Jobs @ MG
‘Arafat did things that nobody could for the Israelis’
Barghouti, 41, is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, general
secretary of Fatah in the West Bank, and the chief coordinator of Al-Aqsa
Intifada. Barghouti joined Fatah at the age of 15 and studied history and
political science at Bir Zeit University, taking a masters degree in
international relations. He spent six years in Israeli jails and was
deported from his homeland in 1987. His involvement with the first
Intifada was as a liaison officer in the PLO's offices in Amman and Tunis.
He returned in 1994 under the Oslo accords, as a believer in the peace
process. He is now on Israel's most wanted list. His home has been
shelled, his closed associates and relatives targetted and some killed and
his son was abducted and assaulted by the Israeli soldiers. On 3 August he
escaped an Israeli rocket seconds before it blasted his car into pieces.
He heard an Israeli gunship hovering over his car in Ramallah and
abandoned it quickly. Jefferson Fletcher spoke to him on 31 July.
|The Israelis claim that Yassir
Arafat is responsible for starting this Intifada last October after
the failure of the negotiations at Camp David. Is this true?
The Israelis are crazy. First of all, do you really think that
Arafat gave the orders for this Intifada to start? This Intifada
didn’t start by orders—and never will stop by orders. It will
stop when it achieves it demands, it goals, which is to put an end
to the Israeli occupation. Second, these military activities
(against the Occupation) are not organized by Arafat.
Then can you tell me who is actually in command of the Intifada? Who
is coordinating the resistance activities if you say Arafat isn’t
in fact in command?
There is a committee which has representatives from all the
Palestinian political factions. We have meetings every week in the
central committees in the West Bank and Gaza. There are also
regional committees in Jenin, Nablus, Rafah, Hebron, and Jerusalem,
So who’s in charge of the central committee here in the West Bank?
I am in charge in the West Bank.
Can you comment on the riots this past Sunday in Jerusalem? The
Israelis claim that the Palestinian Authority provoked these riots
by calling upon Palestinians to defend Al-Aqsa. Are these
I think that the Israelis are always responsible for these
provocations. For example, take the provocation by the Temple Mount
Faithful with their plans to lay the cornerstone of the third Jewish
temple on the Haram-Al-Sharif compound. The Israelis deliberately
tried to disturb the Muslims and the Arab world by their plans to
build a third temple. I think that it is a disaster that the
Israelis allowed these Jewish fanatics to disturb the stability in
the region with their provocative acts. Why do they do these things?
Why, for example, did Barak let Sharon visit the Haram-Al-Sharif
compound last September if he was really interested in peace?
Are you interested in peace with the Israelis?
I do believe that I am one of the prominent people who support the
peace process, and somebody who fights for the peace process. I
support the dialogue with the Israelis, whether it be with members
of the Knesset or the Israeli peace groups. The Oslo agreement was
supposed to lead to an end of the Israeli occupation, and
implementation of the accords was supposed to begin in 1994. By
1997, the Palestinians were supposed to control more than 80 to 90
percent of the Occupied Territories, and the remaining 10 percent
was supposed to be negotiated during the final status talks. What
happened was that the Israelis never implemented their part of the
agreements, and now the Palestinians only have 18 percent of the
Occupied Territories under Palestinian control.
Do you believe Yassir Arafat was wrong then to sign the Oslo
I do believe that Yassir Arafat did things that nobody in the Arab
world could do by signing this agreement with the Israelis. Arafat
signed a very bad agreement, and he accepted all of the Israeli
conditions without any guarantees from the Israelis that they would
implement their side of the bargain. He arrested hundreds from Hamas
and Islamic Jihad and succeeded in preventing any kind of suicide
bomber or terrorist activity against Israel during the last four
years before the Intifada. He made the Israelis feel secure, and the
settlers, and the occupation forces, but for the Palestinian people,
things just got worse. So are you saying that the Oslo Accords were
a mistake for the Palestinians? The mistake was not with the Oslo
Accords, but the mistake was with these crazy leaders in
Israel--like Netanyahu and Barak--who didn’t implement the
agreements. I believe that Oslo did open the door for peace in the
Middle East, but unfortunately, the Israelis never implemented the
agreements, so there is no real agreement now.
In your opinion, were there any mistakes made by the Palestinians in
In the final status talks at Camp David, Barak came and convinced
the Palestinians to put aside the interim agreements and go directly
to the final-status negotiations. I was opposed to the Camp David
summit because I insisted that the Israelis first implement the
interim agreements they had signed before we even consider the
final-status issues. I asked why should we have to put aside these
signed agreements when we had them in our hands and go directly to
the final-status talks? And what did Israel suggest at Camp David?
First, to cancel the right of return for the refugees, second, to
maintain the majority of the settlements, and third, to keep the
occupation in Jerusalem. So it was not possible to reach a
settlement under these conditions.
The Israelis allege that 97 percent of the Palestinian population
are currently under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Former
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak repeated this claim on 30 July in
an editorial in the New York Times. Barak said, in effect, that the
Palestinians mostly rule themselves. Is this true?
This is not true, not true. Tell me where 97 percent of the
Palestinian population are living under control of the Palestinian
Authority? They are not. All of the villages, all of the refugee
camps outside of PA are under control of the Israeli occupation.
Jerusalem, it’s not under the Palestinian control. You are talking
about 200,000 in East Jerusalem alone. And all the villages in Areas
C and B are not under the PA control. So this is not true.
Can you comment on the death of the six Fatah activists yesterday in
Nablus. The Israeli Deputy Defence Minister claimed it was a ‘work
The Israelis always make this allegation, trying to claim that it
was a ‘work accident’— te’ona avudah they say in Hebrew.
They always say this, but it is not true. They claim that what
happened three weeks ago in Tulkarem was a ‘work accident’ when
they assassinated one of the Hamas activist.
In Nablus, when they assassinated Osama Jayabna by the telephone,
they also said it was a work accident. Not long after that--about
one week ago--when Sharon came to the conference of the Likud, he
started to talk about his achievements. He said, ‘These people who
attack us in Jenin, now they are not alive--in Tulkarem, in Tamun,
in Nablus--and in Bethlehem.’ I heard him personally say this in
his speech on television. So he (Sharon) confirmed that they
assassinated all the people they denied killing before this meeting.
So I think that it is very clear that when the spokesman of the
Israeli army said that three of these people were accused of putting
a bomb in Tel Aviv and that they are wanted, it’s obvious that
they killed them.
But how did this happen, if there were no military helicopters in
the air at the time, nor was there any tanks. So how did they do
The building was less than two kilometers from an Israeli military
base, and they used a remote control for the explosives. q