Al-Aqsaintifada.org recently conducted a rare interview with Marwan Barghouthi of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Barghouti, 41, is a leading figure in Fateh, and the chief coordinator of Al-Aqsa Intifada. Barghouthi joined Fateh at the age of 15 and studied history and political science at Bir Zeit University, taking a masters degree in international relations. He spent six years in Israeli jails and was deported from his homeland in 1987. His involvement with the first Intifada was as a liaison officer in the PLO's offices in Amman and Tunis. He returned in 1994 under the Oslo accords, as a believer in the peace process. He is now on Israel's most wanted list.
Ramallah, Palestine - January 2001 - Q: We understand that the Security Meetings being held between the Palestinians and the Israelis are based on the latest Clinton plan, which was rejected by the Palestinians since it doesn't meet the minimum Palestinian demands and rights. What has recently changed to justify holding such meetings?
A: "First of all, I believe that Al-Aqsa Intifada has expressed a new Palestinian state of mind refusing to live under the current circumstances or going back to the pre-September 28 status quo. Therefore, I see no point in proceeding with negotiations in the same framework that they were conducted during the past seven years, which led to nothing but more U.S. support for Israel. The current Intifada has ascertained the Palestinian demands, the principles for establishing the Palestinian State and Independence, and the neccesity of reaching a just and final solution pursuant to the provisions of the United Nations Resolutions. The Intifada has set the one and only acceptable agenda and that is to provide a time-frame for implementing the UN resolutions, including Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and the implementation of UN resolution 194.
Second, I believe that giving in to the U.S. as the only sponsor for the peace process is disastrous since the past ten years has proven that the U.S. is not only a biased mediator, but a partner to the Israelis. In fact, the latest U.S. proposal is an Israeli proposal introduced under the U.S. name. Other parties must also be recognized as partners in sponsoring the peace process, including China, Russia, Europe and others.
Unfortunately, some parties on the Palestinian side insisted on continuing with the talks; we understand the necessity for continuing the political efforts, but that requires the conditions to be mature enough to produce any results. Therefore, I emphasize that there is no point in proceeding with the negotiations as per the same old framework.
The Security Coordination is one of the outcomes of Oslo and the transitional phase; the Intifada is meant to end this phase once and for all. The Israelis want such meetings to guarantee their security and to end the Intifada, but why do we need to coordinate with them while they completely deny the Palestinian rights and continue their aggression against our people? The PNA should reconsider and redirect its political and administrative efforts to reinforce the Intifada and support its people. As long as the Israelis are not accepting the Palestinian demands, the security meetings and coordinations should be stopped.
Q: The Israeli forces recently took some measures constituting of opening the borders, removing some barricades, and as they claim "easing the seige." Do you think that such measures might bring back stability?
A: I think that the scenes you probably watched on different Arab and foreign T.V. channels, of the assasination of the martyr Shaker Hassouneh in Hebron, and how the Israeli soldiers dragged his bleeding body for a long distance, is evidence of the Israel's decision to continue its brutal aggression against our people.
Israel's removal of barricades from some areas was for their own benefit, as these had become flashpoints for the Intifada, and their removal was for the protection of the Israeli soldiers, as they realized that the Intifada was growing in strength. Another reason is to reduce the resistance due to the blockage of medical and essential supplies, thus limiting Israel's responsibility for any emergencies that might occur due to this closure.
The demonstrations that took place on Friday (Jan. 12th) are a clear message of the continuation and escalation of the Intifada. The goal of the Intifada is not to remove one or two barricades here and there, but to put an end to the Israeli occupation and establish our Palestinian State, and achieve freedom, independence, and the right of return. Therefore, the Intifada is not a matter of days, or months; it will continue until it accomplishes its goals.
Q: The Israeli agencies monitoring the Intifada issued a report indicating that the Intifada activities have declined since the start of the security meetings. Do you think that the situation will be calmer the coming days awaiting the results of the negotiations?
A: The Intifada has the necessary and needed ingredients for continuation. As I mentioned, it won't come to an end by lifting one or two barricades, but only when the occupation ends. This is the decision of the Palestinian People and they won't accept bringing things back to the way they were before the Intifada. We affirm that there will be no peace with occupation and no peace with settlements and settlers. The Intifada is a living thing, made up of the People; it has brains, feelings and needs, as well as aspirations; it has enthusiasm and persistence, and its activities vary from time to time. The coming days will witness more activities.
Q: As a response to the ongoing security meetings and political negotiaitons, the Palestinians have held demonstrations opposing such meetings - the biggest was in Ramallah, organized by all Palestinian fractions with Fatah on the top of the list. What is the message conveyed by such demonstrations?
A: The message is the continuty of the Intifada. The demonstrations were organized under the slogan "No compromise on the Palestinian right of return, as per UN resolution 194". No one should think that a security meeting or understanding can bring an end to the Intifada.
Q: A meeting for all the Palestinian National and Islamic factions was held this evening. What are the main decisions reached in this meeting, and what are the activities planned for this coming week?
A: The following decisions were made:
Rejection of the security coordination. Rejection of the Israeli-American plans, and calling on refusing any formula for proceeding with the negotiations on such a basis, as well as rejecting the presidential declaration suggested by the U.S.
As for activities, the coming week shall witness different national activities, including coordinating with the Ministry of Education to dedicate the first two classes in schools for discussing the right of return. Also, next Saturday (January 20, 2001) will be announced as the day of return; demonstrations will be organized in Palestine and outside.
This article was conducted by a writer from alaqsaintifada.org. You can visit their website at http://www.alaqsaintifada.org/index.html