A PALESTINIAN VIEW
More violent than before
an interview with Qais Abu Layla
bitterlemons: Recently, it has been
said that the ceasefire cannot be over, that Palestinians have no other
choice right now, and that even Hamas doesn't really have a choice.
Abu Layla: I think that there is a
chance that a ceasefire could be agreed upon once again, but this is
not the only possibility. A new ceasefire will have to have better
guarantees in order to be respected by both sides--especially by the
Israelis--and in order to be convincing for the Palestinian movement
and the Palestinian people. Otherwise, I think that the present cycle
of violence will continue and perhaps become more violent than what we
have seen over the last three years of the intifada.
In spite of that, I believe that the
option of a negotiated settlement is, in the final analysis, the only
option that could end this struggle. For the time being, I think that
the conditions for this option have not yet matured, mainly because
Israelis have not come to the conclusion that they have to address the
main needs and rights of the Palestinian people, even within the
framework of the roadmap.
bitterlemons: Do you support the roadmap?
Abu Layla: I have a lot of
criticisms of many of the provisions of the roadmap. From the
beginning, I thought that the unconditional acceptance of the roadmap
by the Palestinian leadership, even before it [the roadmap] was
formally presented to both sides was an error--not because the roadmap
should have been rejected, but because this opened the way for the
Israeli rejection of the roadmap through its "comments" on the text.
Now the roadmap has become a general
framework for strenuous negotiations between the two parties, and
without the international supervision that was promised in the text
itself. The whole time framework that was included in the text has
exploded, leaving the Israelis in complete control of the development
of the process and therefore capable of dictating the terms. This makes
the roadmap an Israeli solution, rather than an international
compromise between the two parties.
I think that there are positive aspects
within the roadmap that could be a basis for the future of a negotiated
settlement, especially the call for an independent sovereign
Palestinian state and the call for an end to the occupation of 1967.
bitterlemons: What is your impression of the government of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas?
Abu Layla: The attitude taken by
the present government towards the negotiations on the roadmap is
basically incorrect. I think that they have drifted along with Israeli
and American attempts to undermine all of the positive aspects of the
roadmap and to turn the present process into a series of security
dictates. This has weakened the popular base of the present government
and may gradually lead to its collapse.
bitterlemons: You were one of those
who called for Palestinian national dialogue with Hamas. Do you think
that there have been positive results of this dialogue, and how can
this dialogue continue?
Abu Layla: There was a positive
result of this dialogue in that, for the first time in the history of
the Palestinian movement, there was unanimous agreement on a ceasefire
with Israel. This did not occur even in 1980 or in 1981 in Lebanon. All
the ceasefires that were declared by the Palestinian leadership had
people that opposed them and sabotaged them.
Now, for the first time, we have a
general consensus on this ceasefire on the bases that were developed by
the different factions, which are actually the same terms included in
the roadmap itself. Even those factions that are against the roadmap
have actually adopted the same terms for the ceasefire that were
included in the roadmap.
This was a step forward and I think that
this could have been a sound basis for continuing dialogue in order to
arrive at a common platform for a unified national command to include
all of the Palestinian factions, and also the Palestinian Authority and
Palestine Liberation Organization.
bitterlemons: You are a political
leader. You said that it is possible that the violence could get much
worse. Personally, how do you feel about that? Is the prospect of a
very violent turn of events worth it?
Abu Layla: Personally, I feel very
much distressed, of course. I think that what we are actually asking
for and what we are fighting for is a peaceful settlement that is based
on recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to an independent
and sovereign state within the borders of 1967. If the Israelis agree
to that, and if the Americans actually press the Israelis to meet this
Palestinian demand, I think that we could have a very simple and very
short way out of this continued violence.
I do not feel comfortable with the
continuation of violence and war, but this is an option that has been
forced upon the Palestinian people. They have to fight to the end. If
they have to do it through military means, then they will--despite the
But they will do it not because they want
to fight, but because fighting is necessary to reach their goal of a
peace that meets their national aspirations, and the aspiration of
independence. -Published 25/8/03©bitterlemons.org
Qais Abu Layla is a
member of both the politburo of the Democratic Front for the Liberation
of Palestine and the Central Committee of the Palestine Liberation