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 insistence?
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 agreement?
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 settlements?

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 process.

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 stand?
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 Mazen?
Several academic encounters took place, but none came out with any agreement.

But there were reports by the Israeli media about the crystallization of concepts following the Beilin! Abu Mazen contacts.
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 Jerusalem?
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 there.

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 West Jerusalem.

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 religions?
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. Why don't
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 Israelis?
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 another area.

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 the east.

What do you mean by rectifications eastward and westward?
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 negotiations.