Senior Palestinian leader Maj. Gen. Jibril Rajoub told Al-Monitor on Nov. 13 that the Fatah Central Committee and other factions are opposed to turning the current uprising into a military one. “There is a decision by all Palestinian factions not to militarize the popular struggle. We want to send a civilized message to the world that military occupation and colonial settlement is the real terrorism and that its continuation is a danger to them as well,” Rajoub said.
The leading member of the Fatah Central Committee and a possible successor to Mahmoud Abbas, 81, praised imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouti, but stopped short of endorsing him for a senior position while in jail. “Marwan is a great Fatah leader and, along with him, there are many other leaders and fellow legislators in prison. I don’t think this is a priority issue on our agenda,” he said.
Rajoub spoke powerfully about the need for unity among Palestinians and blamed Hamas for the delay in implementing the reconciliation agreement. “I tell you in the name of Fatah that we are genuinely in favor of doing everything possible to form a national unity [government] with Hamas. Our goal is to reach a strategic agreement on the basis of any future peace agreement,” he told Al-Monitor.
The senior Fatah official sounded very upset with the recent talk coming out of the White House, according to which it is unlikely that the two-state solution will see the light during the 14 months remaining in US President Barack Obama’s term. “We will not raise the white flag because the Americans have lost interest. The decision in Washington will lead to more oppression. Peace is in the overall interest of the US and international community,” Rajoub said.
The text of the interview follows:
Al-Monitor: What is Fatah’s position on the current wave of Palestinian protests?
Rajoub: All that is happening now reflects the national consensus with the Palestinian national movement, with Fatah at its head. We support and bless any popular movement that is opposed to the Israeli occupation, which aims to inform the world that we are a people under repression, occupation and siege, etc., and that we are the object of a racist government that denies us the right to exist. Fatah is part of this movement, which reflects our people’s aspirations whether in the political sphere or in the popular resistance movement.
Al-Monitor: Is the support for the current uprising conditional on it not using arms? Is the absence of military action a conscious decision?
Rajoub: There is a decision by all Palestinian factions not to militarize the popular struggle whose scope is social, geographic and political. We want to send a civilized message to the world, including the Israeli peace camp, that military occupation and colonial settlement is the real terrorism and that its continuation is a danger to them as well.
Al-Monitor: What do you think about the idea of nominating Marwan Barghouti to a leadership position in Fatah or as candidate for the presidency, even while he is in prison?
Rajoub: Marwan is a great Fatah leader and, along with him, there are many other leaders and fellow legislators in prison. I don’t think this is a priority issue on our agenda.
Al-Monitor: While Palestinians are dying on a near daily basis, why is it that the division between nationalists and Islamists between the West Bank and Gaza continues with disastrous results?
Rajoub: I tell you in the name of Fatah that we are genuinely in favor of doing everything possible to form a national unity [government] with Hamas. Our goal is to reach a strategic agreement on the basis of any future peace agreement. We also need to agree on the form the resistance against Israel should take. Before finalizing the issue, we need to agree on a political agreement on what we mean about popular struggle, to ensure that the popular struggle doesn’t turn into a military one. We also need to reach an understanding that there needs to be only one armed security force — one rule and one political program for the end of occupation.
Al-Monitor: But what is holding up the unity?
Rajoub: Hamas’ decision is not in their hands, but in the hands of [non-Palestinian] foreign elements. The decision is in the hands of the world Muslim Brotherhood movement, and while unity is a priority for us, it does not seem to be a priority for Hamas.
Al-Monitor: You speak about the need for an agreement on a political resistance plan. But the Palestinian leadership is not in sync with the international solidarity attempts to boycott Israel. President Abbas keeps talking about his approval to boycott settlements and not to boycott Israel. How can the Palestinian position be in sync with the international solidarity movement?
Rajoub: On the issue of the boycott of Israel, I think there should be a clear position. We call for a boycott of the occupation and all its forces. There are no deluxe relations with occupation. Israel should be isolated and boycotted. It is true that there is no consensus among the Palestinian people about the idea of a boycott of Israel, but if some Israelis are against occupation, I believe we should not boycott them but work with them.
Al-Monitor: The Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee had taken a decision to suspend the security cooperation [with Israel]. When will that decision be carried out?
Rajoub: There is a misunderstanding between statements here and there, and decisions. The Fatah Central Committee took a decision to review political, security, legal and economic relations with Israel. We have not yet completed our study, and once we do, we will take the appropriate decision.
Al-Monitor: When will Fatah hold its seventh congress?
Rajoub: We are working on the issue with the hope of holding the seventh congress when it is the appropriate time for our cause. No date for the meeting has been set, but the holding of the Fatah congress is connected to the regional situation. We are not divorced from our region.
Al-Monitor: The Americans have washed their hands from the two-state solution; does this allow Palestinian diplomacy to pursue other avenues for peace?
Rajoub: US talk is pushing our area further into violence and is perpetuating the cycle of violence. We will not raise the white flag because the Americans have lost interest. The decision in Washington will lead to more oppression, hopelessness and more violence. Peace is in the overall interest of the US and the international community.
Al-Monitor: You failed in your efforts to get the Saudi and Malaysian soccer teams to come to Ramallah. Will this have long-term repercussions?
Rajoub: It is true that we tried very hard to protect our home field advantage, but in the end we had to accept the ruling of FIFA. Despite that, and despite playing in Amman, I am glad about having played in Amman instead of having our home field advantage, as we were able to tie Saudi Arabia last Monday, Nov. 9, and beat Malaysia 6-0 on Nov.12. I am proud of our national team and their performance despite the hardships that they faced to get to Amman.