Following is an interview, published in the London based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, September 26, 1999, with the PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and Permanent Status negotiation team member, Faisal Al-Husseini:
Demands in West Jerusalem
Question: What is the Palestinian negotiation strategy on Jerusalem?
Al-Husseini: First, we discuss Jerusalem - East and West. We are not ready to give up [any] of our rights in West Jerusalem, let alone East Jerusalem. We have property there, as well as holy places and history.
The second issue is that it was agreed that the negotiations would be based on UN Resolution 242, and therefore, the borders between the two sovereignties are the borders of 242. This, however, does not negate our demand for our rights [in West Jerusalem.] Maybe, just maybe, in some of the areas, there can be changes in the borders. Nevertheless, our rights there [in West Jerusalem] are not to be compromised because we own 70 percent of West Jerusalem on both the popular and the institutional levels.
Part of the remaining 30 percent is governmental land Israel inherited from the British mandate, which does not mean it has become part of their right, because West Jerusalem is not rightfully Israel's but rather a part of the Corpus Separatum determined in the UN resolutions, primarily the Partition Resolution. No country recognizes Jerusalem [as capital of Israel] and therefore, there are no foreign embassies in it. This unique status of Jerusalem enables us to demand our rights in West Jerusalem.
Our overall view of the future is that East Jerusalem will be the capital of the Palestinian State, and West Jerusalem a capital for them. The borders, however, must be open and the relationship between the two sides must continue. Then, there should be additional administrative or security measures in order to run these two parts without contradicting the interests of either of the parties, and without damaging our sovereignty over East Jerusalem.
Question: Are you using West Jerusalem as a bargaining chip?
Al-Husseini: It is not a bargaining chip, but rather part of our rights. It is non- negotiable. We Palestinians own 70 percent of West Jerusalem, including property and holy places. How can we overlook these rights?! This is not a tactical process...
A recent Israeli public opinion poll showed that 36 percent of the Israelis would agree, for the purpose of a lasting peace with the Palestinians, to make concessions on Jerusalem. The talk of [Jerusalem as] a taboo are over. The Israeli officials cannot claim there is an Israeli consensus on this issue...
Question: How can you talk about open borders, when Barak stresses that the purpose of the negotiations with the Palestinians is to achieve a full and comprehensive separation from the Palestinians?
Al-Husseini: ...The complete and over all separation between the two peoples requires that there be a specific position for the two peoples: the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is all Palestinian land that cannot [include] Israeli sovereign areas in it. This is what separation means. But if [Barak] insists on leaving the settlements in our territories in any way shape or form, it means he creates a situation similar to that of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Question: Barak said recently that if the Palestinians continue to demand everything, the situation would end up like in Kosovo...
Al-Husseini: Our position is like that of the Albanians [in Kosvo], and the Israelis are closer to the Serbs, which means that if he insists on that, his destiny will be like the Serbs.
The Beilin-Abu Mazen Document
Question: Some Palestinians expressed concerns that the alleged "Beilin-Abu Mazen" document would become the goal of the negotiations, especially regarding Jerusalem, although Palestinian officials, including yourself, refute the existence of this document?
Al-Husseini: It is not me who refutes that. Beilin himself said that we did not sign or agree to this document. He also said that the most important thing regarding this document is that neither of the sides agreed to it. It was an Israeli suggestion Beilin presented to Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] and other Palestinians. It does not reflect the Palestinian position or Abu Mazen's position.
Question: Can you elaborate on what was included in the document?
Al-Husseini: The document included the enlargement of Jerusalem's current borders so they would include the Abu Dis, Al-'Eizairya, and the rest of the villages that surround the city, as well as the settlements Ma'ale Adumim and Pisgat Zeev. The Palestinians would declare part of "the new enlarged Jerusalem" as their capital and Israel would announce the other part was its capital. The Jewish areas would remain under Israeli sovereignty. The Palestinian places would come under a joint sovereignty or civil government, and Palestinian sovereignty would be [applied] gradually. This process would continue for 25 years, after which, the future of the Old City would be determined. When this was presented to me, I asked: "Why not 25 weeks?" This does not mean that I agreed to the proposal. Rather, I wanted to tell them that they want 25 years to completely erase our existence.
Beilin told Abu Mazen that these were ideas to be negotiated, and asked him if he agreed to this idea, Abu Mazen said he did not. Beilin asked Abu Mazen if he was satisfied with these ideas as a basis for the negotiations, Abu Mazen’s reply was negative. Beilin asked Abu Mazen if he could tell Rabin that Abu Mazen reviewed these ideas, Abu Mazen agreed. Beilin took the ideas to Rabin, but Rabin was assassinated before he had a chance to see the document...
Al-Husseini's Status as PA Negotiator
Question: The Israeli media campaigned against your membership in the Palestinian Final Status negotiation team, because you are a citizen of Jerusalem. What is your comment?
Al-Husseini: This is unacceptable… It would mean that no Israeli living in Jerusalem can participate in the negotiations, including Barak, whose chamber is in West Jerusalem, because the negotiations will deal with all of Jerusalem and not East Jerusalem only.