Interview with Ziad AbuZayyad on Bahrain Workshop

“This Morning” with Arieh Golan, Kan Bet (Israeli Public Radio), May 21, 2019

Arieh Golan: Lawyer and journalist Ziad AbuZayyad, formerly the Minister for Prisoner Affairs in the Palestinian Authority, good morning to you. 

Ziad AbuZayyad: Good morning, I was Minister for Jerusalem Affairs. 

Golan: For Jerusalem Affairs. I’m sorry about that mistake. 

Why shouldn’t the Palestinians come to the Bahrain economic workshop? Why do they reject it when there is a possibility of receiving investments from many different sources in the world which will improve the lives of the Palestinians? 

AbuZayyad: Look, it’s a big mistake to think that the problem with the Palestinians is their standard of living. This mistake was one of the major failures of the Labor Party in the 70’s and 80’s, up until the outbreak of the First Intifada. The problem is not economic; the problem is not the standard of living.The problem is a problem of occupation and national aspirations of the Palestinian people. 

Golan: But the message that is coming from Washington is: “Let’s begin with economic affairs and then move on to the political issues.” 

AbuZayyad: But Washington has sent many messages that prove that they have no intention of resolving the Palestinian problem as a political problem, beginning with moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and saying that Jerusalem is no longer on the table and continuing other measures against the Palestinians such as liquidating UNRWA, cutting aid from the PA, and lately with the recognition of the annexation of the Golan Heights. 

Golan: Okay, the Golan Heights is not a Palestinian matter. It’s a matter for the Israelis and the Syrians. 

AbuZayyad: No, no, no. It’s a confirmation for Netanyahu that he can also annex parts of the West Bank and also of the U.S. policy and attitude regarding the refugee problem. 

Golan: Actually, Trump said that Israel would also have to make some difficult decisions when the political issue arrives, which appears to be a hint 

AbuZayyad: We don’t eat or live on words; we see facts in the field.If he stops the aid to the Palestinian Authority, if he takes Jerusalem, and if he enables Netanyahu to annex parts of the West Bank, all of the signs and signals are there. 

Golan: He did not yet confirm Netanyahu’s right to annex anything in the West Bank. 

AbuZayyad: No, no, we are following Trump’s and Netanyahu’s behavior and way of functioning, and we see the direction that the Israeli government is going in. They’re going backwards from Israel’s commitments in the Oslo peace process. There is a need to give a clear message -- a clear and unquestionable message -- that there is a desire and an intention to end the occupation and resolve the political problem, . If they say that all the previous efforts have failed and that they will not repeat them, this means that they will not return to the Clinton Parameters and the matter of two states for two peoples. If two states for two peoples is not the American plan, what are they talking about and what do they want from the Palestinian people? 

Golan: Maybe you will be surprised! After all, we do not know the details of the plan, and maybe in the end you will be surprised. 

AbuZayyad: But there is no plan. 

Golan: There is a plan, and it will be published gradually and published soon. 

AbuZayyad: No, a plan without Jerusalem is not a plan. There won’t be peace if the solution doesn’t include Jerusalem. Once I wrote that the Americans have the right to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to say to the Palestinians that East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine, and then let’s talk about the details of the plan, but they aren’t saying this. 

Golan: But the fact is that they transferred their embassy to West Jerusalem. 

AbuZayyad: And they closed the consulate which dealt with the affairs of East Jerusalem and of the Palestinians. All of their steps are going in a very clear direction. Listen, the American ambassador to Israel (Golan: David Friedman) is the Israeli ambassador to Israel. He’s even the ambassador of the settlers to Israel. He doesn’t represent the traditional policy of the United States; he represents the policy of the settlers. So how do you want us to express confidence in the steps of the U.S.? We heard all of the declarations coming from Bahrain in the last year, and they are all in the direction of normalization with Israel.We are not against normalization if it takes place within the context of a solution that will establish normal relations between the two sides. We want there to be normal relations between us and the Israelis but in the framework of mutual respect, mutual recognition between two states and two peoples. 

Golan: I want to ask you a question from another direction. It is totally clear that if we begin with negotiations about a Palestinian state -- what you call “the end of the occupation” --they may explode at the very beginning. Perhaps from that point of view, the tactical point of view, it’s better to begin with easier questions like economic aid and other matters, where major differences of opinion aren’t anticipated, and then afterwards use that infrastructure to create political negotiations, which will be much more difficult. 

AbuZayyad: There would be logic to what you say if the Americans hadn’t taken the steps that preceded the process, if they hadn’t taken the steps connected to Jerusalem and connected to refugees, to aid, and to the settlements. If they hadn’t done all of those things and had said “come, let’s speak about economics and about politics at the same time,” maybe it could have worked. They shot themselves in the foot and lost the trust of the Palestinian people. We are weak and we don’t have the strength to fight the U.S. or Israel, but we have the strength and the will to say no, and if we say no, nothing can move. 

Golan: But if you can’t beat them, maybe you should join them. 

AbuZayyad: No, we still have the strength to say no, and if we say no, nothing can move forward. 

Golan: And also nothing good will happen to the Palestinians from that no. 

AbuZayyad: In the long term, we are here and we will remain here, and anyone who deludes himself that he can maintain a Greater Israel, an Israeli kingdom, is only fooling himself. In the final analysis, he will find himself facing the reality of the Palestinian people, whose numbers will be greater than the numbers of the Jews in the area between the river and the sea. 

Golan: We will suffice with those words, lawyer and journalist Ziad AbuZayyad. I want to thank you as someone who was Minister for Jerusalem Affairs in the Palestinian Authority. Good morning to you. 

AbuZayyad: Good morning to you, and thank you. 

This interview was translated to English from the transcription of the original interview that was carried out in Hebrew. For those who understand Hebrew, here is the link to the original program: It’s on 21 May at 1:32:32

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