Friday, December 5, 2008

Obama's 'Palestinian friend' laments catastrophic U.S. policy in Mideast

An Interesting Interview With Rashid Khalidi
By Akiva Eldar

".....Khalidi, 60, who spent three weeks in Israel and the territories before continuing on to Beirut this week, doesn't like all the fuss surrounding his relationship with the president-elect. Up to now, he had avoided speaking about it publicly, for better or worse. The reason may be, as reflected in my interview with him at his hotel in Jerusalem, overlooking Damascus Gate, his disappointment in his Chicago friend's treatment of the Arab and Islamic community in the United States. Or maybe it's also discomfort with the Democratic candidate's response during the campaign to reports about the ties between them.....

Do you believe that the current PLO leadership will be able to cut a deal with Israel on a two-state solution that will be accepted by the Palestinian people?

"The current PLO leadership does not and will not properly represent the entire Palestinian people until it can achieve a historic compromise with the other wing of the Palestinian national movement, and until a renewed, unified leadership can agree on minimal national goals and a strategy, whatever they are. This requires resisting the internal and external pressures that are intent on keeping the Palestinians divided. Only if they are unified do the Palestinians have a chance of achieving their national goals. Thereafter, to be binding and legitimate, any agreement that might be reached would have to be submitted to a referendum of the entire Palestinian people, inside and outside the country.".....

As someone who has long been involved with the PLO and Palestinian politics, what can you say about the current Palestinian leadership?

"The Palestinian people have certainly not always had the leadership they deserved. Israel worsened this situation by systematically liquidating Palestinian leaders - generally the most effective and intelligent among them - going back to the early 1970s. Several Arab regimes also played a part by assassinating key PLO leaders. Historians have pointed to similar efforts by the Zionist movement in the late 1930s and 1940s.

"That said, the current leadership seems to me to be lacking in several respects, and certainly does not seem up to the difficult tasks at hand. It is time for a wholesale renewal of the Palestinian leadership, and the replacement of the few remaining members of the founding generation of the modern Palestinian national movement and their entourage with younger individuals with new ideas. This requires a major effort to confront the failed policies of the current leaders of both major factions, and to find new approaches to the grave problems the Palestinian people face."...... "

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