”s settlers were resettled in the West Bank? Why then is Sharon given this gratuitous reward?
(Q) I understand, therefore, that you do not encourage these communications.
(A) Absolutely. I do not encourage, accept, or understand this process.
(Q) Could you confirm that these communications included 10 Arab countries?
(A) No, I think the number is much smaller.
(Q) Two, three, or five countries?
(A) Two or three Arab countries and two or three Islamic countries. I met with the Indonesian foreign minister who told me that he actually received the Israeli foreign minister. There is a difference between going to Israel yourself and receiving a visiting Israeli official. Several Arab and Muslim officials visited Israel”s foreign minister one after the other, but the Indonesian foreign minister told me that he had received his Israeli counterpart and listened to what he had to say. He also told him about the committed Arab and Islamic position regarding Israel.
(Q) Do you know which countries are thought to have recently conducted secret communications with Israel?
(A) No, I have no idea which countries. I urge all those who contact Israel secretly to inform me of what they are doing and listen to our views on the matter. Perhaps what we have to say to them can be of some use to them.
(Q) What might you say to them?
(A) I would tell them to make sure that any further communications with Israel should hinge on stopping the expansion of the settlements and halting the building of the separation wall, not on a withdrawal from Gaza that has not been truly proven to be disciplined.
(Q) How far might the stances of some Arab countries that seek to establish relations with Israel ruin the collective Arab stance? They are doing this outside the context of the general Arab understanding that was reached on the strength of a Saudi initiative at the Beirut Arab summit two years ago.
(A) Doubtlessly communications that are held in this manner can ruin the collective Arab stance. The key is to remain committed to the Arab initiative that was made at the Beirut summit. We are prepared to normalize relations with Israel. We are not against this, but for each step there must be a reciprocal action. For every policy action there must be a reciprocal gesture. Arab policy must be founded on attaining balanced gains for the Palestinians. This is the historical Arab commitment. What I can see happening around us is too much. It is unnecessary. Israeli policy does not deserve this much reciprocity.
(Q) Could some Arab countries withstand the US pressure in this connection?
(A) You have the right to ask this question. There are limits, however, because only God knows what pressure might be brought to bear. Should we bow before Israel because we are coming under pressure? Should we accept this?
(Q) Regarding the situation in Iraq, there has been a noticeable increase in violence, which has recently extended to the previously relatively calm south. The security situation is expected to deteriorate further as the date of the referendum on the constitution approaches. You are not optimistic about this, are you?
(A) I am not optimistic because sectarian, ethnic, religious, and geographical issues are being manipulated. This recipe can bring no good.
(Q) What exactly do you mean?
(A) There is an ongoing political process, to which I have no objections. There is a constitution on which agreement must be reached. This is the business of the Iraqi people, except for the clause that states that Iraq is an Arab country. This concerns all of us, but we are now finished with this. We intervened and conducted discussions and negotiations and reached an acceptable formula. It could have been better but it is still acceptable. The clause states that Iraq will continue to be part of the Arab world and Arab existence. There are many other articles in the constitution that are acceptable but some are unacceptable. On some others there is no general agreement. However, it is the Iraqi people”s business. Everything connected with the political process, including holding elections, drawing up a constitution, holding a referendum on it, and then holding new elections is a good thing. However, something completely different is happening in Iraq, namely, the killing and rebellion, or the insurgency (preceding word in English as published) as I prefer to call it. Therefore, alongside the political process another course of events is unfolding, the so-called insurgency. There are also sectarian, religious, and ethnic tugs-of-war. So we are seeing two different courses of events unfolding in Iraq.
(Q) It is clear, however, that the violence and rebellion of which you speak will continue as long as the foreign forces remain in the country.
(A) No. It will not continue only as long as the foreign troops remain in the country. There is another cause: It is the ongoing manipulation of sectarian sentiments. It is not merely the occupation, perhaps because there is an understanding with the current Iraqi authority over the presence of the foreign troops, or perhaps because the foreign presence is so far backed by a UN Security Council resolution, which states that the authorization given to the foreign military forces will be terminated at the end of 2005 or the completion of the current political process. The resolution in question has a timetable for the completion of this process. The foreign military presence should end but the Iraqi authority says that it is still unable to maintain security and will try to reach a new understanding with the coalition forces to set another date for their withdrawal. This, however, is part of the problem, a large part actually. There is another cause for the violence, namely, the manipulation of sectarian and religious tendencies.
(Q) Since you acknowledge that the foreign military presence is a large part of the problem, is it useful in your opinion for the Iraqi people to express their views on the presence of the foreign military forces when they vote on the referendum?
(A) No, this should only come after agreement is reached on the constitution and new elections are held. I believe that all parties will participate in the next elections. It is necessary to have a government that will truly represent the Iraqi people. It will be such a government that will make the final decision, taking into account the fact that the foreign presence is an exceptional situation, not the norm. The foreign presence must be temporary and exceptional. Eventually the foreign military forces should leave. For this reason I made a call on behalf of the Arab League at the Sharm al-Sheikh conference in November 2004 to adopt a five-point plan. The first pertains to national concord and understanding, meaning national reconciliation. All concerned parties, the Arab League, the United Nations, the coalition countries, the EU, the Iranians, and the Iraqi people themselves should hold a conference that will bring together all these forces to reach agreement over Iraq”s future.
The second point pertains to a timetable for the coalition forces” withdrawal. The third point focuses on allowing the United Nations to play a bigger role that is not limited to the formulation of a constitution and supervising this or that issue. The fourth point is that the Iraqi people should take into account the fact that Iraq and Iraq”s future have an Arab safety net. If there are certain points that Arab public opinion rejects, there will be a lot of tension in the region. Hence I have called for giving the Arab League a role on the grounds that it constitutes the Arab safety net for Iraq at present and in the future. The fifth point pertains to reconstruction. Is it reasonable for Iraq, which is wealthy in natural resources and has oil to be a poor country? There is a lot of manipulation of Iraq”s destiny and resources.
(Q) You speak about an Arab safety net and present proposals that can help Iraq. However, what are the Arab countries doing about the events in Iraq? Do you not think that the Iraqi Government”s criticism of the Arab countries” failure to extend the required support especially at this crucial time is justified and to the point?
(A) This is a legitimate question. Dr Al-Jafari”s remark that he had hoped the Arabs would play a bigger role is also legitimate. However, in practical terms the proposals that have been submitted raise questions. Several Arab embassies went to Baghdad. You know very well what happened to the Egyptian, Algerian, and Bahraini embassies. The Saudis opened a hospital. You know what happened to it. We told them: If you want Arab intervention to maintain security and help with other matters, come let us talk about its conditions. No one wants to talk about these conditions. At the same time it appears that there are forces in Iraq that do not want the Arabs to intervene.
Circumstances also do not permit any significant intervention. Think of it. The UN presence is actually located in Amman, not Baghdad. There are no more than 30 or 40 UN personnel in Iraq. So the talk about a UN presence is just that, mere talk that is not supported by the facts. The United Nations should play a stronger role. Look at what happened when a fact-finding mission visited Iraq last year and met with a number of Iraqi officials. I myself received representatives of all the Iraqi political affiliations, Arab, Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, and Turkomen. We are involved in what is happening in Iraq. We are sending missions and receiving Iraqi leaders and representatives of various Iraqi groups. Regarding my own travel to Iraq, I need to go there soon, but at the appropriate time. Of course we want to open an Arab League office. However, after what happened to the Arab embassies, other people are reluctant to go there. I cannot just tell someone: Go to Iraq.
(Q) Let us return a little to the Iraqi draft constitution and your call to maintain Iraq”s Arab character. Some circles have seen that as meddling in Iraq”s affairs. Was it appropriate for the Arab League and its secretary general to intervene in this issue?
(A) Of course it was appropriate, actually more than appropriate. It is the Arab League secretary general”s duty to speak about Arab identity and to seek to maintain the member countries” Arab character. Furthermore the secretary general was not inventing something new. He emphasized certain characteristics and saw that some circles were trying to obliterate these characteristics. Otherwise he would not have succeeded. Had the state of affairs not been this way in practical terms, we would not have been able to do what we did regarding the constitution. And they accepted it. The article in question now reads: Iraq is a multiethnic, multi-religious, multi-sect country, is part of the Islamic nation, a founding and active member of the Arab League, and is committed to its charter and resolutions. This is acceptable. It is not bad phrasing because it linked all the pertinent points to each other from an Arab and Islamic perspective, while taking into account Iraq”s current situation.
(Q) Nevertheless, should not Iraq, which has various cultures, religions, and languages, be able to decide for itself how it wishes to identify itself. There is no doubt that excluding a reference to Iraq as an "Arab country" was a concession that the Arab majority made to guarantee Iraq”s unity.
(A) We arrived at the general framework in a diplomatic way. It was Iraq that ultimately made the decision how to define itself. I was in contact with members of the committee that was drafting the constitution. I used no pressure. I dictated nothing to anyone. I just spoke from a particular logical viewpoint.
(Q) In view of the Middle East”s current geopolitical situation, could Iran become a basic partner in the Arab League, especially in view of the fact that the historical ties between Iraq and Iran for example are stronger than the relations between other members of the Arab League, like Lebanon and Somalia, Tunisia and Djibouti?
(A) This is an important question from a strategic point of view. The Arab world consists of the Arab Maghreb, the Arab center, the Arabian Gulf, and the Horn of Africa. These regions are all linked. The inhabitants of some of these countries study Arabic because this language is part of their heritage. There is an Arab revival there. Iran is a large country in the Middle East that enjoys a lot of respect. It is important to have a good and frank relationship between the Arabs and Iran. It serves neither side”s interest to revive the old frictions between Arabs and Persians. This is what we are talking about. There are various views on this issue.
(Q) The Arab League has adopted a stance supportive of Iran in its dispute with the United States and the European Troika regarding its nuclear program. How far are you certain that this Arab support can withstand US pressure in view of the current escalation of this crisis?
(A) There is pressure, it is true. I hear about it directly and sometimes I read about it in the papers. However, the Arab League, I myself, and the Arab world proceed in this matter from the Arab initiative to establish a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. This requires that we should seek to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It also requires that the same thing should apply at the same time to Israel. However, if we are pressured to handle the Iranian nuclear file without doing the same about the Israeli nuclear file, I must say quite frankly that this would be very unfair to Middle Eastern security. We should not follow this path. Something must be done about both files. Otherwise it would be a very wrong policy and we do not want to be part of it.
(Q) It is clear that the Iranian nuclear file is being handled on the basis of intentions rather than evidence.
(A) As a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran should enjoy its right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. This is its firm right. Otherwise joining the NPT would become meaningless. Indeed the NPT might totally collapse if the Iranian file is mishandled. The policy versus Iran has been to drive it to choose one right and deny itself the other. The whole thing was a manipulation of the NPT. As I see it, the situation in the Middle East requires that everyone should disarm. This should include Iran in the sense that it should not seek to develop nuclear weapons. However, dealing with the Iranian file without dealing with the Israeli file is very harmful to regional and Arab security, indeed even to global security.
(Q) Let us move to the situation in Lebanon and Syria. The investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri is continuing. Do you think that the results of this investigation will calm down the situation or make it worse?
(A) I cannot comment on a report that I have not seen. I cannot comment on mere rumors. I will not make any comment at all until after the report comes out.
(Q) Meanwhile Washington is not hiding its wish of seeing the Syrian regime replaced. How worried are you that the US administration might try to implement this policy in the region?
(A) I am worried about the whole region, not only Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, or Palestine. The region is seething. The entire Middle East is seething including the Arab countries.
(Q) What will the Arab League do to ease this tension?
(A) As much as I would like to do that, I cannot do anything. At least I cannot do it on my own.
(Q) In your opinion has the time come for the Arab League to reform itself, as the United Nations is seeking to do, to confront more effectively these new challenges to the region?
(A) Certainly. This hardly needs to be said. We have actually begun a process of reform. First of all I will in December call the first meeting of an Arab parliament, which will be termed a transitional parliament. It will remain transitional for five years. This is a new breakthrough because it will introduce parliamentary work into the Arab League. It will be different from the Arab Parliamentary Union, which by the way helped the Arab League Secretariat develop this new concept. Perhaps you realize how important this new development is. At the same time we have reorganized the Arab Economic and Social Council and opened the door for participation by Arab civil society organizations and private sector organizations. Recently we decided to end the requirement for a unanimous vote on resolutions and adopted a system of adopting resolutions by majority vote. The Arab League has been restructured and new departments have been introduced for human rights, scientific research, and economic and social issues. We are especially focusing on social issues, which were formerly neglected but are now a major section of the Arab League”s work.
We still have a long way to go. The Arab League is not merely the elegant building in Al-Tahrir Square. The league operates more than 20 specialized agencies, a fund, and a bank. It has more than 20 Arab ministerial councils. It undertook economic activities that made an Arab free trade zone a reality as of January 2005. In the context of the Arab League the Arab countries are now discussing the possibility of establishing an Arab customs union within the next five years. The Arab League has been making plans to establish a common Arab market for the past 10 years, beginning with a free trade zone. In cooperation with the United Nations the league has also issued the Family Charter, a very successful operation. It allows the United Nations to release its report on development from the Arab League pulpit. The Arab League has made a lot of progress.
(Q) Nevertheless, the Arab League seems absent from the volatile political issues in the region.
(A) No, it is not absent from Iraq. It is not absent from Palestine, as you know well. It was never absent from Sudan but was actually very active in that issue. What you need to do is not be satisfied merely with reading the headlines. You need to follow what is published on the Arab League”s website to see what it is doing. The Arab League is coming under attack because there are circles that wish to destroy any Arab interaction. When I told the Iraqi brothers that they needed to include in their draft constitution a clause mentioning the Arab-Iraqi connections and Iraq”s general Arab affiliation, some Arab writers attacked me. Imagine this. It is ridiculous. We did not intervene in the formulation of Iraq”s draft constitution. We intervened in one article only, and we did it for everyone”s benefit.
The Arab League is coming under attack. I believe that certain circles, that are more foreign than Arab, wish to see this formula of inter-Arab affiliation terminated. Some Arabs also wish to do this, that is, they are actually saying: Enough, let us forget that we are Arabs. I cannot accept this theory because it is a recipe for further divisions and will leave the weaker Arab countries completely helpless. The Arab countries” ties with the major powers hinge on the major powers” wishes and interests. When these interests are over, which can happen at any moment, the small country is dropped and left out. What remains is the close Arab interaction among the Arab countries. This will remain forever. When I defend the Arab League, I do not defend it only during my tenure. Since its establishment the Arab League has benefited the Arabs greatly.
When Saddam Hussein committed aggression against Kuwait, it was the Arab summit in Cairo that decided that the Arab armies should intervene with other armies to liberate Kuwait. It was a Cairo summit resolution. The Arab League is very useful and protective of Arab interests. I urge all the Arabs, governments, organizations, and populations, to help the Arab League to survive and not try to destroy it.
(Q) Every Arab League secretary general since it was founded in 1945 has been an Egyptian national, except for the period between 1978 and 1991 when Egypt”s membership was suspended. Is it not time to put in place a system by which this post is filled by rotation to stop Egypt”s monopoly?
(A) Perhaps. Why Not? When the brother the Algerian foreign minister mentioned this point, I saw nothing strange in it. It is a valid opinion. Perhaps the Arab League will do that. At the same time we should take into account Egypt”s position, role, and influence. When brother Abdulaziz Belkhadem mentioned this point, some Arab writers, perhaps tendentiously, imagined that there was a dispute between Algeria and the Arab League. To the contrary, I welcomed Belkhadem”s view and thought his remarks were very good.
(Q) Doubtlessly you are one of the Arab League”s most prominent secretaries general, if not the most prominent of all. You also are the most controversial because of your numerous stances. How do you describe your experience in this job?
(A) I have enjoyed the five years during which I have been Arab League secretary general because I got the chance to acquaint myself with the Arab world from inside and learned how the Arabs think, including their tendency to self-destruct. I was astonished. Although I had been Egyptian Foreign Minister for 10 years, I now admit that I did not get to know the Arabs as much as I got to know them during the past five years. They were very useful years. This is my fifth and last year.
(Q) Will you seek a new term?
(A) I will not answer now. Every matter has its own circumstances and conditions.
(Q) Do you have bigger ambitions?
(A) Every matter has its own circumstances and conditions.
(Q) Some circles believe that you have not achieved what was originally expected of you as secretary general. What things did you try to achieve but failed to do so?
(A) I have failed in achieving some things that I wanted to do. Had the Arab countries given the Arab League financial and moral backing, we would have moved faster and instead of achieving three or four things out of 10, we would have achieved seven, eight, or even 10 out of 10. The most important thing for me is that when I embark on studying a new subject, I would like to find competent experts to show me the way. The Arab countries have not enabled me to seek advice from the experts whom I should have consulted. Indeed the lack of funds reduced the effectiveness and quantity of the work. If I had had more money and if the Arab countries had had better intentions towards the Arab League, I would have done a lot for the Arab citizens and I would have carried out more interaction among the Arabs to serve their political causes.
(Q) How do you handle the acute criticism that is leveled against you by some Arab governments?
(A) This criticism sometimes is very helpful to me. I accept any objective criticism. No one is perfect. Every objective criticism is important. As to invective, I will not speak about it and I will not respond to it. As long as you work in politics, you must be prepared to tolerate things. I welcome constructive criticism.