A PALESTINIAN VIEW
Security for freedom
an interview with Diana Buttu
Diana Buttu is a lawyer and serves as an advisor to the Palestine Liberation
Organization with the Negotiations Support Unit.
bitterlemons: How did United States envoy William Burns
present the roadmap to the Palestinian side?
Buttu: It was done in a meeting outlining elements that the United States
believes are important in order to get on a track of negotiations. It was
not done through any sort of consultative means. In fact, it was done by
telling the Palestinians that this is the vision that they had. Nonetheless,
I was told that [the meeting] was very positive, but that there are some
concerns about the actual roadmap.
bitterlemons: Can you talk some about those concerns?
Buttu: The concerns are that we are going down the same path that we have
now been going down for the last two years. The United States has still not
recognized that there is a direct link between Israel's lack of security and
Palestinian freedom. Instead what the United States is trying to do is to
not confront Israel on its settlement policies, not confront Israel on its
35-year occupation, but pandering to Israel by reassuring Israel that it can
get security without ever giving up land and the settlements.
Now there is also the question of "reform", in other words that Palestinians
must "humanize" themselves in order for Israel to finally end its illegal
occupation of Palestinian territory.
bitterlemons: What were your consultations with the United States leading up
the presentation of the document?
Buttu: What our submissions repeatedly said was that it is very important
that the United States focus on the link between security and freedom and
not simply aggregate the two issues, as if Palestinians are somehow
genetically pre-disposed to violence and as if the settlements are somehow
organic in nature. Sadly, the United States has not recognized that link and
is instead delaying a settlement freeze--the very cause for this uprising
and end in negotiations--until a later phase.
The other thing that we really pushed for was some sort of monitoring
mechanism. What we saw over the course of the Oslo was that there was no
third party monitoring on the ground. Again, the United States is hesitant
to take on the role.
bitterlemons: How do you think that the Palestinian leadership will respond
to the demand for an "empowered Palestinian prime minister?"
Buttu: I am not sure how they will respond to that specifically, but in my
own personal view it is somewhat misguided. When Palestinians were saying
that they wanted reforms, these two very nations [Israel and the United
States] were the ones saying that they did not want reforms.
What this actually means is that they do not want to deal with the elected
leader [i.e., President Yasser Arafat]. But if they don't want to deal with
the elected leader, then why are they blocking elections to recreate some
sort of dictatorship regime where the prime minister is imposed, rather than
allowing Palestinians to exercise self-determination and elect their own
bitterlemons: Is that your understanding as to why the document calls for
Legislative Council elections and not presidential elections?
Buttu: Precisely. The major call for reforms and elections came this summer,
when we pushed the United States for elections. We were told that the timing
wasn't right. That makes us ask, "Are you actually serious about reform or
are you interested in a puppet regime that will pander to the interests of
the United States and Israel?"
bitterlemons: It seems that President Arafat is making some efforts to move
ahead in this vein, but are there attempts being made to change the roadmap?
Buttu: We submitted our own remarks on the roadmap at that last meeting and
we are going to continue to try to highlight to the US administration that
certain elements of it should be changed, otherwise it will be an unworkable
and untenable plan. I just heard today that [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel]
Sharon has accepted the roadmap but rejected the settlement freeze--an
So again, we are going to continue to press for a settlement freeze, arguing
that unless Palestinians see that there is some change on the ground,
telling Palestinians that there may be some temporary, provisional,
borderless state that is the size of an Indian reservation is not going to
bitterlemons: Given the situation on the ground right now, and given this
road map, which offers Palestinians a state in 2004 or 2005, can you make
any assessments as to what you see in the near and far future?
Buttu: If the international community actually believes that it wants an end
to the conflict, then they will put in place the measures that are necessary
to end it--enforcing the law against Israel and its colonization and
starting to apply sanctions.
If the United States, the world community and Israel itself do not do that,
then we are going to see the same level of colonization, we might see mass
numbers of people leaving the occupied Palestinian territories or you might
see an anti-apartheid movement in which you have millions of Palestinians
saying that they want to seek citizenship in the state of Israel. I think
that it will be a greater threat to Israel--particularly if Israel wants to
remain what it calls a "Jewish state"--to have an additional 3.5 million
Palestinians seeking Israeli citizenship.
bitterlemons: I understand that your office has given the United States a
memo stating that the Palestine Liberation Organization may be forced to
change its two-state strategy.
Buttu: We have basically concluded that if the colonization continues at
this pace, we are going to have to start questioning whether a two-state
solution is even plausible. That is not to say that we are not committed to
the two-state solution; the PLO has been committed to that since 1988.
But given the facts on the ground, given the way that things have changed,
one cannot unscramble an egg. The leadership is going to have to start
reassessing whether it really should be pushing for a two-state solution or
whether we should start pushing for equal citizenship and an anti-apartheid
campaign along the same lines as South Africa.