Q) What help do the Palestinian Authority (PA) need from Arab nations to ensure Israel”s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip?
A) We do not need help covering the budget deficit or paying employees” salaries but we are hoping for an Arab political and economic stand and commitment to the initiative of King Abdullah Bin-Abdulaziz, the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and the roadmap until the Israeli withdrawal is completed. We need urgent and emergency financial aid to bolster our people”s persistence during the Israel”s withdrawal, because we are at a critical stage and we have problems like unemployment, the infrastructure, and building houses because many of them were ruined by the Israeli bombardment.
Q) Do you need this aid at the start of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza?
(A) The Arab aid should start today because we are in dire straits and lack many essentials.
(Q) What is your estimation of this shortage?
(A) It is ridiculous to talk about budgets and salaries because we are talking about an Israeli withdrawal and the demands of building a state that needs an infrastructure that meets the Palestinian people”s minimum requirements and, secondly, helping our people through additional job prospects so that our national unity is protected. We believe that the present Palestinian phase is an exception in view of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. This development requires the Arabs to give all efforts and support. I believe that the Arab leaders are ready to do this and the first sign of this move is the initiative of the United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifah Bin-Zayid who decided to build Palestinian villages. This is a great message and confirms the seriousness of the Arab stance. I believe there are other Arab initiatives that will be disclosed during the coming two days and these will help us in the economic field, which will enable us to build a Palestinian state with the basics that are totally separate from the Israeli occupation.
(Q) Do you have apprehensions that the Gaza withdrawal will be first and last?
(A) These apprehensions are legitimate because Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the right-wing government in Israel are seeking to make Gaza first and last. However, the international community and the United States believe that the ultimate term of reference is the international legitimacy as represented by the roadmap. We have received US assurances in this matter during the US-Palestinian summit and during the US secretary of state”s visit to the PA. Condoleezza Rice”s stand on this point was clear and frank. But, we believe that the Arab effort is needed as it is bound to constitute a safety net and element of protection for ending the Israeli occupation in accordance with the roadmap.
(Q) Do you think the Quartet ( US, UN, EU, Russia) should be involved to prevent Palestinian infighting, or Palestinian-Israeli clashes?
(A) Putting the Palestinian house and the inter-Palestinian relationship in order is an internal affair. We seek the help of the Arab and Muslim brothers in this and do not consider it a shortcoming but a legitimate shield, like the Cairo agreement, which regulates the Palestinian relationship between the factions before, during, and after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and so, ensure we get independence. A Palestinian-Israeli clash is out of the question because we want the withdrawal to be carried out calmly and smoothly and we hope that Israel will act responsibly because a clash means its bankruptcy. It is also in the Palestinians” interest to let the Israelis act and leave. We will not seek to disturb them either before or after the withdrawal. We hope that everyone will comply with the calm and not cause provocations or breaches and that the Israeli behavior will of the same level through dialogue and agreement. We have serious internal dialogue between the PA and all the Palestinian political and popular forces to ensure the success of the withdrawal.
(Q) What will the Palestinian-Israeli relationship be like after the withdrawal?
(A) It is Israeli behavior that decides the Palestinian-Israeli relationship, that is, for Gaza to be the beginning of the end of the occupation in the West Bank so that the Palestinian people can feel hopeful and that this is done through coordination, negotiations, and dialogue. But if the Israeli machine continues toward consolidating the occupation and settlements in the West Bank and east of Jerusalem, then Israel will be pushing our people into exercising their right to resist the occupation because there is a Palestinian agreement and a consensus to resolve the conflict within the framework of international legitimacy, the full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border, and the establishment of the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
(Q) But Israel links its behavior to that of the Palestinian side and says if the PA complies. How do you analyze this equation?
(A) The judge here is the international community, the terms of references, and the agreements signed by the Israelis and us and the UN ones because the settlements Israel is building and the demographic changes it is making are a message of war and not one of peace. The Palestinian calm is a positive message from the Palestinian people as they wait in hope for independence. The whole world realizes that all the violations are made by Israel.
(Q) Did Rice give you any US assurances during her visit to the region?
(A) The aim of Rice”s visit was to develop the security and civilian coordination between Israel and us to ensure there is this coordination that guarantees the success of the withdrawal from Gaza Strip and north of the West Bank.
(Q) Did Rice succeed in her mission?
(A) The Palestinian side was responsive to Rice and she stressed that Gaza would not be a jail for the Palestinians. She gave assurances that Gaza would not be the first and last and that there would be geographical contiguity between Gaza and the West Bank. Rice also said the settlements and the separation fence threaten the final resolution in future. In my opinion, these were positive steps and we consider them elements of assurances from the United States to the Palestinians.
(Q) There are discussions inside the G8 about the future of Jerusalem. Some prefer to internationalize it. Will you accept this?
(A) We have no objection if East and West Jerusalem were internationalized. We accepted a solution that gave us East Jerusalem, the right to sovereignty over it, and for it to be the capital of the state of Palestine. However, if the question of internationalization is proposed forcefully, then we welcome the internationalization of East and West Jerusalem. We will not have a problem because we do not accept having the Israelis control the Christian and Muslim holy place. It is unacceptable for the Muslim and Christian to need permission from Israel.
(Q) Regarding the status of Lebanon”s Palestinians, Will they be absorbed in Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal?
(A) Lebanon”s Palestinians are a priority for the Palestinian political leadership because they are suffering from difficult conditions. We stressed to the Lebanese that there is no cause for worry about the issue of settlement and that the Palestinian presence will only be an element of stability in the Lebanese arena. We are looking forward to their return to their homeland Palestine and to solving their problems because they are the ones suffering the most in the Diaspora.
(Q) Will their return be after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza?
(A) The sooner the better. We welcome their return in our homes and hearts.
(Q) Will Israel permit them to enter Gaza?
(A) Israel has nothing to do with Gaza after its withdrawal. The issue is to absorb the almost 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon.
(Q) Will they be let in in stages?
(A) We will absorb them in our Homes and hearts and the important thing is to alleviate part of their suffering because they are our family.