Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei, also known as Abu-Ala, last Saturday said that an independent and sovereign Palestinian state will inevitably be established on national Palestinian soil no matter how long this takes.
He rejected US President George Bush’s suggestion of a Gaza state.
Qurei added that Israeli schemes would only lead to further suffering and violence in the region.
During his reception of a delegation of European personalities, headed by former Dutch Prime Minister Andreas van Agt and consisting of a number of former European ministers and representatives of the West European civil society, the prime minister expressed surprise and grave concern about statements which the news agencies had attributed to the US president.
Bush was asked last Tuesday: ‘Are there any specific plans for restarting negotiations based on the roadmap?’
Bush replied by first congratulating Israeli Prime Minister Sharon for having made ‘a courageous decision to withdraw from the Gaza’.
Bush added that ‘what must take place next is the establishment of a working government in Gaza, a government that responds to the people.’
He said: ‘Of course you want to get back to the roadmap. But I understand that in order for this process to go forward there must be confidence – confidence that the Palestinian people will have in their own government to perform, confidence with the Israelis that they’ll see a peaceful state emerging.
‘And therefore it’s very important for the world to stay focused on Gaza, and helping Gaza – helping the Gaza economy get going, helping rebuild the settlements for Gaza – for the people of Gaza.
‘This is a very hopeful period. Again, I applaud Prime Minister Sharon for making a decision that has really changed the dynamics on the ground, and has really provided hope for the Palestinian people.
‘My vision, my hope, is that one day we’ll see two states – two democratic states living side by side in peace.’
Qurei said these statements conflicted with the US position and President Bush’s vision of the two-state solution.
He added that the Gaza Strip was a dear part of this homeland but it was not an independent Palestinian state.
It is only an integral part of the Palestinian state, he said.
Qurei said there could be no peace in the Middle East without peace in Palestine.
The prime minister called on the delegation to enlighten the European public and put pressure on the decision-makers in Europe to exercise pressure on Israel to implement its commitments and to use the European influence to convey these messages to the United States.
He added that peace could not be reached in Palestine without establishing an independent Palestinian state by implementing the international law resolutions and ending the large historic injustice done to the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian prime minister also stressed that any postponement of the implementation of the road map or any delay in the final-status negotiations would be considered support for the Israeli scheme that was aimed at dividing the West Bank into cantons and Bantustans.
Qurei said the scheme also aimed at rendering it impossible to establish an independent Palestinian state by continuing to build the racial segregation wall, expand settlements and adopt the policy of annexing and Judaizing the occupied city of Jerusalem.
He added that Israel was trying to exclude Jerusalem from the circle of conflict by imposing a de facto situation on it.
The prime minister indicated that the Israeli scheme has become a public one following the recent Israeli decision to expropriate more than 100 square kilometres of the land to expand the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc east of the occupied city of Jerusalem.
The prime minister also briefed the delegation on the Palestinian developments and positions on the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.
He stressed that the plan was a unilateral one and that the Israeli inclination to consider this withdrawal a last rather than first step towards the termination of occupation expressed a serious policy that would drown the region in violence for tens of years.
The European delegation emphasised its full support for the Palestinian question, noting that the purpose of this European group was increasing awareness among the European public and working with the political circles with the purpose of contributing to the efforts being made to lift the injustice done to the Palestinian people and help the Palestinians obtain their national rights.
Meanwhile, responding to a question on the Americans’ call on the PNA to dismantle the armed groups, PNA Foreign Minister Al-Qidwah said: ‘The roadmap does not call for dismantling the factions.
‘It talks about dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism. Discussions were held on the adoption of another language but it was not approved.
‘In this regard, we made efforts. We resisted the stockpiling of weapons and closed illegal workshops manufacturing some primitive weapons. We did other such things.
‘What is more important is that we held a serious and responsible political dialogue with all factions and reached clear understandings on a reciprocal cessation of military attacks and all acts of violence.
‘It is important to reach results of this type. We believe that the Palestinian side can make steps that will bolster our ability to resist foreign pressure, but we must calculate things in a better way.’
Al-Qidwah does not believe there are not ‘hard-liners and soft-liners’.
He said: ‘Our demands are clear. We want an independent Palestinian state. I do not think there are differences over this issue.
‘It is in the interest of the Palestinian people now to have a reciprocal cease-fire.
‘I do not think there are differences over this issue as proven by the fact that all endorsed the Cairo declaration.
‘We hope for a deeper understanding. For example, targeting civilians in Israel must be ended because it reflects on our interests.
‘Such actions can no longer accomplish anything for the Palestinian people. There is a significant understanding of the issue and it is possible to bolster and deepen it perhaps in the direction of preparing a national action programme on which we agree.
‘We will thus guarantee the existence of a unified national action for the attainment of the Palestinian people’s national interests.’
On the chances of using force to disarm those who refuse such directives, he said: ‘Disarming the factions is different from imposing law and order and respect for the PNA’s commitments and the understandings reached.
‘With regard to the imposition of law and order, we will use the necessary means. All other things will be subject to dialogue.’
Al-Qidwah considered what is taking place in Gaza important and should not be underestimated.
He said: ‘What is important is that there is withdrawal of the Israeli colonialist settlers from part of the Palestinian land.
‘The removal of settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank is an important development we must appreciate.
‘We must try to benefit from it to move forward.
‘But we cannot at the same time say that what took place was liberation.
‘Israel continues to control the airspace, the territorial waters and the crossings although this control is partial.
‘What happened was an important step which must be viewed within the right perspective. It is essential not to undervalue or exaggerate its importance.’