I’ve always admired Hanan Ashrawi. And it’s not just because she’s a smart, strong Palestinian woman. I’ve always thought that she’s been the voice of reason when it comes to Palestinian politics. And oh how I wish she was the Palestinian president. God knows we’d be in a better state of affairs.
Al Jazeera English recently conducted an interview with Ashrawi and discussed the possible impact of the Obama administration on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the upcoming Israeli elections and the rift between Hamas and Fatah.
The entire interview is definitely worth reading but here are some selections I found interesting.
On the prospects of the Obama administration, with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, towards the Middle East peace process:
First of all, we must not personalise issues. I don’t think it is a matter of individuals. It’s a matter, first of all, of the team as a whole and their policies. Obama’s policies certainly indicate that he wants to engage. He doesn’t want to postpone things until the end as [Bill] Clinton and Bush did. And secondly, he’s marking a departure from the Bush administration, which was disastrous for everybody.
Now having said that, I must caution against any type of unrealistic optimism. There are constants in American policy – such as the strategic alliance between the US and Israel – that are not going to be changed by individuals.
Individuals change their own positions and their own policies to serve their own interests and their own careers. Hillary Clinton was outspoken about Palestinian rights when she was First Lady, but when she ran for office in the Senate for New York she did a 180 degree turn and became not just totally supportive of Israel, but of the extreme right in Israel and hostile to Palestinians.
On the divide between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza:
I think there’s a problem because there’s a power struggle. The sharing of the spoils of power.
Of course we are one people, but if the division remains we are in danger of having a serious risk that will create two separate systems that in the future will become irreconcilable. Right now they are reconcilable and we must work on that.
On her running in the upcoming election:
No. I’ve decided I’m not running. What you can count on me doing is supporting young women, young leaders, the new generation to run for office.
We need the young. People my age should know how to step aside and how to provide a system of support and solidarity for the new leaders. We have a disastrous situation of a leadership that doesn’t know the meaning of a graceful exit, but I see lots of hope in the younger generation.
I wish we could continuously blast that message of change on loudspeakers directed towards the Muqataa.