We will not surrender, we will not be defeated

 

We will not surrender, we will not be defeated

The issue is whether there is any determination for solving the problem.

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Published: Tue 25 Jun 2019, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 25 Jun 2019, 10:48 PM

The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority Mohammad Shtayyeh is critical of the Trump administration's unconventional approach of releasing an economic proposal before a political one for Palestine. In an interview to CNN's Christiane Amanpour he says the Palestinians are hoping for independence and an end to the occupation.
Why would you boycott an event (US President Donald Trump's economic peace plan) that is designed simply to explore, remember it's called a workshop, the opportunity to give billions of dollars, tens of billions of dollars, $50 billion to your people and the Palestinian authority?
The figures are so exaggerated to the extent that we don't believe it, first. Secondly, this economic workshop is totally diverse from any political dimension. The economic problem in Palestine has nothing to do with the economic policy of anybody. The economic problem or financial crisis that we are in has to do with the Israeli measures that have been imposed on the Palestinian economy, on one hand, and the financial war that has been declared by this American administration on the Palestinian people, on the Palestinian Authority, on the United Nation work, association for the Palestinian refugees.
So, the issue is really not an economic one. The Palestinians are hoping for independence, sovereign state, end of occupation. The issue for us is not about economic conditions. We have seen this before. Secretary George Shultz was here in 1983. He came to say that solving the Palestinian problem has to do with improving the living conditions of the Palestinians. This didn't materialise.
Then John Kerry at the World Economic Forum promised $4 billion to the Palestinians. It never materialised. All the foreign direct investment has been seized - or blocked ­- simply because international investors have no access to the Palestinian territories as there is no Palestinian control on borders, or exit points, entry points and so on and so forth.
So, the issue here is not economic. The issue here is 100 per cent political. It is the fact that the Palestinian people are living under direct settler colonial regime of the State of Israel. In order for the Palestinians to live in a prosperous situation, we need to be independent.
So, you're basically saying, if I get you right, that it's no point having the cart before the horse that promises and ideas of money and investment will not work outside of political framework.
This is like a desktop work.  It is like somebody who is divorced from reality. What will be presented has nothing to do with reality, it has nothing to do with settlements, it has nothing to do with occupation, it has nothing to do with the Palestinians not having any access to their land or their water. Palestinians have no control over their resources.
So, when we speak about investment and improving living conditions without really tackling the roots and the causes of the problem, I think the whole workshop is totally misleading and it's just simply an intellectual exercise.
As I said earlier, the best part of it will be only the coffee break.
But here is the thing, the administration in the United States is saying that this is a workshop. It is not a donor's conference. And clearly, they say, and they've been saying it today, that this is something that could work within the framework of a peace. In other words, they fully understand, they say, that there needs to be a peace process, a peace agreement, a peace settlement that this is the kind of investment opportunities that would go hand in hand after there is a peace settlement.
So, they also are saying this won't work in a vacuum. And so, I guess my question to you is, why don't you go and see what is on offer?
Why don't they present - why don't they fill the vacuum? Why don't they come up with something that is in harmony with international laws? We know what the problem in Palestinian is. We have been at this peace process since October 1991, since Madrid peace talks. We have tried everything. This sort of bilateralism, the American mediation, all the problems have been tested. Everybody knows what the problem really is.
The issue is whether there is any determination for solving the problem. This workshop is about - is for me, a laundry, a political laundry for settlements and a legitimisation of the occupation. Palestinians are not looking for that. The Palestinians consider settlements as illegal. The Palestinians want to get rid of occupation. And we are ready to engage with any political proposal that has to do with international law, that has to do with ending occupation, that has to do with allowing the Palestinians, for once, to live in peace and harmony in an independent sovereign Palestinian State.
You say you don't have an economic problem. And yet, you yourself have told the New York Times and others that, "Palestinian authority is  collapsing financially. You could be bankrupt by July or August." Those are your words, Mr Prime Minister. You do have an economic problem. How serious will that be? What will it mean if you collapse financially?
This financial siege that we are in has been imposed by both Israel and the United States. I don't know how is it possible for anybody to believe that those who are gathering at Bahrain are there to help us. At the same time, they are the ones who are imposing the financial siege on us.
We are in difficult situation. It's simply because our money is blocked somewhere there in Israel. The issue for us, as I said, is we do have an economic problem, we do have a financial problem but these are not a result of wrong economic policy by the Palestinians, these are beacuse of Israeli policies.
Imagine a situation in which somebody speaks about economic development and their occupation where you have no access to land, no access to markets, no access to water - investors have no access here. So, we do recognise the fact that we have a problem. The question is, how do you solve the problem? The problem can easily be solved by ending occupation.
You know, I've covered the peace process since Madrid, Oslo, Camp David, Olmert, all of those. The fact of the matter is, the Palestinian leadership under President Arafat and President Mahmoud Abbas refused and rejected some very, very generous proposals, whether it was Camp David with Ehud Barak, whether it was Ehud Olmert, when he was prime minister. I know all your reasons. So, I'm not going to have you repeat them, but there were major offers on the table.
And now, the consensus has changed. And you've got the right-wing government in Israel and you've got President Trump who clearly sides with the Israelis. So, how do you think the political situation will be unblocked so that you can get a peace process? You've even cut off all communications with the Trump administration. How are you going to move from this rejectionist place to somewhere where we could see movement for a peace agreement?
You have covered this peace process since Madrid. I was the first Palestinian who landed in Madrid in October 1991 for the Madrid peace talks. I didn't have a single gray hair. I was not married. I didn't have children. It is 28 years now after the start of the Madrid peace process. Where are we now?
The number of settlers in the Palestinian territory were 145,000. Today, there are 711,000. Palestinians have not missed a single opportunity. I looked at the minutes of the Camp David. I was engaged with President Abbas. I was there with President Arafat. We have not been offered an opportunity. It was all a decoration of things.
When it was very serious in Camp David and everybody knew that is not we who should be blamed for it. And now, the Americans they want to put us in a blame game. We are in principle rejecting what is happening in Bahrain. We are in principle rejecting the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We are in principle rejecting that Jerusalem is the united capital for the Jewish people. Jerusalem is an occupied territory.
So, therefore, if the Palestinians ever missed an opportunity, somebody has to tell us where is the opportunity. We need one single opportunity to end occupation.
I hear you loud and clear, Mr. Prime Minister. But I can tell you because you know it better than I do that President Arafat accepted Camp David and accepted the Clinton parameters when it was too late. By the time he accepted it, the offer was off the table. And here we are with all the figures that you're telling me about, the increase of settlers, the increase of financial hardship, the solidification of consensus against peace and against a two-state solution.
Meantime, your unemployment rate is up to something like 31 per cent in the West Bank. It's around 52 per cent in Gaza, according to the World Bank. And, you know, you may have - I just want to know what you say to somebody like Jason Greenblatt who is the special representative saying, "It would be a mistake for you not to join us. They have nothing to lose and much to gain."  And then he says, "The Palestinian leadership portrays participation in the workshop as treasonous. That is preposterous."
We didn't suggest anybody not to attend. I will tell you, it was the Palestinian private sector who officially declared that they are not attending. I challenge anybody to prove, if we ever spoke to anybody not to go. Palestinian business community, Palestinian private sector is an integral part of the Palestinian political arena. They are not always behind the government.
They went ahead because they have seen such situation many times. There have been many promises that have never materialised.
In order for us to have one single factory, we need the permit of the Israelis. If you want to dig a water well, you need the permit of the Israelis. The Jordan Valley has a huge potential for economic development. The settlers are swimming in motor swimming pools and the Palestinians have no water to drink. So, we don't trust this administration.
President Abbas, he had four good meetings with President Trump. All of a sudden, we were taken by surprise, we were shocked that the administration decided to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Are you concerned that the United States might allow Israel to annex part or a lot of the West Bank?  And do you still believe that a two-state solution is possible? 
Well, look, this administration is really very unpredictable. We have seen the Trump administration annexing part of the Golan Heights. The American ambassador to Israel was touring the Jordan Valley recently and he was expressing his pleasure that Israel will continue to control the Jordan Valley. Earlier, he called for annexation of certain parts. That is something that is not only dangerous but this is a total jeopardisation of the final status issues.
Secondly, demography is a crucial factor.  Today, Israel has a chance for two states.  Either we go for a real, genuine two-state solution on the border six to seven or Israel will be, by de facto and de jure, an apartheid state.  The Israelis have to choose. Now, Israel is an election mode. The problem is that, the debate in Israel is not between those who want peace and those who want continuation of occupation. The debate in Israel today, unfortunately, is between those who want to maintain the status quo and those who want to annex certain parts of the Palestinian territory.
We are here to resist it.  The Palestinians - we have been instructed for 100 years now. We did not surrender. If there are people in Washington who believe that they can squeeze the Palestinians, push them to defeat, make them surrender and accept, they are very wrong. We will not surrender. We will not be defeated. And we will only accept options that allow us to fulfil the aspirations of our people. We have been mandated to protect our people. We will continue to do so. Protect them. Protect our territory for peace and justice, not only for the Palestinians but for all.
Christiane Amanpour is Chief International Anchor for CNN
 



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