Ramallah: Mahmoud Al Aloul, who is known for his support for armed resistance against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, was chosen as deputy leader of Fatah earlier this month.
Al Aloul, for years a close Abbas confidant, has clout among the party’s grass roots and had a military background. He is the first deputy leader appointed since Fatah’s founding in the 1960s by former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, but it remains unclear whether Al Aloul would succeed Abbas as president.
In a candid interview with Gulf News, Al Aloul discussed the most pressing issues facing the Palestinian people in 2017, including the Trump administration, national reconciliation with Hamas, security coordination with Israel and making the Palestinian cause a priority in the Arab world again.
GN: How should Fatah and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) handle Israeli intransigence and the election of Trump as president of the United States?
MA: The Palestinians face a difficult situation because we feel we are alone. While Arab countries are busy with their own internal crises, the Palestinian cause has been forgotten. It has fostered a climate where Israel commits daily crimes against Palestinians such as land grabbing, extradjudcial killings, home demolitions and raids on Muslim holy sites.
US President Trump’s policies toward Palestinians are not clear right now and this worries us.
GN: Are you concerned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could take advantage of such an opportunity and accelerate colony building or even annex some parts of the occupied West Bank?
MA: Even before Trump, Netanyahu freed the hands of colonists to confiscate Palestinian lands, kill Palestinians and demolish their houses. He does not respect international law, or the international community.
We have no option except to resist Israeli violations against our people. We are responsible for the protection of our land, people and children.
GN: What is the alternative to a two-state solution? Where does Fatah stand on the one state solution?
MA: Israeli measures and colonialism make the two-state solution impossible, but despite that, it is still the option preferred by Fatah. It would require the removal of Jewish colonies from Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, and full sovereignty. The most important issue for us is the end of Israeli occupation inside the 1967 borders.
GN: Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinian leadership to recognise Israel as a Jewish State — where does Fatah stand on such a request?
MA: Fatah will never ever recognise Israel as a Jewish state, because this forms a threat to the rights of the Palestinians who live within the 1948 boundaries. Netanyahu should ask the UN to do this rather than the Palestinians.
GN: Could the PNA review its relationship with Israel? Could a review include an end to security coordination with Israel?
MA: Certainly. We will not still stick by agreements unilaterally, while the Israelis refuse to respect them. So, we are reviewing those agreements, in addition to reactivating resistance to counter assaults against our people, lands, and sacred sites.
GN: Could the PNA collapse during Trump’s tenure as president, especially if the US stopped its financial support for the PNA, or pressured other countries to stop providing support?
MA: No external pressure from anyone could force us to give concessions regarding the Palestinian national demands. Fatah and the PNA have mitigated difficult situations before and despite that, have not given any concessions.
GN: What is your biggest concern for Palestinians today?
MA: My concern is how to stop Israel’s crackdown on the Palestinian people through killing, land confiscation, arrests of young people, and home demolitions, as well as how to regain the attention of the Arab countries to the Palestinian cause.
GN: How powerful is Hamas power in the West Bank? Do you consider it to be a strong rival to Fatah? And who should be blamed for not achieving national reconciliation after 10 years of division between West Bank and Gaza Strip?
MA: Fatah is acutely aware of the damage to the Palestinian cause as a result of the division with Hamas. Therefore, we are extremely interested in reconciliation and national unity.
Unfortunately, Hamas is subject to regional pressure which is against reconciliation. Despite that, we will continue working towards reconciliation. Likewise, Hamas accuses the PNA and Fatah of being subjected to US and Israeli pressures not to reconcile with them. Recent history has proved that it is impossible for Fatah and the PNA to be dictated to. There have been dozens of occasions where regional and international powers urged us to take positions that we rejected. We blame Hamas for not achieving reconciliation, as a result of its own submission to external pressures.
— Mohammad Najib is a journalist based in Ramallah