Roadmap to Peace: Ghaleb Darabya
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RAY SUAREZ: And now for the Palestinian perspective. We get that from Ghaleb Darabya, the counselor for political and congressional affairs for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Mr. Darabya, Welcome.
Well what did you hear and what did you read in today’s road map that gives the Palestinians some guidance as to whether this is going to be a workable document?
GHALEB DARABYA: Well first of all, Ray, allow me to thank you for inviting me here and as well as taking this opportunity to talk to the American people and also to praise the Bush administration for taking this brave step in issuing the road map immediately, and also send our condolences to the Palestinian families that lost their loved ones yesterday. Five Palestinians were killed in Rafah and also three Israelis were killed in Tel Aviv.
So I would like to take this opportunity to send our condolences. The road map, Ray, really represents the clearest international efforts to bring an end to this viscous cycle of violence, that cost the Palestinians — 2600 people got killed in the past 31 months. Seven hundred Israelis got killed in this vicious cycle. Over 22,000 Palestinians got injured.
So the road map actually presents a clear vision to how to end this cycle of violence, and I totally agree with Colin Powell, which he just said in your report, that the clear mission of this road map is to bring an end to this cycle of violence which is not benefiting anyone.
RAY SUAREZ: When you look at the document, the way it’s been presented what do you see as the main obligations for the Palestinian Authority and for the state of Israel?
GHALEB DARABYA: Well, I really have to disagree with the ambassador of the state of the Israel when he said that it was issued in Dec. 20, last year, and now we are in May, so this is the first thing. Let me remind you of a simple fact, Ray, that since the issuing of the road map, we have been working very extensively in political reform.
We have appointed a world-class, A-class finance minister who managed to consolidate all of the Palestinian accounts into one single account. He presented a budget that is the International Monetary Fund, called it the most transparent budget in the entire globe. This is what we have done.
We have done a constitution. We have been working for five years on this constitution that meets the inspiration of the Palestinian people. American administration officials and American legal experts said this is one of the most democratic constitutions in the region presented so far. Israel itself does not have a constitution – a written constitution — until this moment.
We have appointed a prime minister who is empowered, who is credible, who is here to deliver and as you heard him today, bluntly and clearly saying it in Arabic, we condemn violence; we condemn terrorism. We want to… we want peace. We are the only people in the face of the earth that are still under colonial occupation.
The question of the Palestinian people is about freedom. This is the basic bottom line. Israel is trying to make use of this road map in order to justify its occupation and they want to have peace and occupation at the same time.
RAY SUAREZ: I hear you talking about the Palestinian Authority rising to the challenges laid out by the American government for getting its government in order but you just heard the Israeli ambassador talking about the main challenge for your people being an end to the violence.
GHALEB DARABYA: The challenge is the security aspect, Ray, and this is very important. There is no hope for any improvement if there is no collective, genuine cooperation between the two sides. Unless we change the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people, nothing can be achieved.
We are talking about a nation that 67 percent of its entire nation is under the absolute poverty line living with under $2 a day. We are having a nation that 60 percent of them are unemployed, 22 of our children suffering nutrition diseases. This is the conditions that we live in. There is 163 Israeli checkpoints making people’s life in the West Bank hell separating the West Bank into 300 separate cantons — making people’s lives really miserable.
So security can only be achieved if there is parallels, as you correctly said to the ambassador – in parallels between the two sides, cooperate genuinely in good faith to reach a point. Every single Palestinian police force is being destroyed. The Palestinian security apparatus is completely destroyed by the Israeli people.
I want to give you an example as an American city if it happens in Washington, D.C. There is a fire that took place and aggressor that came attacked every single fire truck, fire station, targeted your firefighters, and a fire broke out in the city and they couldn’t get help. Who are you to blame? Are you going to blame the firefighters or are you going to blame those who destroyed the fire stations? This is exactly the conditions back home.
RAY SUAREZ: The parallelism that I mentioned is the policy of your government, the Palestine National Authority, and was the words used by Yasser Abed Rabbo, but it sounds like also from what the ambassador said, that they’re waiting to see first that commitment to an end to the violence in the occupied areas before they are obliged to come forward with their responses under the road map.
Does that mean that both sides are just going to be stuck where they are right now? You’re saying parallel — them saying phased? People doing acts of confidence building and they’re waiting for you and you waiting for them?
GHALEB DARABYA: I totally agree with you, Ray, and that’s why we insisted it should be a parallel approach. According to the Quartet — this was the Quartet monitoring mechanism that was introduced to us. It has to be done in parallel between us and them and good cooperation between the two sides.
The number one mission of the new government is to disarm and to collect all illegal weapons and this is a challenge. We are up to this challenge and we will carry on. This is number one priority for this new government.
RAY SUAREZ: So you can suppress Hamas?
GHALEB DARABYA: That’s what Abu Mazen said in his speech to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian legislative council; we will collect every single weapon that is illegal. There is only one government, one authority, which is the Palestinian Authority.
RAY SUAREZ: What about the right of return? Israel is saying that allowing 3.9 million Palestinians the right to move back into Israel, a state of just about 6 million people, is just not politically feasible. Does your government understand that? Or is it willing to take a look at that issue?
GHALEB DARABYA: The refugee issue, Ray, as we said, is a final status issue; it is an issue that can only to be solved by the two parties sitting together, number one. Number two, we have to admit that these people have been living in miserable conditions for the past 50 years in Lebanon and Syria and Jordan and some other countries, miserable conditions and one hopes that one day they will return to their homes.
These people are about 5 million Palestinians. We know there is some serious concern — demographical concerns within Israel — and we totally understand that. But we believe that Israel should be legally and morally responsible for the pain and anguish of these people for the past 50 years.
And let’s work together in the scheme where we can find a solution to these people without jeopardizing the security interests of the state of Israel and with bringing hope to these people, who have been living in miserable conditions the past 50 years.
RAY SUAREZ: Ghaleb Darabya, thank you for being with us.
GHALEB DARABYA: It’s my pleasure Ray. Thank you very much for having me.