Khaled Abu Aker: In their current negotiations with the
Israelis, the Palestinians are asking for linking the interim
period with the final stage, although this was stipulated in the
Oslo agreement. What is the arm behind such an
Faisal Husseini: The question of linkage is basic for us. We
believe the Israelis are not committed to the interim stage. They
want to negotiate a final settlement on condition that our present
status constitute the final one. Consequently, they want to start
negotiating the final stage from the present borders of Area A,
while, in fact, talks on permanent settlement were to start from
whatever realities will have been created following the
implementation of the interim period.
Prime Minister Binyamin N etanyahu has raised the idea of moving
directly to final-status negotiations. Do you see this as an
attempt on his part to evade the implementation of the Oslo
We reject skipping the interim period and moving straight into
final-status negotiations. This idea aims at dragging the
negotiations without the achievement of any progress on the ground
and without the implementation of the Oslo agreement. It is
imperative that the interim period be implemented and that
final-status negotiations commence. This, in our opinion, will
ensure the success and fruition of the negotiations.
How can the final-status negotiations yield any results when
Israel is imposing facts on the ground, whether in Jerusalem or the
An agreement was concluded under international sponsorship; it must
be implemented. If this takes place, well and good; if not, the
area will move to a stage of a termination of the peace
But Israel is currently creating new facts in Jerusalem and in
the settlements, which means that, in effect, it is turning its
back on all commitments related to Oslo.
Our position is clear. Either the agreement is implemented and then
we can move on to negotiations on final settlement, or it is not,
in which case we will not move on to the final stage, but instead
to the stage of no peace.
What is your vision of the final stage?
The Palestinian position is clear: we are talking about a
Palestinian State in the lands occupied in 1967.
What about borders?
The borders are those of 1967, and the negotiations will be about
the nature of the relations between this [Palestinian] state and
the Israeli one.
The Ghor [the Jordan Valley] is a Palestinian area whif:h
constitutes the border with Jordan. The Israeli prime minister
recently declared Israel's refusal to give this area up. The Labor
party takes a similar position. What is the Palestinian
We will not accept any concessions. The Israeli position is one
thing and the application of Resolution 242 is another. Those who
have adopted Resolution 242 will have to implementit; we will not
accept anything less.
What about Jerusalem? What is your conception of a solution for
the city, especially in light of the talks about the existence of a
proposal which was discussed between Yossi Beilin and Abu
Several academic encounters took place, but none came out with any
But there were reports by the Israeli media about the
crystallization of concepts following the Beilin! Abu Mazen
We can talk about the existence of an Israeli vision, but we cannot
talk about a joint Israeli-Palestinian one. What Beilin has
proposed is an Israeli concept which has no bearing on us and which
we cannot term as shared.
Why, then, has there been so much talk about this question since
a common position does not exist?
Talk about this issue is an attempt to prepare public opinion for
the fact that an agreement between the two sides is possible, but
there are no agreements.
Then what is your own vision for the future of the city of
We are working on two tracks: The first is UN Resolution 242, which
means an Israeli withdrawal from all the lands it occupied in 1967,
including East Jerusalem. The second is the conviction that no
"Berlin Wall" should divide the two parts of the city.
Consequently, we are talking about a Palestinian capital with open
borders, with freedom of movement between its eastern and western
parts, between the capital of the State of Palestine and that of
the State of Israel; with Palestinian sovereignty in the one and
Israeli sovereignty in the other; and with arrangements
guaranteeing the freedom of movement between the two sides.
Do you believe this can be realistically achieved when Israel
has succeeded in controlling extensive parts of the city and
building settlements there?
Nothing is impossible. There are wills and there are capabilities,
as well as local, international and Arab balance of power. I
believe that we possess enough elements of power to ensure that the
solution I am talking about is practical and achievable.
When you talk about an open city, how will the everyday life of
citizens be run?
As long as I am talking about two independent sovereignties for two
capitals in an open city, the running of Palestinian affairs would
be the prerogative of the Palestinians and that of Israeli affairs
the responsibility of the Israelis.
What about the Old City of Jerusalem which will be the crux of
the problem in final negotiations? Do you see a possibility that
Israel might accept Palestinian sovereignty there?
Israel has absolutely no sovereignty over East Jerusalem at the
moment. What it has is military power. During the French
president's Uacques Chirac] visit to the Old City, for example,
Israel made show of its military control in the city because it
could not display any features of sovereignty there.
What about the holy places?
Those in East Jerusalem are under Palestinian sovereignty,
including the responsibility for access and freedom of worship. The
religious places on the West side lie under Israeli sovereignty,
including the safeguard of access and freedom of worship
Does this mean that the holy sites in East Jerusalem should be
subject to Palestinian sovereignty and those in West Jerusalem to
an Israeli one?
I did not say that. The holy places in West Jerusalem lie in an
area which is under Israeli sovereignty, but the sovereignty over
these places will always belong to the leaders of a particular
religion. The access, however, to these holy places is accomplished
through an area subject to Israeli sovereignty, and it is incumbent
on Israel to ensure this access.
The same applies to the holy sites which lie on land under
Palestinian sovereignty: they should be subject to religious
sovereignty and access to them should be free.
You have often brought up the question of Palestinian property
in West Jerusalem, yet now you are talking about Israeli
sovereignty there. Does this imply that you have given up your
position regarding Palestinian property there?
Property is one thing and sovereignty is another. Palestinians own
70 percent of the property in West Jerusalem, and we have the right
to ask for it. As the Israelis are laying claim to their properties
in East Jerusalem, we, too, are entitled to claim our rights in
Will this issue be placed on the agenda of final-status
negotiations on Jerusalem?
Final negotiations will deal with both parts of Jerusalem, the
eastern and the western, and will not be confined to the future of
East Jerusalem. We want to discuss all the issues pertaining to
Jerusalem and to finalize relations between the two sides.
In talking about negotiations over Jerusalem, do you take into
consideration the participation of representatives of the three
All religious issues will be considered along with other issues,
but the negotiations per se will be conducted between two states.
As for the discussion of religious rights, it is a matter which
will be taken up with the religious representatives.
What about the settlements which were built in East Jerusalem
after 1967? How do you see the solution? Should the settlements be
dismantled or evacuated in order to house Palestinians?
If we want to deal practically with this issue, I think several
good areas exist in West Jerusalem which can be exploited for
building housing for Palestinian returnees.
If Israeli housing in the eastern part of the city is considered a
healthy phenomenon, why should the Palestinians be denied housing
in the West side? By the same token, if it is unacceptable for
Palestinians to have housing in the western part, why should
Israeli housing be allowed to remain in the eastern part?
Does this mean that you are proposing giving up lands in East
Jerusalem in return for lands in West Jerusalem?
I am talking about a solution for the problem of overpopulation.
we think of a practical solution whereby unexploited lands can be
put to use?
You are proposing here a new concept which permits Jews to
reside in Arab Jerusalem; in return, Palestinians would be allowed
residency in West Jerusalem.
If we agreed, as two states, that Israeli citizens had the right to
live in the Arab part, why shouldn't the citizens of the State of
Palestine have the right to reside in Israel? If an agreement is
reached permitting Israelis to live in the Palestinian area, I must
ensure a similar right for the Palestinians, which would allow them
to live on the Israeli side.
Do you see this as a practical solution, acceptable to the
I am looking at the problem from a logical perspective. The
Israelis should also consider it as a good and healthy phenomenon
which will serve peace between the two sides.
With reference to the Beilin/Abu Mazen contacts regarding
Jerusalem, the Israeli media talked about the idea of an
"alternative" Jerusalem for a Palestinian capital. Do you accept
such a proposal as an interim stage?
We do not accept any proposals in this regard. Jerusalem is
Jerusalem. When we talk about Jerusalem, we are talking about the
historical city known as the Old City, and its surroundings. This
is the essence of the problem. The rest is the district of
Jerusalem. We reject any attempt to move the city of Jerusalem to
Then you reject any concessions, even as an interim stage and
for a temporary period?
Why should there be any concessions? We are negotiating on the
basis of UN Resolution 242 which does not mention any concessions.
It does talk, however, about border rectification. According to our
understanding,. rectifications can occur equally to the west or to
What do you mean by rectifications eastward and
There is plenty of land in Jerusalem, like Mallia and what's behind
it, and Abu Ghosh and what's behind it -large expanses of land
where border rectifications can be considered if the Israelis so
desire. When we talk about rectifications, we mean minor ones which
will serve both sides. Major ones are not possible.
Certain Israeli sides have proposed wide border rectifications,
comprising the expansion of the Gaza Strip area in return for the
relinquishment of settlement areas in the West Bank. Do you view
this the way you do border rectification in Jerusalem?
These are Israeli proposals taken up by the media. When they are
placed on the negotiating table, one can then either accept or
reject them, but we won't discuss this subject ahead of