June 3, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 516

PLO Political Bureau Head Al-Qaddoumi: 'We Are Close to Accomplishing Our Goals… With More Resistance, We Can Force Them to Withdraw and Sign a Peace Agreement'

June 3, 2003
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 516

On May 23, 2003, PLO Political Bureau head Farouq Al-Qaddoumi was interviewed by the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al- Awsat. In May 2001 Al-Qaddoumi called for attacks against U.S. and European interests in the Middle East. [1] The following are excerpts from Al-Qaddoumi's interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: [2]

The Road Map

Question: "Do you think that the Road Map will end up like other initiatives?"

Al-Qaddoumi:"Ultimately, the road map will fail… There have been other initiatives spearheaded by the American president George Bush based on the principle of 'land for peace' and on international legitimacy. But these initiatives were not implemented because Sharon was there to undermine everything [Bush] accomplished. He reoccupied the territories and divided the area. This is Israel's way: lying and procrastinating [in implementing political plans]… If there is no [Palestinian] resistance, and if the Israelis are not made bitter, Israel will never leave our land."

Question: "Do you think Mahmoud Abbas's flexibility will help him negotiate with Israel?"

Al-Qaddoumi:"In my opinion, this flexibility will not be helpful. On the contrary, because Sharon interprets this flexibility as weakness. [On the other hand], the position of Abu 'Ammar [Arafat] is the right position, because he says, 'We are committed to the agreements, and you [Israelis] are the ones who destroyed them].' [Arafat] also demonstrated flexibility, but within the boundaries of the interests of the people. In other words, there is a need for everyone to be committed to these texts [i.e. agreements], regardless of our position on the Oslo [accords] and other agreements, or our reservations regarding them."

"But [Sharon] disagreed with this interpretation and delayed [the implementation of the agreements]. Then Netanyahu arrived and clashed with the PA; [then] came Barak who lied to the world. [Then] came Sharon and provoked the Palestinians and reoccupied [the territories], meaning that there was a two-fold occupation – that is, the first occupation, and now another one. Therefore, flexibility is not helpful at all… they [the Israelis] want a [Palestinian] civil war … they want the Palestinian Authority, which is under siege, to adopt measures that it cannot implement…"

Question: "Do you think Israel is serious in its peace [proposals]?"

Al-Qaddoumi: Only someone with little sense would settle for mere words. What Sharon says sometimes, and what the international circles say sometimes, are just [empty] words. If America wants to serve the interests of peace in the Middle East… it should first of all force Israel to withdraw… We say that Sharon, who understands no language but [the language of] force, is now in a weak position due to pressures from Israeli society that has lost its security, and this means we are close to accomplishing our goals. What I mean is that with more resistance, we can force them [the Israelis] to withdraw and sign a peace agreement."

Expelling Arafat

Question:"Israel keeps repeating the refrain of expelling Arafat from the PA territories. If Israel dares to do this, what will be the ramifications, and what should the government of Abu Mazen do to deal with such a possibility?"

Al-Qaddoumi:"If Israel dares to expel Abu 'Ammar from his homeland, it would be a grave mistake on its part, because the [Palestinian] political structure would be in danger of collapse and there would be anarchy, and popular outrage that would escalate the resistance. Abu 'Ammar is trying to prevent attacks on Palestinian and Israeli civilians. He is dedicated to this. We stopped the first Intifada for a [political] settlement, and for the [success] of Bush Sr.'s initiative. Therefore, the one who can lead this settlement, from the Palestinian side, is Abu 'Ammar…"

The Activities of the Bureaus of Palestinian Organizations in Damascus

Question:"How do you explain the suspension of [the activities] of the Palestinian information [offices] in Damascus?"

Al-Qaddoumi:"They are information offices, and they [merely] repeat what is said by the Palestinian opposition factions [in the PA]. If these offices are silenced, there are satellite channels and newspapers to publish the news they get from the territories, since the resistance comes from [the territories], and not from the outside…"

PLO Versus PA

Question: "What is the nature of your relationship – as foreign minister of the State of Palestine- with the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Is there overlap or division of roles?"

Al-Qaddoumi: "No. The Cairo Agreement of 1994, and, before that, in 1993, as well as the Washington agreement in 1995, state that the PA has no authority in foreign affairs, and no right to establish embassies and consulates, nor carry out diplomatic activities abroad. [Therefore] the PLO, in its capacity as the representative [of the PA], conducts negotiations, and signs international agreements. However, if there are countries that appoint representatives [to the PA], then the PA has the right to communicate with those representatives, since this is not considered diplomatic activity. Prior to Abu 'Ammar's return [to the territories], the [PLO] Executive Committee… decided that Abu 'Ammar would head the PA. Then he was elected, and the elections were a domestic [PA matter], so we [PLO] are the [main] source of authority. The PA should not make decisions in international matters without the endorsement of the [PLO] Executive Committee, which appointed Abu Mazen, in his capacity as a committee member, as prime minister."

"I don't understand why the [office] headed by Nabil Sha'ath was called the Ministry of External Relations. I mean, God willing, in a few years we'll [have] a state with foreign relations [but for the time being we do not]. I want to point out that the National Council, in its 19th session on November 10, 1988, decided to consider the PLO Executive Committee a transitional government. Abu 'Ammar was elected to head the government, and I was elected foreign minister… It was also decided that the full makeup of the government would be completed [in the future]. [This is why] when the Oslo [accords] were signed, and [other agreements] were signed, the [PLO] Executive Committee decided it could no longer avoid having more cabinet ministers, or [establishing] another body within the PA. We called that body 'ministers.' But in principle they are not ministers; [even] in the agreements they are not called ministers, because the [PLO] is the source of political and legislative power."

[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch Series - No. 222, "Qaddoumi Calls for Terrorist Acts Against US Interests,"

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 23, 2003.

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