February 24, 1999 No.

A Palestinian Minister on the Peace Process

The Palestinian Minister of Labor, Rafiq Al-Natsheh, discussed the peace process in a February 19th interview with the PA's TV channel. Following are excerpts from this interview:

US-Palestinian Authority Relations

"There has been a positive development recently in Palestinian-American relations. We view President Clinton's visit positively... The Americans are convinced that we fulfilled our commitments and that the other side [i. e. Israel] did not. We heard nice words from the Americans affirming our rights. . . "

"The international community is interested in peace and as long as it is interested in it, so are we. The peace we hoped for is the liberation of the land and the establishment of a state. . . If the US withdraws from its [current] positions back to its former positions, [it will mean that] all the methods we adopted to fulfill peace through negotiations have failed, and therefore, additional methods of struggle should be re-examined. . . "

The Future of the Political Process

"All the agreements signed are official international agreements that end on May 4, 1999. If these principles are not implemented, obviously we will continue our political and non-political struggle, until our national goals are achieved. . . We will not agree to conclude the fulfillment of our national goals before the Refugee Problem is solved, whatever the price may be. We will not conclude the fulfillment of our national goals before Jerusalem becomes the sole and eternal capital of the Palestinian State. . . this goes for the settlements and before that to the prisoners. . . All these matters will be, again, subject to struggle in the phase after the declaration of the state…"

The Essence of the Agreements with Israel "[Israel] can decide whatever it wishes. A word here and a word there will not change the reality of our basic rights. We agreed to the phrasing [in the Oslo Accords] "Palestinian Authority" and not "Palestinian National Authority. " Does that mean that we gave up our nationalism? No. I want to recall [on this matter] the Hudybiyya Agreement. When the Hudybiyya Agreement [between the Muslims and the polytheistic Qureish tribe was signed] the Muslim representative wrote: 'This is an agreement between Muhammad, Allah's Messenger and the polytheistic representative. ’ [The polytheists] told him: 'how can we write Muhammad, Allah's Messenger, when we don't recognize Muhammad to be Allah's Messenger? Just write [the name] 'Muhammad son of Abdallah'. The Muslim representative said: 'How can I write [just the name, Muhammad] son of Abdallah? So, [Muhammad] told him: 'erase [the words Allah's Messenger] and write [instead the name, Muhammad] son of Abdallah. "

"Does that mean the Prophet canceled Islam and his being Allah's Messenger, by committing this formal erasure? No. He remained Allah's Prophet. . . "

"And so do we. If forced on us, due to familiar conditions, that not all that we wanted was written and that not all that we wanted was committed - does that mean we gave up our principles? The land is ours, the authority is ours, and Jerusalem is ours. We will not achieve our goals before the return of the refugees, and before Jerusalem becomes the capital of the Palestinian State on our land. "