Hilal: What is the democratic coalition, and when will it be announced?

Ra’fat: The agreement for forming the Palestinian Democratic Coalition came after years of conversation between many political factions, among them democratic and progressive Palestinian groups and figures from outside and inside Palestine. In the last month there was an agreement between the Palestinian democratic union, “Fida,” the Palestinian People’s Party, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, civil groups, the unionism front, as well as democratic and progressive institutions to announce the establishment of the democratic coalition on the second of September in Ramallah. A preparatory committee has been formed to be responsible for continuing the preparatory works to form the Coalition in the country and in the refugee camps and the Diaspora.

The Palestinian Democratic Coalition is a national, socialist, and democratic movement that is progressive and secular. In addition, the Palestinian Democratic Coalition is part of the PLO and calls on the democratic patriots (men and women) in the country and the Diaspora. It is not a new party but a broad democratic and progressive faction that includes parties, political factions, representatives of social categories’, popular organizations, unionism fronts, youth and women commissions and independent democratic groups that aim to end the Israeli occupation and the annexation of Palestinian lands that have been occupied since 1967. The Coalition is trying to build plurality in a parliamentary, secular, and modern Arab Palestinian state that is based on the declaration of Palestinian independence and ensures the Palestinian refugees’ rights to return to their homeland and properties.

The Palestinian democratic coalition ensures the connection between national liberation tasks and tasks of social justice. Within the tasks of social justice, the democratic coalition should defend the rights of the different classes: the working class, the educated, and the vocational workers. The gathering seeks to play an effective role in Palestinian political and social life and aims to implement democratic practices in political life, such as circulating authority and transferring it in a peaceful and democratic way.

The coalition is trying to strengthen relations between progressive, democratic, Arab and international factions in a joint struggle against American and Zionist hegemony, and against the dangers of a new, savage liberalism.

Coalition membership is individualist and diplomatic (representation). The leadership of coalition commissions is elected on the basis of mixed representation (percentual and individualist). The gathering guarantees the right of ideological and political multiplicity. Decisions in each commission are reached by simple majority.

Hilal: What are the objective and subjective conditions that gave maturity to the coalition, and do you think that the reasons for its creation are honest?

Ra’fat: For years, the objective conditions have stemmed from various factions, groups, and democratic and progressive political figures who organized their classes in a democratic coalition so that they could carry on the national and social tasks in this stage of the Palestinian struggle. Lately, the subjective conditions matured among political factions, groups, and the political figures that agreed among themselves to establish the coalition and to keep its doors open for others to join later.

Hilal: Some supervisors announce that the coalition goes beyond the democratic work that parties should participate in. What is your comment? Are you one of those who say that the coalition is a reproduction of the parties, but in a different form?

Ra’fat: We ask the supervisors not to rush in their judgments about the coalition and to give their comments in the future, when they can see the coalition in practice, when they can see what it can achieve. The achievements are the responsibility of the coalition and the Palestinian people at this point.

Hilal: Is there any possibility that the coalition might change to a new political party? To what extent is your party ready to resolve itself if it is necessary?

Ra’fat: As I said in my answer of the first question, the coalition is not a new party but a wide democratic progressive faction that includes many parties, political factions, representatives of social categories, and varied popular organizations. The formula of the coalition at this point is more developed than a political front such as the PFLP, but is less developed than a political party like the People’s Party. Testing the coalition later on will make it clear if it will remain in the current form that has been agreed upon, or will develop in the future to change into a united party.

The Palestinian democratic union, “Fida,” will do its best in order to develop the coalition, and in the future “Fida” will be prepared to convert the coalition into a full scale party, in the event that the sides that comprise the coalition agree on this in light of the practical test of the coalition.

Hilal: What are the tasks that the coalition should be responsible for when it completely formed?

Ra’fat: The coalition will do its best to do many tasks on different national, democratic, and social levels. The first task is to work to support Palestinian endurance and to strengthen the popular and democratic characteristics of “Al-‘Intifada.” Palestinians need support in facing settlements, the separation wall, most of the practices of the Israeli authority, and releasing prisoners held in Israeli jails.

In addition, the coalition will work to develop official and popular Palestinian performance on the Arab and international level in order to ensure more solidarity with our people and to create international pressure on the Israeli government, obligating Israel to fulfill the resolutions of the international Security Council 1402, 1403, 1405, 1435 and to commit to the first stages of the Road Map. According to these commitments, Israel should stop attacks against Palestinians, end the siege, withdraw immediately from all lands that have been occupied since September 28th, 2000, stop building settlements, remove the separation wall, release all Palestinian prisoners, and allow an international conference to be held under the supervision of the international quartet committee to find a solution for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict according to historical UN resolutions. These resolutions state that the Israeli occupation should end, and that building settlements on land occupied after June 5, 1967 should stop, that an independent and Palestinian country should be established with Jerusalem as its capital, that the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their home be guaranteed.

The coalition will work on building a civil society and state in which the rule of law is held above all, with an independent judicial system; a state in which the separation of the three powers, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branch that defends public freedom, human rights, and guarantees social justice, is the basis of the society. The coalition will work on preparations for the general, presidential, legislative, and local elections immediately after the withdrawal of the Israeli soldiers from land they reoccupied since September 28 2000. In addition, the coalition will work on formulating a new rule for electing the legislative committee which is based on the mixed election system.

The coalition will try to exert pressure on the Palestinian government in order to solve the economic and social problems which create suffering for most Palestinian people; it will fight corruption, the illegal spending of public money, and the practices that break the rules.

Hilal: What is your vision about the “road map” and the nature of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the two Islamic movements, Hamas and Al-jihad in particular, and the rest of the Palestinian national democratic movements?

Ra’fat: Israeli President Ariel Sharon announced officially in the foreign affairs and security committee in the Israeli Knesset not to give anything to the Palestinians. From the beginning, the Israeli government came up with 14 reservations regarding the road map and the American administration announced that it would take the Israeli reservations into consideration in the application of the road map.

During the last months the Israeli government didn’t fulfill its commitments in the first stage of the road map, whereas, the Palestinian national authority fulfilled most of its commitments.

Daily Israeli practices, such as assassinations, killings, arrests, land confiscation, settlement expansion, building the separation wall, intensifying the siege in the Palestinian cities and villages are in conflict with the road map and aim to get rid of it completely. Such a thing needs the intervention of the Quartet in order to create a timetable for Israel to fulfill its commitments.

It is better for our people that the PLO and the PA cooperate at the level of the Arab and international world to reach a mutual ceasefire between the PA and the Israeli authority. If reached, and with international guarantees, we see that all the Palestinian factions should be committed. Also, we see the importance of continuing the conversation between all the political factions based on Gaza’s document that was reached on August 2002, a document reached for the sake of strengthening the national union within the framework of forming national leadership lead by Arafat and with the participation of the members of the executive committee and the representatives of all the national and Islamic factions that determine the current policy and brand of resistance against the Israeli occupation, against illegal settlements, and the practices of the Israeli government. All the factions should convene as a committee for the decisions of the national leadership.