Buenos Aires – Sunday, March 17 of 2002
SUHAIL AKEL, PALESTINIAN AMBASSADOR IN ARGENTINA
We are acting in legitimate self-defense (view)
After an outrageous increase in violence in Middle East, the American envoy Anthony Zinni, the latest UN resolution –1397-, which accepts the existence of a Palestinian State, and the Saudi peace initiative are on the scene. The Ambassador of the Palestine National Authority in Argentina, Suhail Akel, had a conversation with Pagina/12 about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the present context, informing that a possible US attack on Iraq “contrasts with the Saudi peace plan”.
-What are your expectations on Anthony Zinni’s mission?
-We expect that the United States puts the Security Council resolution 1397 into practice through its envoy. This gives rise to the recognition of an independent Palestinian state based on the application of George Tenet’s plan in order to sit around a dialogue table with Israel, sign a peace accord from state to state and definitely eradicate violence.
-Do you believe that Palestinians are in a position to guarantee a cease-fire?
-Israel is the one which has to guarantee the cease-fire, because it is the occupant power. Israel is the one which is occupying the Palestinian cities with its tanks, its F16 warplanes and its Apache helicopters. Two days ago, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon put 25,000 soldiers in Palestinian territories. It means that Sharon does not want to achieve peace because this military discharge to re-occupy the territories took place a few hours before the Security Council urged Israel to withdraw its illegal occupation. If Israel puts an end to violence, we are prepared to leave any policy which prejudices the accord.
-But according to you, is this peace intention compatible with the attack on Israeli tanks?
-Those Israeli tanks were located in foreign territory; otherwise, there had not been an attack. They were destroying all things which were in its way: cars, houses, human beings. Imagine this is an action in legitimate self-defense.
-Considering the attack on tanks and the use of Qassam-2, doesn’t it mean an increasing in violence by Palestinians?
-It depends on the Israeli determination of establishing peace or war. We are not in the way of war: we have no army, no military power, no warrior convictions. We are not the ones who are occupying Israel. Israel is forcing us to put forward this policy.
A victim: “Iraq is not precisely an aggressive country. Iraq was practically demolished in the 1991 war; up to now it has been a victim of the American boycott”.
-Recently, there have been an increase in Palestinian attacks within Israel, are these actions also developed in legitimate self-defence?
-There were also over 1,000 Israeli soldiers who gave the Israeli Defence Minister a document where they stated that they have no intentions of serving in the Palestinian territories. They realised that they were not sent there in order to guarantee the security of Israel, but to definitely subdue the Palestinian people.
Obviously, we do not agree with any civilian deaths. But there have been an average of 40 deaths a day since middle January. The Israeli forces have killed these Palestinians.
-How could you explain the fact that the Palestinian society started to support the Right? Does the increasing in Palestinian attacks produce an effect on it?
-I have not noticed an Israeli society supporting the Right. On the contrary, there have been an increase in progressive movements which carry out demonstrations against Sharon and urge him to withdraw the Israeli army from its occupations. They also urge Sharon to allow Israeli soldiers to have the right not to serve in the Palestinian territories. For example, I am referring to the demands of the movement Peace Now. This movement together with other 300 pacifists met with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on February 12 this year, breaking the Israeli siege. After the meeting, they made public their idea of preparing the minutes in order for Sharon to be convicted of war criminal.
-Now the United States exerts more pressure on Israel, wouldn’t be a naive action to ignore the fact that Bush administration must have some personal interests in it?
-We approve of the American proposal in the Security Council and the envoy Zinni. However, we have to pay attention to the United States’ policy because we do not want to be victims of the new American military strategy since the United States is on the verge of war and it is looking for allies in the area. This was noticed before the attacks on Afghanistan. Today it is noticed before the attempts to bombard Iraq.
-With regard to this, how do you analyse the possibility of an American attack on Iraq this year?
-It would be a great mistake, because Iraq is not precisely an aggressive country. Iraq was practically demolished in the 1991 war; up to now it has been a victim of the American boycott. This possibility is not compatible with the Saudi plan to recognise the Israel State in case Israel recognises the Palestine State with East Jerusalem as its capital. An attack on Irak would not be intelligent because it would close again the Arab world.
-What do you think of the Saudi peace plan?
-The Saudi proposal is really satisfactory, based on the fact that if we want to achieve peace, it has to be a peace concerning Israel and Palestine, but also the Arab world. It must be a global peace, without intermediate conflicts. And from that peace, we must promote a future common market in the region. Firstly, a Palestinian-Jordan-Israeli confederation which might become a community which may be equal to EU, providing a border flexibility
-What do you think of UN resolution?
-I find it positive. We expect that Israel does not turn it into ink over paper and the United States controls its fulfilment in an effective way.
Photo: Akel: “Israel is the one which must guarantee a cease-fire”. The Israeli tanks which exploded were located in foreign territory”.