Translated by: George N. Rishmawi-IMEMC
PNN: How do you view the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza Strip?
Rajoub: The Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip and other areas in the West Bank reflects the crisis the Israeli political establishment and the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon live. Sharon is maneuvering to avoid fulfilling his obligations towards the Peace Process locally and internationally. However, he will fail in doing so and in breaking the will of the Palestinian People with his acts.
PNN: Sharon talks about a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza Strip at a time he escalated the offensive in Gaza Strip under different justifications, how do you read Sharon in this regard?
Rajoub: Sharon is opting to change the rules of the game to fit his vision. To achieve that, he counts on stepping up the military offensive against the Palestinian People to dictate new realities that contradicts the peace process, the international legitimacy and the hopes of the Palestinian people as well.
PNN: How do you read Sharon’s talk about the withdrawal and statement made by him about his commitment to the Road Map in his speech to the Knesset?
Rajoub: This is a Sharonic lie that is related to a series of unilateral steps to create a new status quoi whether in the withdrawal issue or the wall or the settlements and the war on the Palestinians. I think what Sharon said in the Knesset or even outside it, is not more than a plough to avoid fulfilling commitments he made. What has been said by his Bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, reflects the core of the Sharon policy that is committing all these crimes against the Palestinians with the full support and blessing of the American administration.
I doubt that Sharon is committed to the Road Map; at least this is what I see in reality in the West Bank with regard to settlements and in the Gaza Strip given the latest military operations. In a nut shell, what Sharon said to the Knesset is only to serve his PR.
PNN: Do you agree to the say that Sharon carried out this operation in Gaza to get rid of the burden of his own disengagement plan?
Rajoub: I do not think that Sharon is honest in the first place. In the past ten months, he was deceiving the international community with his unilateral disengagement plan. Sharon presented contradicting things to the world. However what has been approved by his cabinet was redeployment not withdrawal. As long as Israeli keeps control over the borders, crossing points and the water, this will not be called a withdrawal.
PNN: You have said that Sharon was never genuine concerning his intentions about the withdrawal form the Gaza Strip. However, the International community represented by the Quartet, supported this plan!
Rajoub: I think this is not eventually true; the Quartet is against Sharon and his policies. The only supporter is the American Administration. However all parties said, including the US Administration that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza Strip has to be part of the Road Map. I do not think that anybody including the US will support the withdrawal from Gaza as the first and the last step.
PNN: The EU demanded that the PA acts more seriously against what they called ‘terrorism’ hinting at the Qassam Rockets, at the same time, they said that Israel has the right to defend itself. How do you read the European position on this issue?
Rajoub: The Europeans are allies to the Palestinians. They can not be part of the Israeli aggression. In this context, we have to admit that the Palestinian resistance had some wrong tactics, especially after September 11 attacks. We should have realized the repercussions of 9/11 on the Palestinian question and to stop it. Not taking into consideration this issue, I think is one of the problems that has to be resolved in the internal Palestinian dialogue. The Palestinian resistance has to be limited in the land occupied in 1967 to end the occupation and that the direct resistance should be among other options including negotiations and dialogue. There is a serious talk about that among the Palestinian factions and it must yield positive results.
PNN: Let us stop a little bit on the Qassam Rockets, since the international media focused allot on this issue as the pretext for the military offensive.
Rajoub: The Israeli aggression does not need a pretext; they do not need Qassam or other things to attack the Palestinians. It is true that Sharon keeps digging for things to attack. At some point there was not pretext, however his attacks did not stop.
However, strategically, we have to admit that there have been some tactical mistakes on the part of the Palestinian resistance that has to be corrected, including some of the targets of the Qassam rockets and the suicide bombing inside the green line. I see that our battle should be limited against the occupiers who exist in the land occupied in 1967.
PNN: You demand a political program for the resistance, does that mean that since the year 2000, the Palestinian resistance was without any program? What is needed to do that and avoid the reactive resistance?
Rajoub: I do not say that the issues just a reaction. The Intifada was natural response to the occupation and the settlement expansion and Israel’s neglect to its obligations towards the Peace Process. In addition, it is a natural response as well to the up scaling of the aggression against the Palestinian people. This is an absolute fact.
There are different political factions that compose the Palestinian Political spectrum who have different agendas and basics they act upon.
Therefore, I think that after four years of the Intifada it is time to re-evaluate all the goals and the motivations of the different factions to reach a consensus on a unified political program to provide at least the minimum of freedom and independence for the Palestinians. This program has to be acceptable by the Arabs so they can advocate for it. Besides, it should not contradict with the International Legitimacy. This is ABCs of politics. We should be pragmatic and realistic and learn from the political life. We also need to adapt with the balance of power in the world and the environment that liberation movement is living now. In a nutshell, if the good comes late, better than not come at all.
A political program will enable the Arabs and the Europeans and the Russians to adopt it to face the Israeli aggression that aims to wipe Palestine as a land and a nation with a super power that will kill any idea of a viable Palestinian state.
Resistance should not be suicidal, it should be a way to achieve noble goals for a nation to end its pain and suffering and live on its land with dignity and freedom.
PNN: What about this program? Where is it? There were dialogues in Cairo and there were some documents, however this issue was not completed, how do you explain that?
Rajoub: Dialogue is a mean to reach the political program, it is resuming in Ramallah and Gaza and Cairo as well. It did not stop and will not stop until the program is reached.
The Israeli escalation of violence inside and outside Palestine, like Damascus bombing, disturbs such a dialogue. However despite that we will resume the talks until we reach an agreement.
PNN: Do all the Palestinian factions agree to the principle of the minimum?
Rajoub: I guess all the Palestinian factions are not far away from it. Some are still skeptical about it and are asking that Israel should give guarantees to stop the assassinations and the siege and to retrieve the September 28 situation. However these guarantees are not provided yet.
The American Administration is also involved in this occupation and it is against Sharon interest to reach a Palestinian internal harmony on a realistic and internationally acceptable approach.
PNN: Then could one of the goals of the attack on Gaza be to disturb the national dialogue to thwart the Egyptian role, or is there another reason behind it?
Rajoub: The offensive in Gaza aims to thwart all the efforts that is trying to contain the crisis including the Palestinian internal dialogue.
PNN: The American President confirms a vision on a Palestinian state, and at the same time he keeps on attacking the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, what do you think?
‘President Bush is the worse in the history of the United States of America’Ã‚Â
Rajoub: President Bush is the worse president in the history of the United States of America with regard to the issues related to the Arab and Moslems. This administration adopted the Israeli stand. The war in Iraq is related to the Israeli security and the Oil, and has nothing to do with the toppling a tyrant regime. What is happening now in Iraq of crimes would have never happened under Saddam’s rule. Saddam had a state and it was somehow stable. Now no Iraqi feels safe, including the Pro-America people and Ali Al-Jalabi.
Concerning President Arafat, I think this is a card that Bush is using to justify his disability or will to pressure Israel to stop its unilateral military aggression.
The totally biased-to-Israel stand of the US, that considers Sharon a peace maker, is the reason behind the free hand that Israel have in all its aggression against the Palestinians.
PNN: There is frequent call for the Palestinian president to give more authority to the Palestinian Prime Minister on the security issues. Do you think this will help moving forward in implementing the road map, or is it just to impose things on the Palestinians in one of their internal issues?
Rajoub: I guess it ridiculous to take instructions from the White House. As long as Arafat is the President, he will have all the authority given to him by the Palestinian law, and he must practice it.
The US administration wanted Mahmoud Abbas a Prime Minister and worked with him for 130 days. What did they offer him? Basically nothing. The talk about delegating authority to the Prime Minister is deceptive, besides, Arafat did not prevent the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior to do their job and practice their authority.
Practicing authority is related to stopping the aggression, and if the US did not use their political power on Israel to stop the aggression on the Palestinians the PA will not be able to take its responsibilities to rebuild its institutions and to reactivate its role in providing security for the Palestinians.
President Arafat approved the merge of the security devices into three only, and the Egyptians offered help, however, the Israelis launched a huge military campaign to destroy all these efforts.