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| The Middle East |

The Diplomatic View: Palestine


The Head of the General Delegation of Palestine (GDP) to
Ireland, His Excellency, Dr Hikmat Ajjurri speaks to SIGNAL
about the situation in his fractured country and how the
Palestinians can forge a viable, independent and peaceful state.

Mr Ambassador, could you describe the relationship at present


between the General Delegation of Palestine (GDP) controlled area
of Palestine and the Hamas controlled region of Gaza? Are there
common goals which you feel are being addressed and do you feel
that the Hamas modus operandi has usurped international opinion
about the Palestinian issue?
I think that the impact of the Hamas issue has been overstated.
The fact that Hamas were elected in Gaza does not alter the basic
fact that all Palestinians desire to have their own country. This is
what Hamas also wants, but it does not know how to pursue this aim
in a sensible manner. As a faction, Hamas is less experienced in
the workings of democracy and international relations and they have the path he is following. We know he is
completely failed to sustain the momentum which led them to victory not ready to take the necessary steps.
in the election. The moratorium on settlement building
Although we know that Hamas does not recognise the state was not, as was recently described by the
of Israel, they should have honoured the work of the previous Israeli Ambassador, a “one time confidence
administration, the Fatah government, towards peace. The mandate building measure to encourage the start
given to Hamas by the people of Gaza ended in January of this year, of peace negotiations.” According to the
why have they refused to hold elections? They have refused because 2003 Road Map1 for negotiations, which
they know they will not be re-elected. They effectively conducted Israel accepted, they are required to freeze
a military coup in Gaza and have made no meaningful progress all settlement activity, including natural
towards a better Palestinian State. Essentially, since they will not Below: A growth of existing settlements, prior to
hold the elections, they are ruling by force. They have also fallen Palestinian boy the start of negotiations and to maintain
into the trap of following the way of the Israelis, which is the way of throwing stones the freeze throughout the negotiations.
force. The game of violence and power is an Israeli game. Hamas at an Israeli This is also forbidden under international
did not renew the truce with Israel, which expired on December 19th Merkava tank. law, specifically article 49, paragraph 6,
2008, because they wanted to provoke Israel into a military reaction
which would then turn international opinion against the Israelis
and therefore bolster the Hamas regime. That’s an exceptionally
dangerous tactic when you consider the lives of 1.5 million Gazans.
But there was provocation on both sides. On November 4th 2008,
Israel conducted an incursion into Gaza which killed 6 Hamas
militants; this was when the truce was supposed to still be in force.
I also think that Israel was eager to repair the damage done to the
reputation of its much vaunted military during the 2006 conflict with
Lebanon. What it did during operation ‘Cast Lead’ in 2008/9 was a
crime.

What are your thoughts on the recent talks and their apparent
collapse?
The recent collapse of the talks highlights how the Israeli
administration operates. Jack Katzenell, Associated Press writer,
quoted Prime Minister Netanyahu on 17th January 2002 as saying
“A Palestinian State must never be established”. And that is exactly

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

of the 4th Geneva Convention, which states: “the occupying power use the pretext of the fact that Arabs do
shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into not serve in the Israeli Defence Forces. I
the territory it occupies.” The UN Security Council has also made don’t think this is a convincing reason. The
this clear in resolutions 446, 452 and 465 which all demand the situation, however, has improved since
cessation and removal of settlements. Israel has completely refused the Oslo Accords2, prior to that it was very
to resume even a partial freeze of this illegal activity as required bad. Going forward, the key word is trust.
by the Road Map. Because of this defiance of world opinion, the Should there be an acceptable solution to
Palestinian leadership has reluctantly decided to reconsider its the ongoing conflict then I do expect things
participation in direct negotiations with Israel. to improve. I expect and hope matters will
improve at every level because otherwise,
In relation to the GDP, do you actively represent the Palestinians if mistrust remains, the prevailing Israeli/
that are living within the 1948 Israel and what is your interaction Palestinian narrative will continue and there
with that community? will be no peace in the Holy Land. If there
Our relationship is like that of any nation with its Diaspora. We is no peace in the Holy Land then there
are part of a different state. The Palestinians in Israel are known as will be no peace in the world. The terrorist
Israeli Arabs and they are citizens of that country, they carry Israeli atrocities of the last decade are all collateral
passports. There is no doubt that there is discrimination against to this conflict. I think the United States,
these people, who represent approximately 20% of the Israeli despite Israel’s best efforts, are starting
population. The benefit that they do have is in the elections they to recognise this. An extremist like Osama
can make their voice heard. There are politicians in the Knesset, the Bin Laden dares to speak on behalf of the
Israeli parliament, who represent the Palestinian view. They have Palestinians, saying that unless they feel
also been very supportive of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. safe in their own land then nobody else will
This is openly accepted by all sides. That said there has never feel safe in theirs. What gave him the right
been proper Arab representation, at Ministerial level, in any Israeli to speak on my behalf? These people are
Government. This is part of the tactics of discrimination. The Israelis disgracing the name of Islam and it makes
me very angry.

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As a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian wish to stay and become Palestinian citizens in a nation governed
issue, would you favour a single state by the Palestinian Authority then they would be welcome to do that.
with equal citizenship for Palestinians and However, I believe that it’s a hypothetical question as the Israelis
Israelis or would you favour a two-state would want to leave.
solution?
The two state solution is the only viable What is your vision for the future of the city of Jerusalem?
option; there is no question about that. The Jerusalem is Palestine; there can be no Palestine without
Palestinian Authority has accepted this as Jerusalem. Also, for 1.5 billion Muslims, Jerusalem is home to our
our main objective. The problem is that the third holiest shrine. Palestinians are considered by Muslims to be
aggressive seizure of land by the Israelis the guardians of these holy places and this holy city. Jerusalem must
will leave no room for the second state, our be the diplomatic capital of Palestine and under our jurisdiction. If
state, to exist. Israeli settlements and the we lose Jerusalem we lose our identity. We also accept that there
wall they have built will effectively confiscate are Jewish holy places in the city, such as the ‘Wailing Wall’ and we
40-45% of Palestine. This is unacceptable. are ready to negotiate to have these places under Jewish jurisdiction.
The founding father of the Israeli state,
David Ben Gurion, said; “if I was an Arab In a two State solution what would your vision for the Palestinian
leader I would never make peace with Israel. state be in terms of economic viability, security, foreign policy and
That is natural, we have taken their country.” sustainability - how would you hope to see it developing over the
That said we have reached a stage where we next decade?
realise that peace is the only solution that In the future we have to consider the possibilities of being
matters for our people so that is what we friends and partners with our Israeli neighbours, we have to reach
are pursuing. agreement at all levels, economically and politically. At present, it is
The ‘Arab Initiative’, signed in Beirut in very hard to grow a state when your state is under occupation. The
2002 and endorsed by Arab nations ever system of checkpoints disrupts every facet of Palestinian life. It is
since, offers a normalisation of relations killing the potential for our businesses to grow, for people to get their
with Israel once the territory taken in the produce to markets where they can sell it. Oranges, strawberries,
1967 conflict3 is returned. They have taken flowers, olives, the Palestinians grow the very best of these and
22% more of our territory and we have in the past we were very successful exporters. We have resources
already given more than they deserve. and in particular we have human resources. We are an intelligent,
United Nations resolution 1814 granted educated people. The economic viability of Palestine depends on
over 56% of the territory to Israel, which ending the occupation. We don’t need support, or handouts, we will
only had 30% of the population. Since this create our own future in our own country if we are given the proper
resolution in 1948 Israel has managed to opportunity. Fundamentally we need to link our two regions, so a
convince the world that they are continually Below: Palestinian 36km corridor between the West Bank and Gaza, the two parts of
threatened by their neighbours. We are only security forces on our Palestinian State, is an economic imperative. We have a lot to
asking that the Israelis return the territory parade. contribute to the region.
they took following the 1967 war, a conflict
they started with a pre-emptive strike
after they claim they were provoked by the
Egyptian maritime blockade and the speech
by President Nasser to the United Nations.
The 1967 Palestine borders are what are
acceptable to us and with agreement on
this, we could have peace.

Do you harbour genuine hopes for the


repatriation of the ‘1948’ refugees?
This is an impossible question to answer
until occupation ends. With economic
growth there will be more jobs and more
opportunities. The Palestinian Diaspora
abroad makes a very large contribution
to our country. They will not all return, we
know that, but they all have the right to
choose. If Israelis currently living within what
constitutes the 1967 borders of Palestine

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tried conflict for so long, is it not now time


to try peace? I believe that the actions of
the Israelis will not fool the world forever.
Its behaviour is becoming more and more
that of a state which acts with impunity and
irrationality. Why are they refusing to meet
EU Foreign Ministers? What gave them the
right to forge passports of other countries,
including Ireland, in order to carry out
assassinations? If the EU and the US do not
exert continuous pressure, then the Israelis
will continue to act with impunity. We believe
that if negotiations fail, like the recent
ones, then a solution should be imposed.
The United Nations should do this. We have
been talking since 1991; the high point was
The Israelis have said that the West Bank Wall has been a huge under the Israeli leadership of Yitzhak Rabin
success in security terms. What is your opinion of it and what it and the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords
represents for your people? in 1993. Rabin was a visionary and he was
Was this wall really built for security purposes? The answer is assassinated in 19955 for this. I have such
no. It was built to confiscate land and to ensure the exodus of respect for him and what he tried to do.
Palestinian people because the wall separates Palestinian people Since then, things have gone backwards.
from their farms, from water resources, from schools and public We need new impetus because currently
facilities. Why is it not built along the 1949 Armistice Line or ‘Green’ the Israelis are not sincere about wanting
line? Why is it built between 100 metres and 8,000 metres inside peace. Their former Prime Minister Yitzhak
my land? I hope this wall will never be completed. The security Shamir said, ‘if we are given the chance we
of Israelis is a very legitimate concern. Hamas have realised will talk to the Palestinians for ten years
that inhuman methods of attack, such as suicide bombings, are and give them nothing.’ That’s exactly what
unacceptable. It is an indiscriminate, random method and we totally is happening. This is the Likud way and
condemn it. The killing of innocent people is always wrong and is Netanyahu follows it. Israel uses the issue
a crime. We hope that Hamas will also stop their indiscriminate of external threats to the state to hold Israeli
rocket firing because all it is doing is playing into Israeli hands, society together. There are deep divisions
allowing them to respond with tactics like this wall and also military within Israeli society which will rupture
responses. The Israelis know how to provoke us. David Ben Gurion eventually. If the Israelis were serious about
also said that it “is very important that Israel knows how to provoke peace they would return the Golan Heights
the Arabs into provoking us.” Israeli propaganda is also a hugely to Syria and there could be peace between
powerful weapon. It is used at every level and at every opportunity. the two countries tomorrow. Why do we
In the days immediately after the beginning of the ‘Cast Lead’ Arabs have to give them our land to please
operation, the former Israeli Ambassador to Dublin had an article in them? They have the power; they have the
the Irish Times to justify the war. They were well prepared for this.” most powerful army, that is not in dispute.
The Israeli nuclear programme, which they
If we look longer term, where would you hope to see your country refuse to discuss, continues to destabilise
and Israel in the next 15-20 years in terms of development and the whole region and yet the focus is on Iran
progress towards a more secure and equal environment? and their programme. I am not a supporter
I am confident in the progress of Palestine as an independent of the Iranian President Ahmadinejad but
state because we are right and they, the Israelis, are wrong. We have why is it only their nuclear programme which
history and morality on our side. The world has begun to listen to our is under such international scrutiny. Why
view, despite the best efforts of the Israelis. I think there is also a will Israel not sign the non-proliferation
sense of guilt on the part of the US and the EU because they have treaty? Why will nobody ask them about
ignored us for so long. Now, our struggle is in front of people every the deteriorating condition of their reactor
day, new media has made the world a very small place and what is at Daymona which threatens all around it?
happening can no longer be kept away from people. Also, there is These are all questions that Israel needs
a sense of exasperation with the situation. Many wars have come Above: The to answer but there has not been enough
and gone, the cold war itself has ended, there have been huge controversial collective political will from around the world
geopolitical shifts on the world stage and yet always, for over half a Israeli security to even ask these questions. That must
century, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict has endured. We have barrier. change.

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Footnotes
1.
The “road map” for peace is a plan to resolve the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict proposed by a “quartet” of international
entities: the United States, the European Union, Russia,
What is the relationship like between and the United Nations. The principles of the plan, originally
Ireland and the Palestinian Authority and drafted by U.S. Foreign Service Officer Donald Blome, were first
how have you found your own time here as outlined by U.S. President George W. Bush in a speech on June
Ambassador? 24, 2002, in which he called for an independent Palestinian
Recently our President, Mahmoud state living side by side with Israel in peace: In exchange for
Abbas, was in Ireland and he gave me statehood, the road map requires the Palestinian Authority to
documentation of citizenship to give to an make democratic reforms and abandon the use of violence.
Irish citizen who was on the Gaza flotilla that Israel, for its part, must support and accept the emergence of
was attacked by the Israelis. We want to a reformed Palestinian government and end settlement activity
repay our Irish friends for their support and of the Gaza Strip and West Bank as the terrorist threat is
solidarity and offering them citizenship is a removed.
way of doing that.
The Palestinian Foreign Service is still 2.
The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles
growing. I am appointed as an Ambassador on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of
of Palestine to Ireland. But since I head the Principles (DOP) was a milestone in the ongoing Palestinian-
General Delegation of Palestine I presented Israeli conflict, one of the major continuing issues within
credentials to the Minister of Foreign the wider Arab-Israeli conflict. It was the first direct, face-
Affairs rather than to the President here. to-face agreement between the government of Israel and
But things are changing, recently Spain, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). It was intended
France and Portugal have recognised our to be the framework for future negotiations and relations
General Delegations as diplomatic missions between the Israeli government and Palestinians, within which
and our Ambassadors in those countries all outstanding “final status issues” between the two sides
present their credentials to the heads of would be addressed and resolved. Negotiations concerning
state there. I hope Ireland will follow and I, the agreements, an outgrowth of the Madrid Conference of
or my successor, can do the same here. I’m 1991, were conducted secretly in Oslo, Norway, hosted by the
very lucky to be in Ireland. This is a unique Fafo institute, and completed on 20 August 1993; the Accords
country; Ireland upholds its values and is were subsequently officially signed at a public ceremony in
led by its values on the world stage. Ireland Washington, DC on 13 September 1993, in the presence of PLO
generally has always been supportive of chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
our cause. Indeed your former President and US President Bill Clinton. The documents themselves were
– Eamon DeValera – was one of the few to signed by Mahmoud Abbas for the PLO, foreign Minister Shimon
vote against the partition which created Peres for Israel, Secretary of State Warren Christopher for the
Israel in 1948. This country believes in United States and foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev for Russia.
peace, you have never sent your soldiers to
war, you have only sent them in the service 3.
The 1967 Arab-Israeli War or the Third Arab-Israeli War was
of peace. Ireland, historically, knows what fought between June 5 and June 10, 1967, by Israel and the
it is like to live under occupation. Ireland neighbouring states of Egypt [known then as the United Arab
cannot change the world but at least it Republic (UAR)], Jordan, and Syria. The outcome was a swift
raises its voice to criticise oppression. and decisive Israeli victory. At the war’s end, Israel had taken
This support is greatly appreciated by the effective control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from
Palestinian people and I am very proud to be Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the
an Ambassador to this country. Golan Heights from Syria.

4.
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was a
resolution adopted on 29 November 1947 by the General
‘‘Recently our President, Mahmoud Assembly of the United Nations. Its title was United Nations
Abbas, was in Ireland and he gave me General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of
Palestine. The resolution recommended the termination of the
documentation of citizenship to give to an British Mandate for Palestine and the partition of the territory
Irish citizen who was on the Gaza flotilla into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

that was attacked by the Israelis. We 5.


The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin took place on November
want to repay our Irish friends for their 4, 1995 at 21:30, at the end of a rally in support of the Oslo
Accords at the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv. The assassin,
support and solidarity and offering them Yigal Amir, a right-wing religious Zionist strenuously opposed
citizenship is a way of doing that.’’ Rabin’s peace initiative and particularly the signing of the Oslo
Accords.

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