Mike: Diana, you are one of the legal advisors to the Palestinian Authority. Can you explain to me what happens with Gaza right now and why the Palestinians can not move in or out of Gaza? Why do the Palestinians need an Israeli permission to open up the Rafah crossing? Can you tell us about the situation?
Diana: The Rafah crossing issue goes back to the 1979 agreement that was signed between Israel and Egypt at Camp David. And it basically says that Israel has to agree with the Egyptians to open up the crossing point, because it’s not a crossing point that is in Palestinian hands, but actually is under Israeli control.
So, in other words, it’s the Egyptians who don’t want to undermine the peace-treaty they signed with Israel and that’s why the Palestinians tried to pressure Israel to allow the Egyptians and themselves operate the Rafah crossing.
But up to now the crossing is completely closed….students can’t go to university, people don’t get medical treatment, and the Palestinian freedom of movement had grown to a halt. They don’t get out of Gaza, basically, for a period of two weeks. And my biggest fear is that when the prison-like conditions and –mentality set in that this prison mentality starts to kick in the rest will follow – aggression, violence, and so forth.
Mike: So, what you are saying is that Gaza is basically a big prison?
Diana: Yes! Gaza has been turned into a huge prison. And that was exactly the Palestinian fear when the disengagement plan was announced. And truly there is no airport, no seaport, and no land crossings to anywhere. It really has been turned into a very large prison.
Mike: So, how does the PA guarantee food, work and economic stability under these circumstances? Because that was their primary goal, right?
Diana: It’s very difficult for the PA to attract investors, or to even use the donor money. That again leads to the greater fear that economic instability leads to political instability.
Mike: Now, I’d like to come to Marwan Barghouthi. Do you see him being released from prison very soon?
Diana: I certainly hope so. However, I don’t think this is very likely. The issue of prisoners is completely been halted: There are approximately 8,500 Palestinians who are now in Israeli prisons; the vast majority is "administrative detainees", meaning they are hold without any charge and trial.
And since the issue of prisoners is on a complete standstill, Barghouthi’s release would do a great deal for Israelis and Palestinians. He always was most in favor of the Peace Accords, he had again and again recognized Israel and he was against the military occupation. He is one of the few people that can get all of the factions on board and ensure there is a ceasefire.
Mike: In the Herald Tribune you mentioned that "Israel dictates and the Palestinians have to respond" during the negotiations. What is the relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis, concerning negotiations, then?
Diana: Basically, there has always been a power-imbalance in any negotiations.
I mean we always have to keep in mind that there is nothing like a blood predisposition for Palestinians to turn violent. It’s because of 38 years of military occupation. That’s what fuels the violence and the insecurity.
So, if we begin to address the occupation, and bring in measures to end the occupation, the relationship will become better and trust will develop. What this region needs is a third negotiation force, which is absolutely vital. And it is not important who that party is as long as it has the mandate, the trust of both sides, and the will to move forward.
Mike: So, Diana, what’s your private story, though? How does one become a legal advisor to the PA?
Diana: I was born and raised to my Palestinian parents in Canada. I became very intimately involved with the conflict in 1987. I couldn’t understand why there are Palestinians throwing stones and rising up. And I felt that it was my duty, as a Canadian and Palestinian and being born and raised in the West, to try to use my legal skills and experience as a lawyer to try to bring the two sides together.
Written by: Anna-Esther Muller http://www.allforpeace.org