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Interview with Sari Nusseibeh


In an interview sponsored by the Kuwait Al-Qabas newspaper and the Kuwait Center for Strategic and Future studies, Palestinian moderate Sari Nusseibeh discusses the damage done to the Palestinian cause by violence, and calls on the Palestinians to act with restraint in order to support the Israeli peace camp and the candidacy of Amram Mitzna of the Israel Labor Party.

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Discussion with Sari Nusseibeh

The Center for Strategic and Future Studies
Kuwait University

The Center for Strategic and Future Studies is a Kuwaiti think-tank,
affiliated with Kuwait University, and is directed by Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra.

The Center for Strategic and Future Studies and the Kuwaiti Al-Qabas daily
newspaper jointly sponsored a discussion on November 16, 2002 with Dr. Sari
Nusseibeh, PLO Commissioner for Jerusalem Affairs and President of Al-Quds
University. The following is a summary of Dr. Nusseibah remarks.

* * * *

Dr. Nusseibeh projected that the current situation in Palestine will lead to
more violence, extremism, and complications. He saw the current two-year-old
Intifadha to be lacking in vision and goals, unlike the first Intifadha, which
was a delicately planned civil disobedience movement.

The conflict can only be resolved if Palestinians and Israelis resume
negotiations, which must be held on the condition of finding a final
settlement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The negotiations must also
focus on Jerusalem, the Palestinian 'right of return', Israeli settlements,
and borders.

Jews have a long history in Jerusalem and are historically linked to
Palestine. Israelis and Palestinians need to compromise on their claims for
Jerusalem by accepting coexistence. East Jerusalem should be given to the
Palestinians and West Jerusalem should be given to the Israelis. Because
Israel continues to invest in Jerusalem, it will be hard to divide Jerusalem
four years from now and impossible eight years from now.

Israel has invested in Jerusalem's infrastructure, settlements, and
demographics. In essence, Israeli investment has forced a timetable on
negotiations, peace, and the two-state option. Palestinians and Israelis may
not be able afford a two state solution in the future and might be forced to
live in a single state that satisfies neither the Palestinian vision for a
Palestinian state nor the Israeli vision for a Jewish state. Furthermore,
Israel should withdraw to its pre-1967 war borders and clear the land occupied
after the war through settlements. In regards to Palestinian refugees,
Palestinians need to realize that returning all refugees is not feasible.
Instead, Palestinians should adopt a practical solution that guarantees
compensation for some refugees and that guarantees the return of others. Any
Palestinian effort to hammer out a final settlement with Israel must take into
account current Israeli voting trends, which if capitalized upon may provide
an opportunity for peace.

Election polls show that Israeli voters can be divided into three groups: the
right, middle, and left. The right, led by the Likud Party, wants a secure
Israel, even if they do not reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians,
and is supported by 40 percent of voters. The left, led by the Labour Party,
wants peace with the Palestinians and is supported by 40 percent of voters.
The remaining middle ten percent, representing five to ten Knesset seats,
usually alternates between the two positions and is moved by the circumstances
leading to the elections.

It is imperative for Palestinians to work on getting the Israeli left on their
side. This influence can be achieved by reaching an agreement with the left
before the elections. The agreement must clearly state that negotiations
will be held if the left is voted into power, hoping that such a gesture will
attract the alternating 10 percent to side with the left. However, both
parties must commit to the agreement.

If the Palestinians fail at getting a Labour Party dominated government, it is
possible that negotiations will be shelved for the next four years.
Therefore, Palestinians must act in a way that will not force Israelis to vote
for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Dr. Nusseibeh believed that the use of force
in the face of the much more powerful Israel will not bring about any
political gains. Palestinians have the key to use other forms of resistance
in order to bring about withdrawal, independence, and peace.

Center for Strategic and Future Studies
Kuwait University
Tel : (+965) 483-4197
Fax : (+965) 482-4645

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