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The Cafe

Transcript: One state, two states ...

From Ramallah, we ask if Palestinians can overcome their divisions and bring more than 60 years of occupation to an end.
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2013 11:59

Please read the full transcript of The Cafe - One state, two states, or even three states below:

Mehdi Hasan:
The Palestinians are still waiting; waiting for a state of their own. It has been 45 years since the Israeli occupation of their territories. 19 years since the start of the so-called peace process. But there is no peace and there is no process.

Hello and welcome to The Café. I’m Mehdi Hassan, and this week we’re in Ramallah, the cultural, commercial and political hub of the occupied West Bank.

It’s a boom town with big construction projects, fancy foreign cars and fine houses. Funded by international aid and guilty consciences. There’s a grand presidential palace that would make a sultan blush, but it sits just around the corner from poverty stricken refugee camps and Israel’s grotesque wall.

These days, the Palestinians aren’t fighting the Israelis, they’re fighting each other. The occupied territories are split between the Islamists of Hamas who rule Gaza, and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) that runs the West Bank.

Many accused the PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, of being Israelis stooges, and their mismanagement of the economy and constant postponing of elections has made them deeply unpopular.

So will there be a Palestinian Arab Spring? And what is the solution to the conflict? One state? Two states? Or even three states? Let’s find out inside The Café.

Joining us in The Café today are Samir Aby Ayyasheh, a university professor in Nabulus who served as minister of planning in the Hamas-led unity government. He spent time inside Israeli prisons and says now might be the time to abandon the stalled peace process.

Nabeel Shaath is a senior member of the ruling Fatah party, and a former Palestinian Authority foreign minister. He’s currently responsible for the PLO’s foreign relations, including peace talks with Israel.

Mohammad Shtayyeh is the head of the palestinian economic council for development and reconstruction. Shtayyeh is close to president Mahmoud Abbas and is considered a possible successor.

Diana Buttu is a former legal advisor and spokeswoman for the PLO who now supports a one state solution. She believes the Palestinian Authority doesn’t represent the Palestinian diaspora.

Linah Alsaafin is a blogger and political activist who writes for the electronic intifada website. She’s an outspoken critic of the Palestinian authority, which she sees as being complicit in Israel’s occupation.

Khaled al Sabawi is a Palestinian businessman who runs a company that invests in geothermal energy. Sabawi believes corruption is rife inside the Palestinian authority and says foreign aid has stunted an independent Palestinian economy.

Thank you very much all of you for joining me here in The Café in Ramallah. It’s a pleasure to be here. I want to kick off by asking a question to all of you about the peace process? Because everyone who comes to Ramallah talks about peace and the process. From where I’m sitting there doesn’t seem to be either. And therefore, what is the point of this Palestinian Authority that we hear so much about? Nabeel, what is the purpose? Whose interest does it serve?

Nabeel Shaath:
SENIOR PLO NEGOTIATOR
Well, the Palestinian Authority was created on the basis that this peace process will end by a maximum in five years.  So it was to be the preparation for a state to come.  But there is no state.  And that Authority has assumed many of the functions of a state, but really this is not our goal, it is not our goal, it is not our target, it’s not our objective, it’s an intermediary stage that have stayed too long.

Mehdi Hasan:
So then what’s the purpose of it? Why not shut up shop? Why not say “closed for business, there is no need for a PA, Israel, over to you”?

Nabeel Shaath:
That’s not as easy as you put it, because today there are three and a half million Palestinians who either work for the authority, some 150,000 employees of the authority, or somehow or another benefit from the authority’s services, this cannot possibly now be replaced by the Israeli’s, if you look at the record of the Israeli’s during their 20 years of occupation, before the authority came, they built not a kilometre of road, they did not add one hospital room or one classroom, and they were making money on the taxes they collected from the West Bank and Gaza, spending it on their army occupying the territory.

Mehdi Hasan:
Okay.  Linah, whose interest do you think the PA serves? You’re someone who lives under it’s purview here in the West Bank, what do you make of it?

Linah Alsaafin:
BLOGGER AND ACTIVIST
I think the PA only serves a very small elite of Palestinian society, and from my perspective, viewing the 20 years of the peace process, I see it as a form of disguising the Israeli take over even more land, a form of disguising the Israeli policy of occupation even more. We have more settlements, we have more settlers, there’s the Apartheid wall, there’s the siege on Gaza, there is a lot of different surfaces of occupation that were present, that the PA I would say would help to establish and maintain with the full blessing of ….

Mehdi Hasan:
Mohammad, you’re with Fatah, when you hear young Palestinians like Linah saying this, how does that make you feel?

Mohammad Shtayyeh:
SENIOR MEMBER OF FATAH
It makes me feel very good, because we’re on line. We don’t want to sink in the status quo, the status quo is a situation in which Israel is “enjoying” its occupation, this occupation is profitable, and therefore Israel is actually using the peace process as a cover under which is implementing all local organisations…

Mehdi Hasan:
Do you feel used by the Israeli’s, as someone in the…

Mohammad Shtayyeh:
Well the issue is not used, the issue is a matter of…

Mehdi Hasan:
It was your word.

Mohammad Shtayyeh:
The issue is not who is used and who is not. The issue is there is a situation in which there is a symmetrical relationship between us and Israel, we are the weaker party, they are the occupiers, we have to make occupation costly, we have to increase the cost of occupation, we have to make occupation not profitable, and I think we all agree that continuation of the Palestinian Authority, the way it functions today, every single day that comes it doesn’t really serve the national interest of the Palestinian people.  And therefore, we have to change the function of the authority.

Mehdi Hasan:
Khaled, when you listen to that, does that make you feel optimistic that actually the PA gets it needs to change?

Khaled al-Sabawi:
ENERGY ENTREPRENEUR
Yeah, the last sentence that Dr Shtayyeh stated is true, I agree with it, however, there is a point that I respectfully disagree with. The Palestinian Authority today has essentially become a subcontractor of the Israeli occupation.  When Oslo was created in 1993, and Israel was bearing the economic burden of occupation, it was very expensive, but when the Palestinian Authority was created it essentially started policing the Palestinian cities, but who paid for the bill? All the donor states, the United States, Canada and the entire international community, but Israel fully maintained its occupation, Israel still controlled borders, airspace, water, and pretty much all aspects of life for the Palestinian people, but brought in the Palestinian Authority to manage these cities. So it’s been about 20 years of occupation management, and that’s taken us back significantly, and what it’s created is this entity that’s become, you know, focused more on its self interest than the interests of the Palestinian people.

Mehdi Hasan:
Well let me ask you, Samir, you served in a Hamas led Unity Government back in 2006, and when you listen to Khaled say that the PA, whether it’s Hamas or Fatah, is subcontracting for Israel, do you agree with that assessment?  Were you subcontracting for Israel when you were in government?

Samir Abu Ayyasheh:
FORMER MINISTER IN HAMAS GOVERNMENT
Well, we were running the day to day life of the Palestinians, but we have also to look at the global picture.  We are now stuck at the middle of a process which is no process, at the middle of peace where there is no peace, and therefore we have to do something.  We have to review our situation, we have to come up with strategic options, we have to look at other alternatives, otherwise we would be losing every day and every day and every day.

Mehdi Hasan:
Diana, you were an advisor to various Palestinians, the President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, Yasser Arafat back in the day, you’re very well known as a negotiator, we used to see you on our TV screens, you’ve cut all your ties since then, why?

Diana Buttu:
I began to see…

Mehdi Hasan
Were you involved in the governance process.

Diana Buttu:
FORMER LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE PLO
Absolutely.  And I began to see that we were heading down a process where the interest was in keeping the process going and not actually exiting it.  There was not alternative strategies to how to liberate Palestine, the focus became entirely on the operations of the Palestinian Authority, and I wish that the Palestinian Authority was as benign or as benevolent as it’s been described, we’re now facing a situation which Palestinians are committing human rights against fellow Palestinians for the interests solely to maintain relations with Israel, to maintain relations with the international donor community.

Mehdi Hasan:
Diana and Khaled both raised human rights, Nabeel, the Palestinian Authority, correct me if I’m wrong, throws journalists and bloggers in jail, has been accused of torture by human rights watch recently believe an official were thrown out of a third floor window, that’s the accusation, it’s not a great human rights record that you have do you?

Nabeel Shaath:
Well I think there are human rights violations, but I think the accusations are over exaggerated.  Now there are two factors, there’s a factor relating to Israel, but there’s a factor relating to the division between the West Bank and Gaza, and the problems of human rights violations caused by that division.  And also, I’d like to correct a little bit the history that my colleagues here are mentioning, there’s a total as if they were born just ten years ago, this authority went into a very serious period of confrontation, military confrontation of the Israelis, then the Fatah, which was very, very costly to us and to the Israeli’s as well.  So the situation was not always like this, there was a decision that we could not continue the kind of struggle that we were involved in with the Israelis. Having stopped the military confrontation we tried other strategies and alternatives, such as non-violent struggle, such as international activism leading to boycott of Israeli goods and of seeking membership, it was not just a question of bargaining our life and commissioning ourself to protect the Israelis, that’s not the issue.

Diana Buttu:
There has always a been a little bit of this idea that somehow the only way the process can work is if Israel feels safe, in other words, the Palestinians have come to reject this idea that military occupation should be costly, the Palestinian Authority has made it a cost free occupation, not just in terms of the financial issue, but in terms of the larger issue, we’re now coming and denouncing anything that happens against Israel, not making the link between Israel’s lack of security and our lack of freedom.  That is the problem.

Nabeel Shaath:
No I agree, I agree with that 100 percent..

Diana Buttu:
That is the essential…

Nabeel Shaath:
But that was not the objective.

Diana Buttu:
It’s not necessarily a question of objectives, but that’s what the situation….

Nabeel Shaath:
I think we all agree.

Khaled Al Sabawi:
Dr Nabeel was saying, you know, if the intentions of the Palestinian relationship was good I will respond by saying the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that pretty much summarises the Palestinian leadership.  It hasn’t served to push Palestinian liberation forward whatsoever.  As it stands today, the Palestinian Authority is completely anti-democratic, it has no mandate for the Palestinian people, the people that go and negotiate with Israel, the Palestinian leadership that goes to negotiate with Israel, has no mandate from the Palestinian people, they do not represent them.

Mehdi Hasan:
So what’s your mandate?  You go to negotiate with the Israeli’s often, what’s your democratic mandate?

Nabeel Shaath:
You know, that's not the issue…

Mehdi Hasan:
No, but I’m making it an issue, what is your democratic mandate?

Nabeel Shaath:
The issue is Israel, I mean It's...

Mehdi Hasan:
Okay. Mohammed.

Mohammad Shtayyeh:
Palestinian leadership, represented by PLO, is the party that is negotiating with Israel, and it has all the legitimacy that it needs, it is not the Palestinian Authority who is negotiating with Israel…

Mehdi Hasan:
Well let’s talk specifically about the Palestinian Authority, President Abbas, correct me if I’m wrong, his term expired three years ago, and he’s still President ruling by decree, how is that not a dictatorship?

Mohammad Shtayyeh:
That’s fine. We are calling for immediate elections, President Abbas has called for elections more than once, we are waiting for a national consensus and agreement on elections to take place in all Palestinian territories including West Bank, Gaza, including Jerusalem.  Unfortunately things are not going the way we want…

Mehdi Hasan:
Linah then back to Samir.

Linah Alsaafin:
I would bring the conversation back to the root problem of the PA which claim that it serves the Palestinian national interests when it doesn’t even represent the majority of the Palestinians.  Palestine for me is not the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestine to me is the whole of Palestine including Gaza, Haifa and you still have the six million refugees in the refugee camps in the surrounding countries.

Mehdi Hasan:
I’ve got to ask one question.  When you look at the Gaza Strip where Hamas is in charge, they’ve not done a much better job than Fatah have they?  Their human rights record is equally poor.  You can accept that point?

Samir Abu Ayyasheh:
Yeah, well, whoever is doing something wrong in this file has to be pointed out.  We have seen incidents here and in Gaza violating basic human rights.  You know, we have to be fair and say that this is wrong, we have to stop this and open a new chapter for our internal relations.

Mehdi Hasan
Diana, I’ve met people in my brief stay in Ramallah who say to me that we’ve tried Fatah, we’ve tried Hamas, we don’t like either, is that a growing view, that there’s disillusion with all the people in charge?

Diana Buttu
Oh certainly among the people that I know, that it’s been demonstrated that people are just completely unhappy with what’s gone on in Gaza, with what’s gone on in the West Bank, the human rights abuses, and we keep talking as though this is somehow an interim government, but this is going to be the government that’s going to one day run the supposed state, and if this is the model, I don’t want to have anything to do with it, because this is going to be a very repressive model.  What I want in a Palestinian leader, is somebody who’s going to stand up and confront Israel and protect my rights, not do the opposite.  This is the problem with the Palestinian Authority.

Khaled Al Sabawi
If I could add, that leader that Diana’s talking about, it doesn’t exist, you know, in the SUV’s and the bullet proof, you know, SUV’s with four or five staff members following them around everywhere, as most PA officials do.  And that goes again to the heart of what the PA has become, it hasn’t become an organisation that represents the Palestinian people.

Mehdi Hasan
Do you believe it’s not just… people say this to me, I’m onto your view, do you believe it’s not just repressive but there’s corruption here?  There’s lots of…

Khaled Al Sabawi
Well it has a long history of corruption, there's no question, that’s been well documented.

Mehdi Hasan
Nabeel, we look at Palestinian officials, you guys live good lives, is that fair? Compared to the people you’re ruling over.

Nabeel Shaath
We are having a better life, but we are…

Mehdi Hasan
Better lives than other Palestinians?

Nabeel Shaath
Obviously, the leadership, at least any person in the leadership will get a salary equivalent to that of a Director General of a government authority, which is a salary that is at least double the average salary that an employee takes, or even three times that.  But that’s not ten times that, it’s not 100 times that, like in all our neighbouring countries.

Mehdi Hasan
And a corruption problem? Do you have a corruption problem?

Nabeel Shaath
I think it's always extremely exaggerated.  We have it, obviously we have it.  But there have always been efforts to combat it, and that effort started during Arafat’s time, not only this time.

Mehdi Hasan
Well let me ask Mohammad a question.  In a brief drive I had around Ramallah last night, I came across the presidential palace, that’s a rather big building, how much did that cost to build?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
Your question is very exaggerated, because…

Mehdi Hasan
Tell me.

Mohammad Shtayyeh
…it is a very simple administrative building that…

Mehdi Hasan
Really?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
…did cost… you’re asking me, you want to answer?

Mehdi Hasan
Please.

Mohammad Shtayyeh
It’s a very administrative building, it did cost us less than $1.5 million, which is really nothing compared to any other building in town.  The point here is that - I don’t know what are you hinting at - if you are hinting at…

Mehdi Hasan
…seems to spend a lot of aid money on things that aren’t necessarily necessary.

Mohammad Shtayyeh
First of all this is not money that is aid money.

Mehdi Hasan
Okay.

Mohammad Shtayyeh
Second important issue, this is any respective authority needs to have a functioning space in order for it to function well, whether it is a guest house or whether it’s. Most important thing, the money that is donated by the international community to the Palestinian Authority, it all goes for infrastructure.

Mehdi Hasan
What I don’t understand is, you say $1.5 million is a small amount for a big building, and yet in June you couldn’t pay your employees $160,000…

Mohammad Shtayyeh
Yes, but this…

Mehdi Hasan
How is that?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
At the end of the day, listen, let me tell you one thing.  The place, the offices of the President, where he functions today, is the old Mukataa that was built in 1927, so therefore they resent… really, if you go to a Mukataa today they resent an office space for people to work in, so all what we are building is office space, that’s all.

Mehdi Hasan
Khaled.

Khaled Al Sabawi
What you mentioned was…

Mehdi Hasan
Just office space.

Khaled Al Sabawi
… to the point. The salaries that were discussed for the Palestinian Authority, the buildings that are being built for the Palestinian Authority, are paid for by the United States, by the international community and the donor states, and this is a good transition, I think, to like the economic discussions which is extremely important. As it stands today, about 40 percent of the GDP of the Palestinian territories is accounted for by donor aid, the Palestinian people, as a result of it, also in the Palestinian Authority, have become the highest recipients of foreign aid in the world per capita. In addition to that there’s an enormous dependence on the Israeli occupation.  95 percent of our energy comes from Israel, 80 percent of our imports come from Israel, 90 percent of our exports go towards Israel. The Palestinian economy is a sub-economy…

Mehdi Hasan
So when people say to you “look at Ramallah it’s booming” what do you say to them?

Khaled Al Sabawi
It’s driven by donor aid, it is the illusion…

Khaled Al Sabawi
Absolutely it’s a bubble, without any…

Mehdi Hasan
I will come back to you in a moment, Samir’s waiting then I’ll come back to you.

Samir Abu Ayyasheh:
FORMER MINISTER IN HAMAS GOVERNMENT
It’s not real, you know, development.  I would imagine that most of the aid is given, first of all, you know, for running the public sector.  And second, when there is development of fund, I can just take an example of the largest donor which is the EU, most of the money goes not specifically to develop the productive sector.  Only 1.7 percent of the donations for development, for the Palestinians, goes to the productive sector, including for example agriculture, industry and trade, and tourism, only 1.7.  This is just an example of that.

Mehdi Hasan
Mohammad, do you want to touch on that?

Mohammad Shtayyeh:
The situation as is, this is very unusual, this Palestinian economy is dependent upon Israel, it’s a besieged economy and it is not really functioning within its own sphere, and it is functioning under occupation, that is heavily dependent upon Israel, we know all this.  The question is, what sort of alternatives do we have?  Israeli occupation is not allowing us to generate electricity, the Israeli occupation is not allowing us to dig water wells, so the situation is that we don’t live under normal condition in order for our economy to function in the best shape possible.  So that is the situation.

Mehdi Hasan
Mohammad says we don’t live under normal conditions so it’s unfair to kind of exaggerate the problems of the economy.

Diana Buttu
FORMER LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE PLO
One thing that is amazing about the Palestinian people is their resilience, and the idea that somehow we are helpless is offensive to me, and the idea that somehow we have to remain dependent on the donors is offensive to me.  Rather than this money being used to build up more buildings and build up more infrastructure and doing all that stuff, we need to be investing in our people, we need to be investing in a sustainable economy, we need to be investing in products that will make us independent from Israel, not dependent upon Israel.  When you see buildings going up, including the Presidential Compound, I don’t care how much it cost, that look ostentatious and ridiculous, then it drives the message home that everybody around should be acting in the same way.

Mehdi Hasan
And what about Nabeel’s point that there are charges of corruption that we talked about earlier, they’re exaggerated, do you agree with that?

Diana Buttu
I think, look, I think on that he’s actually right.  Look, the issue of corruption was an issue that Palestinians themselves raised back in the 90’s, and it was Israel and the European Union that very quickly shoved it under the rug.  But suddenly, after the second Intifada, in 2002, when the authority was under attack, and when Israel wanted to dismantle the authority, suddenly the charges of corruption became…

Mehdi Hasan
Political.

Diana Buttu
…became very politicised, and hence it went forward.

Mehdi Hasan
Khaled.

Khaled Al Sabawiki:
ENERGY ENTREPRENEUR
I’d like to add something and so the viewers can understand the problem of donor dependency, is that it compromises the political and economic independence of the Palestinian people.  So if the Palestinian people take an independent road or elect their own government, as they eloquently did in 2006, so the 80 percent voter turn out, then the donor aid was cut off and the Palestinian people were punished for exercising their democratic rights…

Mehdi Hasan
For voting Hamas?

Khaled Al Sabawi
Exactly, for being democratic.  And just one small point, the situation now, economically, is far worse than it was before.  The PA, Palestine Authority, is forcing Palestinian banks to give 50 percent of their deposits as loan facilities for the Palestinian people, why?  Because OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which is an American foreign policy organisation, came and provided loan guarantees for Palestinian banks, for a push to drive the Palestinian economy to be more debt based.  Now debt has accumulated to $3 billion, consumer debt for Palestinian people…

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
Seven.

Khaled Al Sabawi
It’s even higher, that proves my point even more, that the Palestinian Authority has created further dependent victims of the Palestinian people as opposed to confront the Israeli occupation.

Mehdi Hasan
Linah, you want to make a brief point then I want to finish this after maybe…  Let Linah go then we’ll finish with you.

Linah Alsaafin
BLOGGER AND ACTIVIST
Just to break things down in very simple terms, it doesn’t make sense to me as a 21 year old Palestinian to see all these grandiose illusions of statehood, from state building institutions, from however ostentatious the buildings are, however how much they cost, it doesn’t make sense to me if we’re still under occupation.

Mehdi Hasan:
Going to come to that in part two, we’re going to talk much more about that.  Before we finish this part, Nabeel, you wanted to come back in and respond to some of the points?

Nabeel Shaath
FORMER PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
Okay.  The situation of dependence on foreign aid, you totally forget the real culprit, the highest percentage per capita of foreign aid, in any country in history over the last 50 years, has been Israel and not the Palestinians.  But you, not only you, the foreign donors forget that, the Israeli’s like to...

Khaled Al Sabawi
But why are we comparing ourselves… why are we dropping the bar so low and comparing ourselves to the most dependent state?

Nabeel Shaath
They are paying us because they are…

Mehdi Hasan
Nabeel, Nabeel…

Nabeel Shaath
Hold on.

Khaled Al Sabawi
It’s like a bribe.

Nabeel Shaath
They are paying us because they are the cause of our occupation…

Khaled Al Sabawi
It’s the bride of the people’s client.

Nabeel Shaath
They are the cause of our disillusion, they are the cause of building the walls and for the international community to accept that. Because they are besieging Gaza and the international community accepts that…

Khaled Al Sabawi
Let me ask the community, tell us who pays the salaries of the Palestinian people, or paves the road to the checkpoints…

Nabeel Shaath
They are paying a tax that they should pay.

Khaled Al Sabawi
It is the biggest bribe in history to an entire peoples collectively.

Nabeel Shaath
It’s not a bribe.

Khaled Al Sabawi
To keep them quiet.

Nabeel Shaath
Let’s go and fight, but you are not ready to fight, we fought for years…

Khaled Al Sabawi
Your point, to try to compare us to Israeli independence…

Nabeel Shaath
We want to fight in different ways.

Khaled Al Sabawi
It does not further your point…

Diana Buttu
But there’s different ways in fighting.  They’re completely different ways of fighting.

Khaled Al Sabawi
Yes we are, the President goes around the world begging for money to pay for the salaries of the Palestinian Authority employees, not to further the…

Nabeel Shaath
So you want people to stop?

Khaled Al Sabawi
No, no, no, we need a strategy, we need a movement, we need a PA that represents the Palestinian people, there’s democratic…

Mohammad Shtayyeh
So if the President doesn’t go to Saudi Arabia asking the international community for help which is for us, not begging, which is an international obligation, for this is an international obligation that the international community has guaranteed, a political agreement, that was supposed to end by May 4th 1999, and that the Palestinian Authority should have become a state.

Mehdi Hasan
We’re going to continue this discussion in part two, this very discussion you’ve raised, I’m going to have to bring an end, we’ll continue this in just a moment.  I’m going to wrap up this half, join us in part two, we’re going to be talking about what the future of this conflict is, is it a one state solution?  A two state solution?  Or even a three state solution?  Join us for part two.

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PART TWO:

Mehdi Hasan
Welcome back to The Café here in Ramallah, we are having a very lively debate about the future of a Palestinian state, if there is one, and Palestinian governance and human rights.  Khaled Al Sabawi has left us and we’re joined now by Hafez Omar who is a young graphic artist and a political and social activist.  Hafez, before we continue on the discussion, you were involved in some of the protest against a visit of the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, about governance and human rights in general, tell us what happened to you at that protest?

Hafez Omar
POLITICAL ACTIVIST
Well we were demonstrating…

Mehdi Hasan
Peacefully.

Hafez Omar
Peacefully, I was holding a black card demanding the Palestinian leadership to go back to the Palestinian people, and I was beaten by undercover police with a walkie talkie on my head, and I was bleeding at the demonstration.

Mehdi Hasan
Mohammad, when you hear that, what do you say to Hafez when he says “Palestinian police are beating me”?  Forget the Israeli’s, I am repressed by the Palestinians…

Mohammad Shtayyeh
SENIOR MEMBER OF FATAH
Under circumstances I don’t accept this, this freedom of speech and expression is something that we should all fight for, and I totally condemn what has happened to Hafez, and I congratulate them, because the purpose of their demonstration has been achieved, and Mufaz and the President has cancelled Mufaz’ trip to Ramallah.

Mehdi Hasan
He’s with you, the purpose of your demonstration’s been achieved, there’s an investigation, all is good.

Hafez Omar
Well not exactly, like the purpose of our demonstration is not only about the visit of Shaul Mufaz to Ramallah, it’s about…

Mehdi Hasan
He’s the former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister?

Hafez Omar
The former Israeli deputy, but it was about the negotiations, and we’ve been walking in demonstrations against the negotiations in principle, and we have been…

Mohammad Shtayyeh
The negotiations have stopped on the 26th January 20012, there has been no negotiations since then whatsoever.

Hafez Omar
But still President Abbas keeps saying that the only strategy that we’re having is negotiating, negotiating and negotiating.

Mohammad Shtayyeh
He can say whatever he wants, but on the table there are no negotiations whatsoever since the 26th January 2012, this is the fact.

Mehdi Hasan
I just want to pick up the point Linah was making in part one, and we continued here, you’re someone who goes out, you blog, you write, you document Israeli repression at the wall, what do you make of the allegations about Palestinian police and protesters?

Linah Alsaafin
BLOGGER AND ACTIVIST
Unfortunately, the last few years in the West Bank, the PA has turned the situation into a police state. Now, my take on these protests that have happened recently against Shaul Mafaz’s visit, supposed visit, to the Mukataa in Ramallah was that I feel like the protesters, they kind of played into the hands of what the Israeli’s wanted. Who leaks the news first?  It was the Israeli’s themselves because Netanyahu didn’t want to advisor to visit to see a person like that, and so…

Mohammad Shtayyeh
And Barak as well.

Linah Alsaafin
And Barak as well.  So there’s this disagreement even within Israeli internal policy.

Mehdi Hasan
Let me pick up on a point Hafez made about negotiations, and you said the negotiations are over, over the years all the talk has been of a two state solution, now people talk of a one state solution, people even talk of a three state solution, I want to come back to one state in a moment, but let me ask you Nabeel, is there a danger that this split between Gaza under Hamas, the West Bank under Fatah, Palestinians living in Israel under Jewish majority rule, and this becomes institutionalised, this is the future, three different states or state lets.

Nabeel Shaath
SENIOR PLO NEGOTIATOR
This is our major responsibility, our responsibility, or our…

Mehdi Hasan
Is there a fear of this?

Nabeel Shaath
The Israeli’s are going to do their best to keep us separated.  But it is our responsibility and our commitment to continue to negotiate with each other, to continue our dialogue, to end that separation between Gaza and the West Bank, that this is a must, we want that unity to come back, and on the 15th March last year, the young people who demonstrated on the streets, their first call was “end the separation so that we can go back to democracy so that we can end that situation.”

Mehdi Hasan
Hafez and then Samir.

Hafez Omar
Speaking about March 15th, what we went out for on March 15th and what we demand is not only ending the division, there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and that they ask for and now, in Syria, they’re facing hard times, in Lebanon they’re facing hard times, there are hundreds of thousands of young Palestinian who live abroad and were not represented.

Mehdi Hasan
Isn’t there a danger now that Hamas are perfectly happy with the status quo as well, they’ve got a tunnel economy, they’ve got power, they’re running things on their own, they’re waiting for the new partners in Egypt to help them out, they’re going to institutionalise the three state split whether we like it or not.

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
FORMER MINISTER IN HAMAS GOVERNMENT
I don’t think that any Palestinian who is sincere, you know, and willing to have a solution to this Palestinian issue and have independent Palestine is, you know, happy with this division.  You will find people here in the West Bank and people in Gaza who have been like benefitted, you know, from this division, benefitted, you know, financially, you know, security wise, politically and so on.  But I don’t think that this is the majority here, neither the majority in Gaza.

Diana Buttu
FORMER LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE PLO
We’ve been hearing about national unity talks for more than five years, and to be quite frank we don’t believe it any more, we are sick of hearing about all of this, and we’ve come to believe that this is a question of self interest.  I want to get back to the issue of representation.  I am a Palestinian who is a citizen of Israel, nobody represents me, nobody even purports to try to represent me any longer, the PLO no longer looks at the Palestinian citizens of Israel, we are the most discriminated against within the Israeli polity, and yet there’s nobody that’s coming forward to even purport to try to represent us as individuals.

Mehdi Hasan
Well let me bring Mohammad in on those two points, I mean who represents someone like Diana?  And also, self interest?  The reason there’s a split, there’s a war on words, you say you want unity, but you go to Doha, you go to Cairo, you go to Riyadh, you have lots of summits, there’s no unity government, you’re fine with the status quo?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
Today we live in a three entity situation. In order for us to move from three entities into a two state solution, the Palestinian unity is a must, and without it we cannot go anywhere. The problem is, which we don’t deny, is that there are external factors that are really playing against this Palestinian Palestinian reconciliation, they’re now factors whether it is pressure from Washington Israel, Iran, whoever is enjoying this sort of… for their own reasons, not for Palestinian reason. But I think…

Mehdi Hasan
Is there a pressure on you to abandon Gaza?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
There has been pressure on Abu Mazen not to sign the Cairo agreement, and Abu Mazen said to the Americans “no way will I accept your pressure,” and he sent the Palestinian delegation to sign the Cairo Agreement, and he himself signed the Doha agreement, and he himself sent another…

Mehdi Hasan
So why no unity government?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
Because Hamas… because the Palestinian central election commission was supposed to start voter’s registration by July 2nd, which is in accordance with the agreement, and then unfortunately Hamas, they didn’t allow the CEC, Central Election Commission, to function, which was a prerequisite for the formation of unity government.

Mehdi Hasan
So it’s Hamas’s fault?

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
Well I don’t think so it’s the fault of everybody, Hamas and Fatah, they share responsibility.  I think it is Hamas back to, you know, to the essence that we have to have basic human rights respected here in the West Bank and Gaza.  It’s not an issue of just operating of an election committee here or there, it’s a matter of having an atmosphere, you know, of freedom, people have to be freely forming their, you know, parties, you know, doing whatever they like…

Mehdi Hasan
Well Linah, your father’s family are from Gaza, what do you make about this?  What do you make of this split here?  And where do you think responsibility lies for it?

Linah Alsaafin
Effectively Hamas and Fatah have hijacked the political scene, both of them, and so it doesn’t really interest me if national reconciliation means that Hamas, Fatah, Hamas, get to kiss and make up, because effectively what this means is that Hamas and Fatah will get their cake and divide it amongst themselves. Neither Fatah or Hamas represent me.  The two state solution, if I can bring this conversation around to this topic now, it’s completely a farce. Why should we as an occupied people concede 78 percent of our territory? Why should we live on not even 22 of the remaining 22 percent?  I don’t even care, you know, how many states come out of this, but what I really want to focus on is achieving human rights.  I want the refugees to come back, I want the right of return implemented, but this again is a problem for Israel which concerns itself with demography, they can never allow a Palestinian majority to be in Palestine because that, to them, will be the end of the Jewish state.

Mehdi Hasan
Nabeel, you’re listening to Linah saying she wants rights, she wants rights to her land, human rights, and you guys are going and doing UN bids for state…

Nabeel Shaath
All of what Linah said I agree to 200 percent…

Mehdi Hasan
And going to the UN for the statehood which you did last year, is that all part of the same strategy?

Nabeel Shaath
That was a strategy to get what she wants, in other words using international support in order to put pressure on Israel, in order to increase the cost of occupation, that’s what it’s all about.  But I want to go back to Diana, I know the Palestinians in Israel are not represented in the PLO, they are our people, they are Palestinians, but the issue is the Israeli’s want to kick them all out now, they have not abandoned that, and all of this call about a Jewish state, calling Israel a Jewish state, is to get rid of the one and a half million Palestinians in Israel, and we cannot help Israel by telling Israel that these are Palestinians and we represent them, and therefore Israel can use that as a claim that they are normal Israeli citizens and kick them out of Palestine.

Mehdi Hasan
Do you still believe in a two state solution?

Nabeel Shaath
Of course I do, of course.  Not because It's the most fair, not because It's… but it looked possible, it looked feasible.

Mehdi Hasan
What’s the most fair option?

Nabeel Shaath
A one state solution, a democratic state for all Jews, Christians and Muslim…

Mehdi Hasan
But that's not practical in your opinion?

Nabeel Shaath
For all the Palestinians in the world to come back.

Mehdi Hasan
But that’s not practical, that’s why you don’t support it?

Diana Buttu
It is completely practical.

Nabeel Shaath
In 1969 I was the prophet of this democratic state idea, I wrote all the literature.

Mehdi Hasan
But you don’t support it now because It's not practical?

Nabeel Shaath
I still believe in it, but it is not feasible.

Mehdi Hasan
It’s not feasible.  Diana, you were a supporter of a two state solution at one time?

Diana Buttu
Yeah, so…

Mehdi Hasan
You’re not any more?

Diana Buttu
Look, the question of what’s feasible or not feasible, is it more feasible to come and sit down over 20 years trying to get the Israeli’s to agree to a border or is it more feasible to try to get the Israeli’s to agree to the division of Jerusalem, or is more feasible for us to start demanding our rights and start pushing and confronting Israel to give us our rights rather than begging for a little piece of land to be carved out?

Mehdi Hasan
Mohammad and then Hafez.

Mohammad Shtayyeh
Today there are 531,000 Jewish settlers living in 185 settlements, a two state solution is not possible any more, and I think we are slipping into a one state situation and not solution, because the one state solution is not attainable anyhow in the same way that a two state solution is not attainable.  If the trend of the colonisation programme continues in the same way that it is happening in 2012, there will be no space for a two state solution.  We will live in a one state situation because today, remember one important thing…

Mehdi Hasan
But it won’t be a state, one state situation, it won’t be a state.

Nabeel Shaath
…that today we are living in a one state situation which is a comprehensive colonisation of all of Palestine.

Mehdi Hasan
So what you’re saying is that will just continue endlessly?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
So therefore, no, therefore what we need to do is that Israel is trying to maintain the status quo, what we want to do is to break this status quo by adopting a new strategy, and the new strategy has to do with popular resistance, has to do with Palestinian unity, has to do with the internationalisation of the Palestinian question, has to be..

Mehdi Hasan
Is that what the UN bid was about?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
Yes, but we have to break the paradigm that has been ongoing since 1993, and it is not going anywhere.

Mehdi Hasan
Hafez, is this encouraging rhetoric?

Hafez Omar
Not exactly, I think that the ones who are supposed to put the strategy is the Palestinian people, everywhere.  It’s only by having the PLO back to its role to represent the Palestinian people…

Mehdi Hasan
The Palestine Liberation Organisation rather than the Palestine Authority?

Hafez Omar
Exactly.  And the PLO and the democratically elected PNC, Palestinian National Council, having everybody would decide, the right side, because then the Palestinian people would follow…

Mohammad Shtayyeh
I agree with you.

Linah Alsaafin
… because from its inception it excluded the Islamists parties, the Islamists and Hamas, they’re not represented by the PLO.

Diana Buttu
And the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Linah Alsaafin
And the Palestinian citizens of Israel…

Mehdi Hasan
Well let me… I just need to touch on this one…

Mohammad Shtayyeh
But the whole reconciliation is about adding Hamas and Jihad, to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Diana Buttu
That’s still not all….

Mehdi Hasan
Let me just deal with this, I’ll come to you in one moment, I just want to ask Diana a question…

Mohammad Shtayyeh
… everybody…

Mehdi Hasan
Hold on Mohammad, one second.  There’s a very respectable, very well known journalist, Jewish journalist, in Britain, called Jonathan Freedland, big supporter of the two state solution, and he wrote recently, he said it’s a naïve idea, and I want to read a quote, he said “two nations that could not negotiate a divorce cannot get married instead.”

Diana Buttu
If you look at the history of this place there was cohesion, there were Jews, Christians and Muslims living together…

Mehdi Hasan
But there’s been so much violence and hate since.

Diana Buttu
Yes, and…

Mehdi Hasan
They can now live together in one state?

Diana Buttu
The root cause of the problem is Zionism, and if you unpackage Zionism, which is exclusive Jewish privilege, then yes, things will be undone, it won’t be a perfect situation, it’s not going to happen overnight, but it's certainly going to be much more sustainable in the long term, and will be able to guarantee Palestinians their rights.

Mehdi Hasan
When Jews in Israel, or Jews globally, hear the phrase one state solution, especially when they look at Hamas ruling Gaza, they think of “we’re going to be second class citizens in a Muslim majority state where we’re going to be treated by Islamism rulers in a very horrible way,” how do you allay their fears?

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
Well, if you go back to history, the golden error for the Jews was in Andalucía where the Muslims were having…

Mehdi Hasan
But Hamas didn’t run Andalucía?

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
No, no, I know that.  But at the same time, when the situation here allows for democratic state, where Hamas and Fatah and everybody shares power, I think we will end up with a situation where everybody can live with, you know, in peace and…

Mehdi Hasan
You think it can be a bi-national state involving Jews, Hamas…

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
Yeah it is very possible.

Linah Alsaafin
I think this discourse or this narrative is a trap that many people fall into, and this is framing this occupation as one of religious strife or religious conflict, that is not the case, I don’t have a problem if I have a Jew as a next door neighbour, I have no problem if my next door neighbour is a Zionist, the root cause here, the root problem is Zionism.

Mehdi Hasan
But the Zionist will say “I have problem with an Islamist next to me,” this is the problem, it never ends.  For example, they’ll look at Hamas running Gaza and say “that’s a supremacist group,” that’s their perspective.

Diana Buttu
It’s always Israel

Mehdi Hasan
No I agree.

Diana Buttu
If you look at the way that Israel is run today..

Mehdi Hasan
But I’m saying if everyone is saying this how do you get round this idea of…

Diana Buttu
But today Israel’s run by Jewish…

Mehdi Hasan
Is it going to be all right to say it’s not going to happen?

Diana Buttu
No absolutely not.

Mohammad Shtayyeh
Everybody has his own…

Diana Buttu
This is the problem.

Mohammad Shtayyeh
The issue is not really, in my opinion, the issue is not really two state one state, the most important issue is that are we in a position, as Palestinians, to change the dynamics of the struggle in order for us to get to change the dynamic of the solution.

Diana Buttu
Absolutely.

Mehdi Hasan
And that’s a very good point because that leads me onto what I wanted to ask both of you.  Changing the dynamics of resistance, none of the things we’ve seen in recent months is the prisoners going on hunger strike which belatedly, eventually, got some global attention.  You were one of the people involved in pushing that message out, you designed some of the logos, how big a change do you think this is in the nature of the Palestinian struggle?

Hafez Omar
When people engage in the political space, in any mean, like in popular resistance or an armed resistance, there wil be a change.  When the Palestinian prisoners took the decision to confront the Israeli atrocities against them inside the prisons, and the Palestinian people in the streets decided to back them up, and the Palestinian youth started to invent new actions such as closing the UN headquarters in Ramallah, closing the Red Cross office in Ramallah, then people and media had to pay attention to what’s happening.

Mehdi Hasan
Do you believe the hunger striking that happened this year, what we saw from Hada Adnan onwards and previously, do you think that represents a failure of mainstream politics and therefore people have to take action on their own?

Hafez Omar
You know, the leadership was not as good as expected to be, to back the hunger strike.  We wish to have the Palestinian factions, the Palestinian parties and the leadership to back our cases.

Linah Alsaafin
I still maintain that the hunger strike in prisons have achieved with way more what the PA have achieved in 20 years of their political…

Mehdi Hasan
And have they achieved more than Hamas has achieved as well?

Linah Alsaafin
Hamas is still relatively new to this model of…

Mehdi Hasan
But have they supplanted them as the main resistance organisation now? The prisoners at the forefront?
 
Linah Alsaafin
No, no, I don’t’ think so, this isn’t the point, the point here is Mahmud Abbas was quoted in the New York Times, it was begging Israel to allow him to have more weapons to maintain security because he was afraid that the protests that were taking place on a daily basis, in Ramallah might have escalated to something else.

Mehdi Hasan
Mohammad?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
All the talks that Saeb Erekat conducted with Merkel was focused on one single issue which is release of the prisoners, the 123 Palestinian prisoners, who have been kept there before Oslo, so the actual the prisoners has been really a focus of interest at every level.

Mehdi Hasan
Look Diana’s shaking her head…

Diana Buttu
Look, Palestinians…

Mohammad Shtayyeh
We only offer to release only 25…

Mehdi Hasan
Okay, let Diana respond.

Diana Buttu
So prisoners have always been a central part of Palestinian policy and people, and it’s always been part of the struggle, and so I think we’d be wrong to say that people aren’t advocating for their release, they are.  That’s not the major problem.  The major problem is that that’s only one segment of the society, we have nobody who’s advocating for Palestinians who are living in 61 percent, area C, of the West Bank, whose houses are being demolished, nobody’s talking about them.  Nobody’s talking about the continued settlement activity, nobody’s going and organising demonstrations to stand in front of these checkpoints or to stand in front of the settlements.  Instead, the focus has constantly been on meeting in rooms, shaking hands with Israeli’s and having more and more negotiations.

Mehdi Hasan
Which his not sustainable from your position?

Diana Buttu
It’s not sustainable.

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
FORMER MINISTER IN HAMAS GOVERNMENT
Prisoners should have finished, you know, when Oslo agreement was signed, this is something that should have been done behind a long time ago.  But once this is, you know, one of the key issues we have to insist, you know, that it is part of any settlement that has to be done, but also other issue which are totally kept almost, you know, forgotten, Jerusalem.  It’s a major issue in our hearts, not only the Palestinians, but Arabs, Muslims, the world, the Christians, so we have to invest much of our effort to have, you know…

Mehdi Hasan
Let me… I want to just go back to…

Nabeel Shaath
Because really the prisoners issue has become, and has remained for a very long time, a central issue of Palestinian struggle.  When we signed Gaza Jericho we released 9,000 prisoners, the largest number of prisoners ever released.  When Hamas exchanged, Shalit exchanged it for 1,300 prisoners.

Mehdi Hasan
Let me ask Hafez the question, so far, thank god, no hunger striker has died, if one of them were to die what would happen on the Palestinian street here?

Hafez Omar
POLITICAL ACTIVIST
We don’t want people to die, to start, you know, marching to all the checkpoints, we want to do that according to a national strategy, we want to decide that this occupation has to get to an end, and we want to do that collectively, together…

Mehdi Hasan
Well one other non-violent issue that’s often raised, a non violent resistance, is the boycott, now big international movement, the Boycott Divestment Sanctions, BDS, some people say the Boycott movement is more successful outside of the occupied territories than inside the occupied territories, is that fair?  The Palestinians and the Palestinian leadership don’t give enough support to it.

Diana Buttu
Oh, in terms of effectiveness yes that may be true, that it’s more effective outside than it is inside, simply because of the…

Mehdi Hasan
Just as a popular support in discussion as well?

Diana Buttu
Well no, it’s a question of dependence, and we talked earlier about the dependence.

Mehdi Hasan
It’s not possible.

Diana Buttu
It is possible, it’s just not…

Linah Alsaafin
But the two economies are intertwined.

Diana Buttu
Yeah, the two economies right now are intertwined.  The bigger problem is that the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, the voices of it are coming from outside and not from inside.

Nabeel Shaath
Look, President Abbas is the president of authority as well as of PLO, and he has to really worry very much about the consequences of the boycott to be met with a boycott from the other side that will close down all the West Bank, like the Israelis have closed down Gaza.  But Fatah supported the full movement of boycott of all Israeli products.

Nabeel Shaath
The authority has been calling for boycotting all settlement produce.

Diana Buttu
Yes but there’s more than settlement products, there’s more than settlement products…

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
Excuse me, then who makes the decision?  Is it PLO or the Palestinian Authority?  If we have, you know, one strategy for this specific issue, the boycott, we should all abide with it, we have to boycott it as well because…

Mehdi Hasan
Okay, we’re running out of time, I just want to ask Mohammad, what would you say to those people who look at President Abbas’s record in power, up until 2009 and since three years without an election, and say objectively he’s been a failure?

Mohammad Shtayyeh
I see it totally different, I think there has been a lot of institution building, I think the Palestinian Authority is in shape, I would like to see the Palestinian Authority changing function, as I said earlier, I think the President is not really sticking to his seat, and the most important thing is that this occupation, unfortunately, has been sort of international, political shyness when it comes to criticising Israel, the United States has began to the very far right, Europe as well, the Arab countries are now in serious turmoil, transformation and so on and so the Palestinian cause in general is really facing difficult times, unfortunately it…

Mehdi Hasan
Well hold on, very eloquently put there defence, let me ask all of you, as a last question, do you, each of you, believe that the Palestinian leadership, in its current form, is capable of securing statehood and independence for the Palestinians in the foreseeable future?  Yes or no?

Nabeel Shaath
The Palestinian people in general, with that leadership, are determined to get that and they will get it, the question is when and at what cost?  It will happen.

Mehdi Hasan
And the leaders whether Fatah are Hamas are up to it?

Nabeel Shaath
The leaders and the younger leaders who will come after them will continue the struggle.

Mehdi Hasan
Diana.

Diana Buttu
Look, right now, the way that I see it, you’ve got a leadership that is divided, you’ve got human rights abuse is being committed in the Gaza Strip as well as in the West Bank, we have a self interested leadership, there is no leadership that represents the Palestinian citizens of Israel.  I do however look to the future, we do have younger leaders who are emerging and hopefully will be able to be given that space to be able to defend Palestinian rights.

Mehdi Hasan
Samir?

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
Well, the most positive thing is to restructure in our Palestinian P&A, Palestinian P&A should be combing West Bank and Gaza, combining everybody under this umbrella, restructuring PLO and looking for future.

Mehdi Hasan
Is it going to happen?

Samir Abu Ayyasheh
Well, with real intention yes it will happen, but if we are self motivated it will not.

Mehdi Hasan
Linah.

Linah Alsaafin
My answer is no, the Palestinian leadership should make the Israeli occupation very costly and one way to achieve that is by dissolving the PA so the Palestinians could be under the full security, civil, military control of Israel, this way people will finally be able to take matters into their own hands, this way people will finally begin to resist against the occupation and not sit around and confront themselves with their illusions of the state building institutions, and people wil finally, you know, form a national resistance strategy, and then peace, and then the country and then the state will be one that follows.

Mehdi Hasan
Hafez, you joined us late, you get the last word.

Hafez Omar
Well I guess the solution for what we facing now is to have a democratic PLO that decides about the PA.  When people are represented, people have the mandate to decide about what they want to do with the PA, what they want to do with the PLO, whether if they want one state, two states, three states or if they want to leave to the moon, we have to give the world back the people.

Mehdi Hasan
On that eloquent note we’re going to have to leave the discussion here in Ramallah, thank you very much for you time joining me in the Café, this debate will continue online and you can join me for another Café next week.

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