Ambassador Afif Safieh, the Head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Mission to the United States, spoke about his views regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict in the post Yasser Arafat-era to a full audience Monday evening.
Safieh explained to the audience he has never subscribed to the optimistic school of thought which promises victory and salvation to the oppressed.
“Unfortunately, history is a cemetery of oppressed people who remain oppressed until they vanished into historical oblivion,” Safieh said.
The ambassador summarized Arab-Israeli and said that the Arab country of Morocco was the first to recognize America’s independence. To Safieh, this is a fact he believes is relatively unknown. Recently, Fatah was defeated by Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006.
Safieh identified several reasons for why he thought Fatah was defeated. Safieh said Fatah was in charge of the national movement from 1968 until 2005, and had both a “reality and reputation of corruption.”
He explained that the immediate avalanche of reporting that followed the elections described Hamas’s victory as a blow to the peace process, when in reality, according to Safieh, the peace process was nonexistent.
Safieh cited two paths America can choose to follow, that of engaging in a credible peace process with Hamas, or the alternative path of robbing them of their legitimate victory and pushing them further towards militancy.
Safieh asserted that Israel’s policy is based upon the notion of acquiring “as much Palestinian geography as possible with as little Palestinian demography as possible,” and cited Israel’s territorial appetite as the major impediment to a successful peace process.
Safieh said an additional flaw is that too much responsibility was left for the local parties.
“Today we live in a unipolar international system after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I personally believe that in a unipolar international system, nonalignment should characterize American foreign policy,” Safieh said.
Safieh is certain that peace will not be attained in his country until there is assertive, visible, and vocal input by a third party.
During the question and answer portion of the program, Safieh answered several inquiries from the audience. In response to a question regarding the future of the city of Jerusalem, Safieh said, “Jerusalem is so unique that it should become two capitals and an undivided city.”
Safieh’s concluding statement wrapped up his acknowledgments of the complexity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
He said, “God I not guilty of favoritism, and God is surely not a real estate agent.”
By Leah Nash 3/2/2007