Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Interview with Palestinian Interior Minister Saeed Siyam | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Palestinian Interior Minister, Saeed Siyam, has accused “Certain” factions of seeking to thwart the Hamas government, by insuring that the current security situation remains turbulent. He blames this on the intentional weak performance and apathy of security services, who are working to galvanize public opinion against the government on the basis that the interior ministry failed to do anything, he said.

“In brief, we the government felt that there is an attempt to remove our powers and render the government void so that it would appear powerless and a failure,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of his government recognizing or dealing with the Arab peace plan, Siyam said:,”We have no problem with the Arab peace plan. Our problem is with the occupation. It was the Israelis who did not recognize the plan and occupied Ramallah and detained late President Yasser Arafat a day after the Arab plan was announced. Therefore, we tell the Arabs: Go ahead with this plan; we will not hinder your efforts. When Israel accepts it, we, as Palestinian and Arabs, can talk with each other.”

In an exclusive statement to Asharq al-Awsat, the Palestinian interior minister praised Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s character. “We clearly and objectively said that he was honest with us and that he wants to work on the domestic level. However, there is a group around him that does not want this. This group uses satellite channels and the media in general to create tension and provoke others.” He said this group does not want rapprochement, understanding, and harmony between the president and the government.

Stressing that the police and National Security forces are affiliated with the Interior Ministry, Siyam asked: “Why didn’t these forces deploy in the streets when I asked them to, while they deployed when President Mahmud Abbas does, despite the fact that they are under my direct responsibility as interior minister?” This, he said, indicates that some parties are not willing to deal with the interior ministry and that the failure of the security forces to follow his orders is meant to frustrate the government. This is why, he said, he formed a new security force to deploy in the Palestinian streets to maintain security and order and to protect and enforce the decisions of the government.

The Palestinian interior minister refused to describe the new security unit. He said the unit is part of the security establishment because “it was established in accordance with the law and with the approval of President Abu-Mazen.” He said the purpose of the new security unit is to support the police in their efforts to confront the state of chaos and lawlessness. Those who say otherwise want the chaos and lawlessness to continue, he added.

Siyam also criticized the attempt by some security leaders to portray the government as ineffective. He said this issue was discussed with President Abu-Mazen, other Fatah leaders, and with the Egyptian security delegation, and with the other Palestinian factions. Yet, he added, nothing changed.

He pointed out that after he established the security force, everyone began to move. “We praise God that blood started to run again in the veins of the security services.” He said he heard good and encouraging words from President Abu-Mazen, who stressed the need for the security forces to respond to the instructions of the interior minister.

“As an interior minister, I have the responsibility to my people and history to maintain security and public order in the Palestinian street,” he said. He said the lack of tools to implement his orders forced him to work his own way.

The Palestinian interior minister said the power struggle is because the powers of the government are not being respected. He pointed out that the government has powers and the Presidency has powers. Each party must respect the powers of the other, and that the Hamas government did not come to power by a military coup, but by democratic elections.

Siyam said the Palestinian national dialogue conference is a message to all the Palestinians and observers that dialogue is indispensable. The Palestinians, he added, always turn to dialogue at crisis times to minimize differences. He pointed out that two days of dialogue cannot bridge the gap and resolve all the differences. He said the Palestinians aspire to an agreement that would prohibit Palestinian bloodshed and underline the national unity and the Palestinian people’s right to rebuild the PLO. While these are firm principles over which there is no disagreement, he said, the contentious issues need some time to be resolved.

The Palestinian interior minister stressed that inter-Palestinian fighting remains a red line. What has recently happened in the Palestinian territories can happen in the most civilized countries, he said, noting that the Palestinian arena is tense, besieged by the occupation army, and suffering many factors of tension. “While deploring the loss of every life in those incidents, the losses, thanks God, were relatively small and could have been worse.” He accused Palestinian parties of working for their own agenda and personal gains away from the national interests. Some of them are tools in the hands of the occupation authorities, he said.

Siyam renewed Hamas’s rejection of the Israeli plan for withdrawal from the West Bank. The status quo is not a destiny and it will be resisted, he said. He stressed that resistance is a legitimate right recognized by all international laws and conventions. He said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to draw Israel’s border does not determine the future of the Palestinians. “We are the ones who determine our future, and if the balances of power are now in favor of the American-supported Israeli occupation, we are sure that peoples cannot be conquered.”

On the attempt to assassinate Tariq Abu-Rajab, the intelligence director, the Palestinian interior minister said the file is still open. Noting that the attempt took place in Abu-Rajab’s private elevator inside the fortified intelligence headquarters, Siyam said that the ball is in their court. “We said that anyone found involved in this act, whoever he may be, will be brought to trial.” He stressed that Hamas announced its rejection of political assassinations. He asked, “Hamas did not carry out political assassinations when it was a faction, so how can it do it after it became a government establishment?”