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Arafat on the Peace Process

Following are excerpts from an interview given by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to the Egyptian Orbit TV on April 18, 1998. The Israeli government considers his remarks “incitement” and a violation of the Oslo Accords and the Hebron Protocol.

Q: If a violent incident occurs, Netanyahu will exploit it and say that it is for this reason that he is not hurrying to make an agreement with the Palestinians, since they are incapable of controlling the situation.

Arafat: I know his tricks. Everyone must know that all options are open before the Palestinian people, and not just the Palestinian people, but before the entire Arab nation.

...Q: How do you explain that you occasionally ask the Palestinian street not to explode?

Arafat: When the prophet Muhammad made the Khudaibiya agreement, he agreed to remove his title “messenger of Allah” from the agreement. Then, Omar bin Khatib and the others referred to this agreement as the “inferior peace agreement.” Of course, I do not compare myself to the prophet, but I do say that we must learn from his steps and those of Salah a-Din. The peace agreement which we signed is an “inferior peace.” The conditions [behind it] are the intifada, which lasted for seven years. [Note: Arafat is referring to the Khudaibiya agreement made by Muhammad with the Arabian tribe of Koreish. The pact, slated to last for ten years, was broken within two years, when the Islamic forces—having used the peace pact to become stronger—conquered the Koreish tribe. His reference to Salah a-Din is to the Muslim leader who, after a cease-fire, declared a jihad against the Crusaders and captured Jerusalem.]

Q: Eight or nine years.

Arafat: Or twenty years. I say that all options are open before the Palestinian people. The Israelis are troubled by this phrase, but I ask them: “Why are you troubled by this phrase? Is it because you do not wish to implement the agreements?”

...Q: For practical reasons, do you now suggest to maintain quiet despite everything?

Arafat: Yes, I suggest we maintain quiet. We respect agreements the way that the prophet Muhammad and Salah a-Din respected the agreements which they signed.

Q: If your rival, and I don't want to say enemy, will not respect the accord, what will you do?

Arafat: We will cross that bridge when we come to it. As I said, all options are open before the Palestinian people.

...Q: Is Arafat still the same revolutionary fighter? Is he capable of taking to the streets when necessary?

Arafat: This nation of giants has created 100,000 Arafats. We are a nation of giants which has been struggling with World Zionism for 101 years, and we are capable of beginning it all again. I say this not in the name of Arafat but in the name of the new generals.

...Q: There are Western observers who say that something must happen on the ground in order for things to start moving. Do you think that something must happen on the street, or is it enough to have effective American pressure?

Arafat: The only answer which you will get from me is that all options are open before the Palestinian people.

...Q: Does your position permit you to work without interruption, as you are wont to do?

Arafat: Without a doubt. I would also like to say that I envy the martyrs and I hope to become one of them, though it has been decreed thus far that I continue to live.”

Source: Israeli Government Press Office.