Abbas No. 2 is okay with one democratic state, but says Israel won’t ever be
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Abbas No. 2 is okay with one democratic state, but says Israel won’t ever be

Mahmoud al-Aloul says PA is communicating with Trump administration, still uncertain about direction of US policy

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Mahmoud al-Aloul, member of the Central Committee of Fatah. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Mahmoud al-Aloul, member of the Central Committee of Fatah. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The recently appointed deputy chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party said on Wednesday he would accept a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if Palestinians had full rights, but believes Israel will never accept it.

The usually media-shy Mahmoud Al-Aloul, 67, in his first interview since being appointed PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s deputy, told the pan-Arab daily a-Sharq al-Awsat that he was not married to the concept of the two-state solution.

“The one state that we’re talking about is historically a democratic state in which everyone lives equally — that is acceptable. However, we know that Israel will not accept it … they cannot agree to it,” he said.

“They want a purely Jewish state. This is why they have asked us to recognize a Jewish state. We have previously presented a one-state [proposal],” he said. “There is no problem with this; we accept those terms.”

Palestinian officials have offered support for a single state of Israelis and Palestinians in the face of seeming ambivalence toward a two-state solution by US President Donald Trump. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered only tepid support for Palestinian statehood, most Israelis reject a one-state solution with full Palestinian rights as a recipe for the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

In February, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said that one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone was the only alternative to a two-state solution.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/SAUL LOEB)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

 

The two-state solution has been a cornerstone of international efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in January, a conference of world leaders in France affirmed that two separate states was the only way forward. But the Trump administration has rolled back the US’s commitment solely to a two-state solution, saying it will support any solution to the conflict both parties agree to.

Netanyahu says he does not support a one-state solution and would allow the Palestinians to have a state with limited sovereignty.

When asked if Ramallah had gotten any assurances from the Trump administration regarding the two-state solution, or the US president’s campaign promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, which is bitterly opposed to by the Palestinians, Aloul responded, that there is nothing to suggest that there is a retreat in policy. “Frankly speaking, the whole world does not have specific predictions” for the Trump administration, he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures on January 6, 2017, in Beit Sahur, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures on January 6, 2017, in Beit Sahur, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

Aloul, whose recent appointment makes him a possible successor to the 82-year-old Abbas, said Ramallah is still uncertain about the policies of President Trump.

“We do communicate with him and his administration. We sent messages to them directly, and through Arab leaders as well… They say they are studying the case. It is still not clear to us what will be the US policy in the coming period,” he said.

Aloul denied communication has been only over security. He said there has been security and political [meetings] as well. “A lot of people connected to the Palestinians have gone and communicated with key players in [Trump’s] administration,” he said

So far the only known communication between Ramallah and Washington has been through security officials. In February, CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited Ramallah, and Majid Faraj, head of the PA’s General Intelligence Service, visited Washington, according to unnamed officials.

The future of Palestinian leadership

Aloul’s election by the 18-member Fatah Central Committee as deputy chairman was unexpected. Though he is considered popular within the party, and was a long-time leader of Fatah’s armed wing in Jordan and in Lebanon, many believed Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving a life-sentence in Israeli prison for murder, would be given the position.

Aloul explained in the interview that Barghouti was not chosen because he would not be able to carry out the responsibilities of the office.

A Palestinian child stands in front of a mural of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti at the Kalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem. (photo credit Kobi Gideon / Flash 90)
A Palestinian child stands in front of a mural of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti at the Kalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Aloul would not say whether his appointment signaled he would succeed Abbas as the PA president. But if Abbas was to leave the scene, Aloul would become the head of the Fatah party but not the PA.

Aloul said his appointment “may help” the transition of power in the PA, “but I ask the issue not be taken from this angle.” “We believe as long as there is a consensus and a state of harmony, there will be a smooth transition.”

When grilled over the stalled peace process and possible “alternatives,” Aloul rejected the idea of using violence, and said he preferred “popular resistance,” meaning boycotts and protests.

However, he added that “all forms resistance are legitimate” — by this he alludes to violence — but that at “this current stage popular resistance is favorable.”

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