Senior Palestinian Official Backtracks on “End” of Israel Remarks
JERUSALEM– A senior Fatah official, speaking on pan-Arabic satellite network Al Jazeera this Friday, seemingly reiterated the PLO’s continuing support for its 1974 “phased plan” for the destruction of Israel, undercutting the Palestinian Authority’s effort’s to shift blame for the lack of a political settlement onto Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative government.
On the same day that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke at the United Nations, declaring that Palestine has been under occupation for 63 years, essentially delegitimizing the existence of Israel, Abbas Zaki, a member of the Central Committee of the President’ ruling Fatah faction, stated to an audience of millions of viewers that there is a “greater goal” beyond that of Palestinian independence based on the two state solution.
He explained that when Palestinians “say that the settlement should be based upon these  borders, President [Abbas] understands, we understand, and everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go.”
Further clarifying what he meant by a greater goal, the senior Palestinian leader disclosed that he believes that should Netanyahu, who he termed a “scumbag,” pull out of Jerusalem, dismantle the West Bank security barrier and withdraw all settlers from the territories, Israel will cease to exist.
“What will become of Israel” should it initiate a withdrawal, he asked rhetorically. “It will come to an end.”
According to the phased plan, the aim of any Palestinian national authority would be to complete “the liberation of all Palestinian territory…as a step along the road to comprehensive Arab unity.” This is the plan to which Abbas’ predecessor Yasser Arafat referred when he told Radio Monte Carlo in 1993 that the Oslo Accords would “be a basis for an independent Palestinian state in accordance with the Palestine National Council resolution issued in 1974.”
Zaki’s comments echo previous statements that he made as the Palestinian Authority’s representative in Lebanon. During a 2008 interview with NBN TV he noted that the PLO had “not changed its platform even one iota” and that it “proceeds through phases, without changing its strategy.”
In a statement that expanded on the theme he reiterated in Friday’s interview, Zaki said that “when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem, the Israeli ideology will collapse in its entirety, and we will begin to progress with our own ideology, Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine.”
The senior Palestinian leader made a similar statement in 2009 as well, when he told a reporter that Israel “will collapse” as a result of the implementation of the two-state solution.
“What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse.”
However, speaking with the western press in English, Zaki’s comments took on a decidedly more moderate tone, echoing standard Palestinian talking points.
Speaking with the Algemeiner Journal by telephone, Zaki evaded the issues raised by his statements about a “greater goal,” saying that “the main task is to have an independent state in the borders of 1967 with Jerusalem as the capital…and [to] solve the problem of refugees and in the same time to have our right to make democracy to [gain] self determination for the Palestinian people.”
When asked directly if he had been referring to the so-called phased plan, Zaki stated, somewhat unclearly, that “it depends on whether Israel is willing to deal with us as a state in the 1967 borders because this is what we have signed on since Oslo.”
Zaki also spun his comments regarding the end of Israel, reframing them to refer to the end of Israeli occupation of the disputed territories. An Israeli withdrawal, he asserted “will mean the end of the Israeli occupation, not Israel as a whole state within the 1948 borders.”
He was also adamant in his support for President Abbas’ assertion that the Palestinians do not intend to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority “will not,” he averred, “recognize Israel as Jewish. We need it as a Palestinian state and an Israeli one, not a Jewish state.”
Explaining his reasoning, he compared a Israel as a Jewish state to a Muslim Palestinian state. Such a state would be contrary to democratic principles, he announced, despite the fact that the current form of Palestine’s draft constitution enshrines Islamic law as the basis for the nascent country’s legal code.
“I deal with Israel, not in religion. Jewish is different, Zionist is different.”
“Palestinians can live with [both] Jewish and Christian,” he said in a comment at odds with that of Palestinian envoy to Washington Maen Rashid Areikat, who recently told reporters that Jews and homosexuals would not be allowed to live in any future Palestinian state.
However, Zaki stated, the “ambassador is wrong because if any Jewish [sic] want to be Palestinian and [accept] the rule of Palestine, why not, but not Israel[is], not settlers.”
However, a spokesman for Zaki called the Algemeiner Journal soon after this interview to qualify the Central Committee member’s point, saying that Zaki “has not heard of such a statement” by Areikat.
Returning to the issue of recognition of the Jewish character of the state of Israel, Zaki explained that “the main problem would be about the 1948 Arab Israelis.” According to Zaki, recognition of Israel would be tantamount to endorsing, and even causing, ethnic cleansing.
“We do not have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” he said, “because we will be renouncing or we will be taking the right [to live in Israel] away [from Israeli Arabs] as well as the right of refugees [to return to their homes]. It is not up to us to make that call or decision. It is not our right to change the self determination right for people.”
Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, he asserted, “would mean the 1948 people that live in Israel right now will have to give up Israel and come in to the West Bank and Gaza, or just get out of Israel.”