Palestinians offered a Third Way
In addition to Fatah and Hamas, who have been dominating the Palestinian political arena, a myriad of newly-formed political groups are contesting the Palestinian Legislative elections scheduled for 25 January.
One such political group is the Third Way, comprised mainly of prominent academics and businessmen.
Third Way includes Salam Fayyadh, a former finance minister, Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian Authority spokeswoman, and businessman Khalid al-Asaili.
Aljazeera.net’s Khalid Amayreh spoke with al-Asaili at his campaign headquarters in the southern West Bank town of Hebron.
Aljazeera.net: Does Palestinian society need a Third Way? What is wrong with Fatah and Hamas?
Al-Asaili: It is well known that Fatah and Hamas attract as much as 70% of Palestinians. This means that there are up to 30% of our people who are affiliated neither with Hamas nor with Fatah.
We hope to be able to represent this important segment of our people. The creation of the Third Way doesn’t mean that other parties and factions are defective. On the contrary, our party and other parties will enrich Palestinian political life and enhance political pluralism.
Does your party have an ideology?
We do have an idea, but not an ideology. Our members come from various ideological backgrounds and are generally moderate politically, enjoying high standard of professionalism, expertise and credibility.
What distinguishes you from other groups, such as Fatah and Hamas or Mustafa al-Barghuthi’s Independent Palestine’s Block?
It is the professionalism and practical expertise that we possess. We have people who are masters in their respective fields like Salam Fayyad who is renowned at the international level for financial management.
We also have people enjoying excellent international contacts such as Hanan Ashrawi who was able to communicate the Palestinian narrative and grievances to the West most effectively.
Your critics call your party elitist and bourgeois.
We are merely one month old, so it is natural that we don’t have strong public support as is the case with Hamas and Fatah. But we intend to address our people using a new language, away from empty sloganeering and rhetorical overindulgence.
What are your priorities?
The main thrust of our platform and political programme is to effect radical reform in all aspects of government and governance. We need to put an end to the state of chaos and lawlessness. We must combat and defeat corruption by enforcing the rule of law and reforming the justice system. We will also have to tackle the high rate of unemployment and introduce social security.
We reject the occupation, the colonisation of our land as well as this evil [separation] wall which is mutilating our land.
What do you foresee in the next legislative council?
I would like to see a pluralistic parliament reflecting and representing the various components of the Palestinian society. We will be pleased by the presence of our brothers from the Islamic movement [Hamas].
We believe in the peaceful transition of power. We also believe that a strong opposition is an asset, not a liability, since absolute power corrupts. Generally, I can say that the next council will be better than the previous one.
How will you address the Israeli occupation?
There are limits to what we can do because we don’t have the freedom and sovereignty necessary for effective governance. But this doesn’t mean that we can do nothing. I believe that the presence of an active opposition will help us achieve certain goals.
How does the Third Way’s moderate stance relate to the so-called final status issues, such as the return of Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem as a capital for a future Palestinian state, and illegal Jewish settlements?
We adopt the very same political programme adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). We demand full Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 and the resolution of the plight of refugees in line with UN Resolution 149.
Do you believe in armed resistance against Israel?
We believe in popular and non-violent resistance. This is not to say, though, that the Palestinians have no right to resist their occupiers and tormentors with all legitimate means available.
Do you expect either Hamas or Fatah to win an absolute majority in the upcoming elections?
I don’t expect either of the two parties to win more than 50% of the votes.
How many seats do you think you will win?
My expectation is to have a good surprise.
These election campaigns cost millions of dollars. Who finances your election campaign?
All our contributions come from our members, private companies and individuals. We will submit within a month a full and detailed report of our election contribution through a certified public accountant. We ask other groups to do likewise.