Bitterlemons (Interview)
March 28, 2011 - 12:00am

An interview with Samir Abdullah

bitterlemons: How do you see changes in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt, affecting the Palestinian-Israeli peace process?

Abdullah: I strongly believe that what is good for the Arab people is good for the Palestinian people. So, if these changes lead to real democracies and an end to an era of bad governance and corruption, this definitely will reflect positively on the Palestinian people and on their drive for statehood and independence. This is in the medium and long run.

In the short run, these changes might have Arab governments focusing on their internal affairs and maybe will also take the focus of international media and public opinion away from the Palestinian issue.

bitterlemons: If this is a long-term game, then, how does the Palestinian Authority's plan to take its cause to the United Nations in September fit?

Abdullah: We have to go by our agenda, despite what is going on around us because we cannot assume that these changes will happen. We set our agenda according to international willingness to support the establishment of a Palestinian state and to end the conflict. [United States President Barack] Obama himself said that he hoped next year, when he was giving his speech in the United Nations, that the Palestinian state would be a member of this organization.

The agenda for negotiations was set so that September would be the end of the second year of talks. This is an international agenda, it is not a Palestinian creation only. We will stick to this agenda and go to the United Nations General Assembly and ask them to establish a Palestinian state.

bitterlemons: Are you optimistic?

Abdullah: This is what is expected from us. We have to follow this and put it to the countries who promised to complete a peace process by that date. We will see if the international community supports us or shows another intention.

bitterlemons: There are noises lately about distancing the Palestinian cause from the US grip, but the strategy of going to the UN also depends upon American policy. How do you see this playing out?

Abdullah: Unfortunately, US policy is maintaining a double standard. We know that the United States supports Israel at all times and in all cases, despite the fact that this has brought headaches to US interests all over, especially in the Arab world. Perhaps the changes in the Arab world will convince the US to change. This is an open hypocrisy that should end.

bitterlemons: Do you think that the international interventions in Libya and Bahrain have implications for Palestinians?

Abdullah: These are part of the crisis in the region. They are different. The grave danger that was threatened against the innocent Libyan people was one that the international community, even the Arab world, sought to stop. We wish that the change in Libya would have taken the same course as Egypt and Tunisia, but this is a really stupid type of regime that took a path that will not protect it anyway.

In Bahrain, this is different. The Gulf countries' tolerance towards protest is not strong. Also the majority of the population is Shiite and they feared intervention from Iran. They wanted to close the file as soon as possible to as not to allow influence from outside.

bitterlemons: So you don't see either case as a precedent that puts Palestinians closer to having international troops on the ground?

Abdullah: Of course, if you look at this aspect, we asked for international protection in Gaza and in the year 2002 when Israel invaded West Bank cities and its behavior became very aggressive. We asked for this protection, but it was rejected. Now if Israel were to commit such massacres and become such a grave threat to the Palestinian people, then we would again ask for international protection. We will see if it comes or not. Israel is not Gaddafi.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017