Wednesday, December 03, 2008
13:05 Mecca time, 10:05 GMT      
News Middle East
Interview: Hanan Ashrawi

Ashrawi says Obama's policies indicate he wants
to engage the Palestinians
Hanan Ashrawi, the prominent Palestinian politician, is cautiously optimistic 
about the impact Barack Obama, the US president-elect, and his administration 
will have on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Al Jazeera attended a breakfast round-table with Ashrawi while she was visiting 
Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Below are her responses to the questions that were put to her.

With the new US administration coming in and Hillary Clinton being appointed as 
US secretary of state, in your view are we likely to see a similar stance from 
her towards the Middle East peace process as there was under Bill Clinton's 

Ashrawi: First of all, we must not personalise issues. I don't think it is a 
matter of individuals. It's a matter,  first of all, of the team as a whole and 
their policies. Obama's policies certainly indicate that he wants to engage. He 
doesn't want to postpone things until the end as [Bill] Clinton and Bush did. 
And secondly, he's marking a departure from the Bush administration, which was 
disastrous for everybody.

Now having said that, I must caution against any type of unrealistic optimism. 
There are constants in American policy - such as the strategic alliance between 
the US and Israel - that are not going to be changed by individuals.

Individuals change their own positions and their own policies to serve their 
own interests and their own careers. Hillary Clinton was outspoken about 
Palestinian rights when she was First Lady, but when she ran for office in the 
Senate for New York she did a 180 degree turn and became not just totally 
supportive of Israel, but of the extreme right in Israel and hostile to 

Later on, as she ran for the Democratic party's nomination, she gave a speech 
to Aipac [the Israeli lobby in the US] that could have been written by 
[Benjamin] Netanyahu [leader of the conservative Likud party]. Then afterwards 
she said that she's committed to peace and a two state solution.

The question is how is the whole team going to shape American foreign policy - 
what are the constants and what are their values? How do they define what is in 
Israeli interests?

This is a team that included Jim Jones [Barack Obama's nominee for national 
security adviser] who knows the realities on the ground; and Hillary Clinton 
who also is aware of what's happening; and Barack Obama who doesn't need to be 
educated and who expressed a willingness to engage. What type of engagement, we 
shall see.

We have to engage also - as Palestinians and Arabs - the new administration in 
a serious dialogue; a serious discourse about the mistakes of the past; about 
what is required and about the sense of urgency now that has to dominate.

You cannot put the Palestinian question on the back burner. You cannot leave a 
political vacuum. You have to move rapidly and you have to set limits and 
constraints on Israeli behaviour.

The Arab peace initiative was re-proposed in 2007, what do you think it will 
take for that initiative to be successful?

I think it takes a political will on the part of the Arabs who adopted this 
initiative to translate it into a workable process. If it remains just verbal 
and an initiative that moves from one document to the other and does not see 
concrete steps on the ground, then it's not going to be anything except one 
more initiative and one more document.

It should  be seen for what it is - a unique historical opportunity for a 
solution. If they don't see it as such - if they waste it - then everybody is 
going to pay the price. The Palestinians foremost. So, the Arab initiative 
needs to be the blueprint. It's a simple one and sometimes there is virtue in 

What will the Israeli elections in February mean for the peace process?

It's the right-wing that's on the ascendence. It's the more hardline policies 
that are emerging now. Very clearly Tzipi Livni [the leader of the Kadima 
party] is tempering her own previous public declarations about peace. Creating 
new red lines. The refugees - of course she's always been dead set against the 
right of return. Talking about peace "in the future", talking about Jerusalem 
in more hardline terms. She is competing on a hardline basis.

And she is criticising Ehud Olmert [the Israeli prime minister, who stepped 
down as Kadima leader] for making conciliatory statements. As he is in a 
lame-duck situation, and as he is leaving, he's trying to break a few taboos 
and talk about sharing Jerusalem and returning the land and saying that 'if he 
had time' and 'if he had stayed' then he would have done all these things.

But right now the Israeli public is moving to the right.

There are all sorts of issues - not just the Palestinian issue. The weakness of 
Kadima, corruption. There are domestic issues, the economy and so on. So they 
will make another mistake again by electing [Benjamin] Netanyahu, [leader of 
the Labour party]. Well, of course, you can never be certain about Israeli 
politics, the only thing that is certain is its unpredictability.

Hamas has said it will not recognise the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas as 
Palestinian president after January 9th. What kind of scenarios do you see 
unfolding in the new year?

I think there's lots of talk. If they don't recognise the legitimacy of the 
presidency - the same way they don't recognise the legitimacy of the PLO 
[Palestine Liberation Organisation] - this will further enhance the division.

I think we should have a more constructive positive attitude. We should work 
together and go to a serious dialogue, a substantive dialogue, on the causes of 
this rift with seriousness of intent, goodwill and co-operation to resolve not 
only as a matter of show but as a matter of undoing a lot of the damage that 
was done.

So how can that divide between Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank be 

I think there's a problem because there's a power struggle. The sharing of the 
spoils of power.

We have to repair the Palestinian democracy and we have to create a system 
where differences can be resolved in a democratic, pluralistic, inclusive 
system. Not by divisions and not by talking power but by understanding that 
Palestinian democracy means that we have peaceful means to resolve our 

We need to have a critical dialogue. I like the Egyptian initiative [to 
reconcile Hamas and Fatah], and before it the Yemeni initiative. It's important 
the Arabs play a constructive role and really embrace the Palestinians and move 
to help us resolve our differences.

We've always said we need to unite the West Bank and Gaza - not geographically, 
except through the corridor - but unite them institutionally, unite them 
administratively, unite them legally and politically through a common political 

Of course we are one people, but if the division remains we are in danger of 
having a serious risk that will create two separate systems that in the future 
will become irreconcilable. Right now they are reconcilable and we must work on 

Can we count on you running in any upcoming election?

No. I've decided I'm not running. What you can count on me doing is supporting 
young women, young leaders, the new generation to run for office.

We need the young. People my age should know how to step aside and how to 
provide a system of support and solidarity for the new leaders. We have a 
disastrous situation of a leadership that doesn't know the meaning of a 
graceful exit, but I see lots of hope in the younger generation.
 Source:     Al Jazeera
Feedback     Number of comments : 4
Hugo van Randwyck
Afghanistan     03/12/2008
Interview: Hanan Ashrawi
Hanan Ashrawi could engage the Palestinian refugees and diaspora, in supporting 
their voter registration and voting for their own candidates/representatives, 
so they can have a referendum on solutions. This will also help Palestinian 
unity. Having elections on the sama day as the Israelis, could also get more 
media attention and help voters in other countries relook at their opinions.

Joseph E. Saad (Proud Canadian, Palestinian Refugee)rs
Canada     03/12/2008
Hanan Ashrawi : Interview
As a Palestinian refugee, living in the diaspora, I feel the comments made by 
Hugo van Randwyck, are correct. We need to take the initiative and instill a 
sense of urgency in getting Palestinians worldwide involved in a political 
process. The world, in turn, needs to take as fact the results of any future 
election results, even if Hamas wins overwhelmingly, which I think they will. 
Only by engaging the Palestinian mainstream (in the diaspora & at home), can 
true representation begin. Joseph

j daly
United States     03/12/2008
Hanan Ashrawi should stay
n she is well informed and truthful . She is needed in peace talks

Tanasi Woman
United States     03/12/2008
Hana Ashrawi: interview
Mrs Ashrawi shows the kind of leadership that Palestinians and Israelis both 
need- level-headed, realistic, and willing to treat both sides with respect. 
She thoroughly researches the issues and listens to what is being said. She is 
also widely respected and her counsel has proven to be sound over the years. 
Everyone I know of wants to see Israel and Palestine at peace with themselves 
and each other, and both prospering. I hope it happens in my lifetime, God 

Jusfiq Hadjar gelar Sutan Maradjo Lelo

Allah yang disembah orang Islam tipikal dan yang digambarkan oleh al-Mushaf itu 
dungu, buas, kejam, keji, ganas, zalim lagi biadab hanyalah Allah fiktif.


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