(Asharq Al-Awsat) What are your thoughts on the Prisoners’ Initiative to resolve the problem between Fatah and Hamas?
(Qaddumi) It is good. It is a clear proof that the Palestinian people yearn for unity. This is an appeal to all to unite because unity is the road to liberation.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) The Fatah movement is accused of putting pressure on the Hamas-led government. What is your opinion?
(Qaddumi) I am the secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and the overwhelming majority in the movement cooperates with Hamas. If they make a mistake, we tell them in a friendly manner and a national spirit that they made a mistake. If they follow the right path, we support them. As for the warlords, who fell in the elections and wallowed in corruption, we have no relationship with them. Fatah will continue to be the movement which says yes to national unity.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Who are the warlords you mentioned?
(Qaddumi) There is no need to name names, because everybody knows who they are.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) You said that Fatah is a unionist movement. Does this mean there are multiple trends with in it? ?
(Qaddumi) Right, there are groups with close relations with Israel. They became financially rich and obtained weapons illegally. Therefore, I say the warlords and not the masses. The masses of the Palestinian people and Fatah are alert.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) I would like to ask you about your relationship with Hamas and your opinion of its performance in government?
(Qaddumi) Hamas is part of the national Palestinian movement. It won the elections but it has no experience in government. We believe that foiling its experience will be foiling our efforts. If their practices are correct, we will then be with it. Otherwise, we will express our objection to any mistake.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) When do you think its practices have been correct and when do you think they are wrong?
(Qaddumi) Let us wait for days and months to see how they perform. We support the political program, which refuses to recognize Israel and calls for continuing the resistance. Here I would like to note that the current Palestinian Government was brought by the Palestinian people. Hamas is a national movement which we respect. Political pressures are put on it because it does not recognize Israel and at the same time stresses the need for resistance. We fully support these two goals, taking into consideration the fact that there are 500,000 Palestinian evacuees who must return from Jordan to the West Bank. Also I would like to stress that Israel does not want peace. This means political work alone is useless. Israel becomes fiercer when it and the United States feel that we are weak. But when they feel that we are strong, they beg us to calm down and do this or that thing. We benefited from the experience we got when we entered the Palestinian territories and began to understand how to deal with Israel.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) How can the economic problem currently facing the PA be solved?
(Qaddumi) The European countries and the United States used to extend financial aid to the PA or the PLO. The PLO transferred these funds to the PA and its administrations via the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, which we established abroad. There were 14 governors and I was the head of that council. We began to transfer these funds from the World Bank to the Palestinian territories to establish ministries, cover budget expenditure, and pay for miscellaneous daily expenses and all that is related to development projects and emergency needs. We had four administrations to implement this mechanism. After some time, our brothers in the territories began to receive the funds in a different manner in contravention of this mechanism. The National Palestinian Fund, which is considered one of the central departments of the PLO, turned into what looked like a branch of the PA.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you mean they want to replace the PLO by the PA?
(Qaddumi) Europe and the United States wanted the PA to be the sole legitimate representative (of the Palestinian people) instead of the PLO, which carries the name of Palestine at the United Nations. The purpose was considering only the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and not abroad. This means denial of the existence of Palestinian refugees, but these attempts failed in the elections.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Which is supposed to take place first, Hamas’s recognition of the PLO or the restructuring of the PLO?
(Qaddumi) There are no differences between us and Hamas, which says: Yes, I am ready to be a member of this organization. But whose PLO is it? Let us build this organization. Therefore, I agree with our brothers in Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other organizations that the PLO must be rebuilt on sound bases because the Palestinian people adhere to the PLO. The people will not recognize us if we are not PLO officials. The people will not recognize anyone as representing the Palestinian people unless he is a PLO Executive Committee member.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you think that rebuilding the PLO will require the amendment of its charter or political program?
(Qaddumi) We want to build the PLO as a whole, including all its central and branch bodies (the Palestine National Council and the PLO Central Council) and other bodies. We cannot amend anything. The PNC is the side that is responsible for amending the political program or the charter. I clearly say that we are committed to the 10 points decided by the PNC because they represent the PLO’s short-term political program, which was approved by the PNC in 1974, that is, before Hamas came into existence.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What about the visit President Mahmud Abbas’s visit to Jordan and its connection with the current problem with HAMAS?
(Qaddumi) This visit is part of the continuing contacts between the two sides. The problem between Hamas and Jordan may be one of the issues Abu-Mazin will discuss in Jordan. These differences harm the Palestinian question. We actually want reconciliation to be the main target. Jordan is of a major strategic importance. Its security concerns us and we always say Jordan’s security means our security. Therefore, no Palestinian can at all undermine Jordan’s security.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) How much progress has been made in the Palestinian-Lebanese dialogue and how is the economic situation of the Palestinians?
(Qaddumi) We have fraternal relations with the officials in Lebanon. We try to hold dialogue with the brothers behind closed doors and not in the press. The purpose is to reach accord. I have read that brother Ahmad Jibril presented a memorandum to Shaykh Sa’d al-Hariri. I liked that memo. The points Jibril raised serve as a work program that can be discussed with our brothers the Lebanese officials. It was a comprehensive memo basically on civil and social affairs.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Some say certain Lebanese sides are working secretly to resettle the Palestinians in Lebanon in order to achieve political aims in Lebanon in the future.
(Qaddumi) There is no doubt that there are people who call for resettling the Palestinians in Lebanon. I cannot deny the existence of such persons or factions, but I have never heard a Palestinian say he wants a resettlement.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Does this mean some Lebanese are working for resettlement?
(Qaddumi) This is not ruled out and there are different opinions. Raising the problem of camps is clear evidence. The Arab countries raise the problem of camps only in Lebanon. Therefore, there are some who stir this issue from time to time.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What is your opinion about Abu-Mazin’s intention to present a new plan to Israel on negotiations?
(Qaddumi) Israel, which says it will adopt unilateral measures and which says there is no partner, has destroyed the road map through the assurances (US President George) Bush gave to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Therefore, we ask: What is the use of the Israeli-Palestinian contacts if Israel does not recognize us as a partner?
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What is your opinion about Israel’s intention to unilaterally define the borders?
(Qaddumi) We rejected and continue to reject this unilateral action. If Israel wants to withdraw from the Palestinian territories as it had earlier done in Gaza, let it do so. We do not object to the evacuation of these territories, but this unilateral action should not place any responsibility on the Palestinians.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) How do you view the situation in the Palestinian territories during the next stage?
(Qaddumi) I am optimistic that there will be developments in the interest of the Palestinian people. I do not deny that this clamor or tension will end within a short period of time because the ones stirring it are the ones who lost power and found themselves far from the correct political current. They wagered on things they should not have wagered on because they lost their worldly life and I do not know if they are going to lose the hereafter, too.