Analysis of Nabil Sha’ath’s remarks

Nabil Sha’ath’s remarks (below) are a strikingly bold and candid exposition of the Palestinian negotiating position, but even more so, they are a window on the mood of the Palestinian leadership.

Sha’ath’s remarks dovetail with remarks made over the last few weeks by Arafat himself and other senior Palestinian officials:

  • Ahmad Qreia (Abu Ala), speaker of PA legislature;
  • Nabil ‘Amr, Parliamentary Affairs Minister;
  • Saeb Erikat, senior negotiator and Minister for Local Rule
  • Yasser Abd-Rabbo, Minister of Information, leader of delegation to Washington; and, to a lesser extent, perhaps, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) secretary of PLO Executive.

The essence of the position is that the PA demands and expects the right of return for Palestinian refugees along with

  1. Palestinian sovereignty over the entire Old City of Jerusalem,
  2. total Israeli withdrawal and removal of all settlements from West Bank and Gaza, and
  3. immediate establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

It expects these demands to be met because it (the PA) is in control of events, and these events have both regional and global ramifications. Sha’ath, ‘Amr, Abd-Rabbo and Qreia-as well as Arafat himself-have basically been saying that they have embarrassed and defeated the Israeli army, that they have controlled the political success or failure of both Barak and Netanyahu.

They have also acknowledged that the explosion of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, now often called the Istiqlal Intifada [i.e. “independence intifada”] had little to do with Ariel Sharon’s visit to sacred territory, but rather a carefully articulated strategy to achieve Israeli withdrawal and Palestinian independence.

Summary and Analysis

  • The news and feature broadcasts of VOP Tuesday morning had four focal points:
  • the refugees and their future status, especially vis a vis current talks with Israel and yesterday’s statement by Lebanese prime minister refusing to re-settle refugees there;
  • continuing “war crimes” of Israel, including an especially long feature/profile of Israeli General Meir Dagan (the counter-terror expert) as the prototypical war criminal;
  • praising and recording the names, ages and addresses of martyrs and wounded, particularly security force commanders;
  • and the continuing economic stress in territory controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (PA).

VOP returned to stress the right of return in a morning interview with Dr, Nabil Sha’ath, the PA Minister of Economic Development, who made it clear that even Haifa and Acre were on the Palestinian list of demands (see below).

VOP also gave a thumb-nail review of the Palestinian delegation’s trip to Washington for talks with the Clinton Administration (the parallel visit of the Israeli delegations was given short shrift).

In addition, Israeli Arab MK Azmi Beshara (a political scientist) analyzed what he said were the improved chances of Ehud Barak versus Ariel Sharon as opposed to versus Binyamin Netanyahu.

Morning Headlines

  • “Martyr’s death for General al-Sabawi, deputy head of local defense, and funeral for Haroun Abu-Hassan, leading Fatah commander.;
  • Israeli special forces attack Kufr Dik at dawn near Salfit;
  • Occupation forces escalate their aggression, shelling populated neighborhoods in Dir al-Balah, Al-Bireh and Burqa in the Nablus prefecture;
  • Shelling and siege as Palestinian delegation heads to Washington to further the popular Intifada on the diplomatic front, armed with the blood of the martyrs and clinging to the principles of Palestinian nationalism-the right of return, the right of self-determination, building a Palestinian state with holy Jerusalem its capital.;
  • Dr. Saeb Erikat, Local Rule Minister, denies Palestinian side has accepted ideas from the United States or the Israeli side;
  • Former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu withdraws his candidacy for prime minister.”

Morning Commentary Eulogy, senior commentator, Youssef al-Kazzaz (with bag-pipe music)

“General Abdul-Maqi al-Sabawwi, in the protection of God, a Palestinian martyr, fell as he was struck, a fatality of the criminal Israeli occupation in Gaza..Abdul-Maqi was a crescent in the Fatah sky, a member of FATAH since January 2, 1965. Abdul-Maq was the (first) head of the Fatah Shabiba (Fatah youth organization),one of the founders of the Palestinian revolution, well loved for his expertise in the military academy, in the People’s Republic of China, in Russia, in Hungary and in Yugoslavia.”

Quotes from Interview with Nabil Sha’ath, PA Economic Development Minister

Question: “Dr. Nabil (no last name used), first of all, what are the bases (plural of basis, used in Arabic) of the Palestinian position in Washington?”

Answer: “The Palestinian delegation has clear instructions. Our goals are clear: the intifada goes on. We have changed the rules of the game, created a new situation, by our heroism and our sacrifices for the sake of the homeland. And everyone understands that.

Our goals are clear: to return our lands taken in ’67, first of all Holy Jerusalem, Palestinian sovereignty in all its quarters and sites, and the right of return for the refugees in an independent Palestinian state. These are the rights which are clearly worthy (of being reclaimed) [word unclear], the new chain of circumstances (produced by) the Intifada. One has to see, in practice, whether this has altered Israeli perceptions and readiness to proceed on these bases (Note: in Arabic Sha’ath employed word that means the plural of basis).”

Question: “Are the Israelis demanding, as they did at the beginning, first of all that the Intifada be ended? Because after a month, Barak changed the demand to ‘lessening’ the Intifada to enable negotiations. Now, what is the Israeli line in Washington? “

Answer: “There have not been any conditions. Our Intifada continues, and our political work continues. The assumption is that we’re heading to independence-whether by readiness (to accept) the rights-that is–by fact or by negotiations. (i.e. colloquial translation: “by hook or by crook”).”

Question: “Dr. Nabil Sha’ath, Palestinian principles include the right of return for the refugees, but Israeli sources say that these principles will be exchanged for Jerusalem. How do you react to that?”

Answer: “Can one set of rights be exchanged for another set of rights?”

Question: “Yes?”

Answer: ” That is to say, for example: Could one, if he wanted, exchange parts of the (West) Bank for Haifa and Acre (Acco) when, in spite of the fact that, in the end and in the beginning they were (all) truly Palestinian land.”

Question: “Yes?”

Answer: “That is to say a person cannot exchange his rights for his rights. For example, the right of return of the refugees for Jerusalem. And how would it be possible, for example, to exchange the lands of Tulkarm and Qalqilya for Jerusalem. These are truly the kinds of ideas which drove us crazy with the Israeli occupation. That’s like the idea they had at first of bypassing the Palestine Liberation Organization and offering local rule being through the heads of villages and towns. At another time, they (the Israelis) said ‘if you want an independent state, you have to give up half of the (West) Bank.’ And at another time-in Camp David-they said ‘if you want something in Jerusalem, then you have to give up sovereignty in the Holy Shrine ((Arabic: Haram al-Sharif, i.e. Temple Mount).’ That’s all over!!!!

We-truly-the Israelis have to understand the worthiness of a real peace is contingent on what Israel did in Egypt and Jordan and Lebanon-even without negotiations (i.e. total withdrawal), and in addition to the matter of the borders is the matter of the refugees, which cannot be exchanged for anything.”

Question: “Do you think the Israelis have changed their position with the new elections and the pressure of the Intifada?”

Answer: “That’s exactly what we’re trying to discover.”

Quote of the Day from Nabil ‘Amr, Parliamentary Affairs Minister

“This army (the Israeli army), which was one of the world’s best armies, has become the laughingstock of world opinion. It has used all the means of destruction provided by the United States of America to kill Palestinian children.”

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Qreia (Abu Ala), Speaker Palestinian Legislature: ((8 am morning news round-up-Dec 11))

“First I would say that what is happening in Israel is a sign of the realization of the desires of the Palestinian people, the goal of the Palestinian people to exercise its legitimate rights: the (right of) return, self determination and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital. These are the reasons Netanyahu was defeated, because he did not realize this, and these are also the causes for the speeding up of the fall of Barak..

They were not willing to concretize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the desire of the Palestinian people to cling to these rights. That is why we see in Israel an unusual political entanglement: a prime minister who cannot stay in power longer than a year and a half, resigns, and for more than half a year is operating without a majority in parliament. And on the other hand, the opposition is divided and broken. Its internal formations change constantly.based on ideologies and histories that have no foundation.

Anyone who does not realize.(the need) to recognize the just demands of the Palestinian people, based on international legitimacy-which is the same international legitimacy that established Israel ((i.e. the U.N.))-then this situation will only lengthen the entanglement inside Israel..

I do not see any alternative-coming from inside Israel– but for a strong call to the Palestinian people to exercise (its rights), its heroism, its sacrifices, its mighty intifada which will show Israel and the whole world its strong desires which will not be denied..

We’re not afraid of blows. A day does not go by when we don’t absorb some blow-even a light blow-from the occupation of 1967 and of course from 1948. But our way is the way of banners (i.e. flags), sacrifices and redemption. (Note: here Qreia used the term “fidaya” which is the root of “Fedayeen” or “men of sacrifice and redemption”-a term used by Palestinian fighters especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s.))

We are in the final hours of the realization of our victory and our independence, God Willing. We will be steadfast. We will be steadfast.. We will continue in our way, focusing on our goals. We will continue with our intifada. Our refusal of any occupation is clear. On the contrary, it only gets stronger. We will continue on our path..”

Question: “Some. say that the only chance for Barak is in the hands of the Palestinian people..What do you say?”

Answer: “..His chances for success are in his hands, not in those of the Palestinian leadership. Because if he wants an agreement.. He has to face the Israeli people on all the subjects, with complete courage and with complete candor and say that here are the rights of the Palestinian people which must be granted if we are to live in security and peace. These rights are represented by the Return, for the Palestinian refugees, self-determination, and an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital, and the complete withdrawal from every square centimeter of Palestinian land.”

(note: he said “al-awda”, only “The Return”, not “the right of return”-and this suggests strongly that Qreia and the Palestinian leadership are not talking about even a symbolic recognition or token)

Quotes from Interview with Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), PLO Executive Committee Secretary

“About the cause of the Palestinian Intifada, Abu Mazen said: ‘In spite of the pollution by Sharon of the holy Jerusalem shrine (i.e. Dome of the Rock) being the direct cause of the Intifada, the indirect cause was the condition of frustration in which the Palestinian people have been living during a failing peace process for two years. The purpose of the intifada was to make Israeli recognize its sins in the execution of its military aggression against our people.” ((Interview from Al-Bayan of United Arab Emirates, quoted directly in unusual full-length feature on VOP morning news round-up, 7:45 am, Dec. 6))

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Qureia (Abu Ala), Speaker of PA Legislature:

“The position of the Palestinian Authority is that Israel has no choice but to implement the laws of the peace process as set forth in international legitimacy, meaning land for peace..There is no escaping bring an international protection force for the Palestinian people to prevent Israel from continuing to kill our people.And it is important to witness that the settlers are the fundamental source of the aggression, an aggressive, right-wing, extremist militia carrying out operations for killing and violence against the Palestinian people..We will cling to resistance to the Occupation-which is a legitimate right for us. This resistance has many forms but we feel the appropriate form at this stage is the present continuing intifada but there are many forms of resistance. We will not stop..The Palestinian cause is the cause of the Arabs, and if Israel does not realize these facts then it will face disaster and so will the region.”

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