PA Minister Nabeel Shaath: Right of return and removal of all settlements
The Palestinian vision of statehood
The Jerusalem Times (A Palestinian Publication) 4 July 2002
After a meeting with the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, the Palestinian
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Nabeel Shaath, talking
in an interview conducted by the London-based Al-Hayat ahead of the speech
delivered by U.S, President George W. Bush, spoke at some length about the
Palestinian vision of statehood that he had already presented to the US and
the UN. Shaath said that UN Resolution 242 is no longer a suitable backdrop
for the peace process and should be replaced with a new resolution based on
the Arab initiative advertised in the Beirut summit. Said the minister, We
will not announce an interim or temporary state with no borders or unclear
borders. He also spoke about mechanisms to bridge the gap between the
current situation and a permanent solution.
Shaath went on to say that he did not know the details of the
awaited announcement by US President George Bush, adding that US Secretary
of State Colin Powell was very clear in telling me that he cannot reveal
President Bushís ideas.
The following is a translated version of the interview with
You presented the Palestinian vision of statehood, which as we
understand addresses the permanent status and does not involve the idea of a
temporary state. What details can you give us?
I confirmed the matter of borders. Whether a state is announced
now or after liberation, its borders must be those of 4 June 1967. We will
not accept a state without borders or with borders based on UN Resolution
242, which we believe is no longer suitable. On the contrary, Resolution 242
has come to be used by Israel as a way to procrastinate. As I told the UN
Secretary General, we must move to a new resolution based on the Arab
initiative announced at the Beirut Summit that would become the basis of the
peace process. A Palestinian state should be based on the new resolution.
What you said about Resolution 242 carries the threat of
deleting that which is internationally recognized and accepted.
Resolution 242 could only be deleted if something better were to
come along. If we were to witness the reaching of a new resolution that
adopts the Arab initiative the borders of 1967, a Palestinian state with
Jerusalem as the capital, and resolving the issue of refugees as per
Resolution 194, leading to peace with Israel ó there would be no problem.
What was the US response?
The US listened. However, Colin Powell said he could not say
anything until President Bush reveals his plan.
Do you want a new basis for the peace process before the
proposed international peace conference?
Not necessarily, but we refuse to declare an interim state or a
state without borders or with unclear borders. The main idea is to follow
the borders of 4 June 1967, which, incidentally, is what Syria has fought
for over many years. We are on the threshold of a final solution, which
cannot be based on something unclear. If Bush wished to present something
new, he would have to say that borders should follow the borders of 1967,
Powell mentioned UN Resolutions and the Arab initiative as the
backdrop of the peace process, saying they make up the basis of negotiating
borders. Is the idea of a temporary state utterly rejected?
I believe Powell himself does not understand the idea clearly.
What is the Palestinian stance regarding the idea?
To us, there is no such thing as a temporary state. There is an
interim government, but no interim state. A state is land and a people
living on it and a respectable authority. We would accept no less than the
borders of 1967. Without worldwide recognition of those borders, we would
not declare a state.
The Egyptian President presented to the US the idea of an
interim Palestinian state on the condition that a timeframe for declaring a
permanent state be determined. Are you in disagreement with President
The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher, made it clear that
President Mubarak was not talking about an interim state.
What did [President Mubarak] talk about, then?
He talked about an independent Palestine. The word ëinterimí was
introduced by Powell in an interview with the London-based Al-Haya
newspaper. The only temporary thing about the Palestinian state is that
parts of it are occupied, which would end were a permanent status agreement
to be reached. Otherwise, everything is permanent: sovereignty,
independence, and freedom.
Is this the basic idea of the Peres-Abu Al-Ala'a plan?
No. Abu Al-Alaía spoke with Peres only about the borders of
1967, and Peres refused, saying Israel meant floating borders on 40 percent
of the land. We will not accept less than the borders of 1967. We are keen
to reach a final resolution, and we reject the idea of accepting an interim
solution. We will not accept a partial state.
What did you mean by ìmechanisms to bridge the gap from now
until the final solution?î
The mechanisms are the international conference and real
pressure for Israeli withdrawal to the borders of 28 September 2000. If
Israeli troops were to withdraw and an international conference be held, it
would plug the gap until the elements of a final settlement are available.
That would only be buying time.
There is no such thing as buying time. We are faced with a very
difficult situation. We do not have to remain under occupation until a final
settlement is reached. Who says Israel should be allowed to continue to
occupy land whose liberation we have already negotiated? Who would guarantee
that Israeli occupation would not return if there were no international
forces? What would force Israel to negotiate if an international conference
was not held? These are not tools to buy time, they are tools to reach a
Back to the mechanisms, what mechanisms are there to fulfill the
We want a Security Council resolution that adopts the Arab
initiative as the basis of the peace process. We want a peace conference
that begins with defining a complete framework based on that resolution. We
want an international force to protect the Palestinians until progress is
made. We want real pressure to end Israeli occupation. We want immense help
to rebuild our institutions.
Did you sense a US readiness to accept this direction?
No, I did not. Powell seemed sympathetic and willing, but was
very clear in saying that he cannot reveal what President Bush will say. The
history of US bias [in favor of Israel] makes it difficult to be optimistic.
What options are available to the Palestinians as Sharon strives
to negate whatever the Security Council or other parties would reach, partly
by erecting a fence separating Israel from Palestinian territories?
Everything we are doing pressures Sharon. The Palestinians still
stand strong and the leadership has conceded nothing, although President
Arafat has been besieged thrice and could have been killed. Although the
Palestinian people are experiencing their most difficult time, not one
political concession has been made.
We must make use of the Arab initiative and lend it
international standing through the Security Council, which would pressure
the Israelis. If we could secure international forces, we would add pressure
on Sharon. A favorable speech from President Bush would also add pressure.
Why are you returning to Washington? Do you carry the authority
to exchange the right of return for removing all Israeli settlements?
No, there will be no political concessions and we hold true to
our stances. The right of return does not replace the right of freeing the
land; the two go hand-in-hand. I am returning to Washington because my
presence there when President Bush reveals his plan is very important.