Interview. We spoke with Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouti about the negotiation strategy going forward: “The only alternative, in order to avoid the condition of apartheid in which Israel intends to keep us, is the establishment of a single democratic state for the two peoples.”

Meeting Pence would be a big mistake, Barghouti says

Should they break off contact with the U.S. or maintain it? An intense debate has been ignited among the political forces in Palestine after Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and in anticipation of the arrival of Vice President Mike Pence in the region.

Hamas, the Islamist movement, has no doubt about what to do: Its leaders say the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations brokered by Washington are a farce, and the U.S. is only supporting the interests of Israel. And the Popular Front, as well as the other formations of the Palestinian Left, are saying the same.

Even within Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas, the consensus is to hold firm. To talk about this and other Palestinian domestic issues, we interviewed Mustafa Barghouti, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative party, who ran for the presidency of the PNA in 2005, and who is, first and foremost, one of those who have inspired the continuing popular struggle in the occupied territories.

Will Trump, Pence and the U.S. be boycotted after the American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

Yes, without hesitation. Accommodating Pence in Ramallah would be a show of extreme weakness. If President Abbas and the other leaders of the PNA were to meet with him, they would be making a serious mistake at a crucial time, when the Palestinians are demanding that they respond with the utmost firmness. Trump has crossed a red line on Jerusalem, and Abbas must always keep this in mind.

Trump has made the PNA face a challenge where its very survival is at stake.

We must change course. Americans are talking about new diplomatic initiatives and about the Oslo Accords still being relevant, but the truth is that there has been no movement for years. Indeed, it is Washington itself that is contributing to this paralysis, by overtly or covertly endorsing Israel’s policies. Let’s face it, Oslo is over. Even children in Palestine know that Oslo has no chance of success. This is why the leaders of the PNA should work, first of all, for real Palestinian national unity, then they should pronounce the Oslo negotiations dead, and focus, together with all the political forces, on developing a national strategy — a Palestinian one — that would be able to realize the legitimate aspirations of our people on the basis of international resolutions. If they don’t do this, they will find themselves isolated.

Could another Intifada pave the way for developing this new national strategy?

Yes, without a doubt — but on the condition that it remains non-violent. I am thinking of a popular uprising against the policies of Israel, similar to the peaceful one that we saw in Jerusalem this July, when Netanyahu ordered the introduction of metal detectors and other security measures on the Temple Mount. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, without using violence, armed only with their determination, with their massive and constant presence in the streets, forced Israel to withdraw those measures. I think the type of protest that we saw in July is the ideal one for mobilizing our people and for securing the support of international public opinion.

What should this new national strategy aim for? The two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, is right now unworkable in practice.

The only alternative, in order to avoid the condition of apartheid in which Israel intends to keep us, is the establishment of a single democratic state for the two peoples, in a situation of full equality. A state in which the Palestinian refugees would be able to return to their birthplace, just like any Jew anywhere in the world is able to move to Israel today.

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