The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Rachid Khalidi interview in Haaretz

Haaretz' Akiva Eldar has a long interview with Rachid Khalidi, I believe the first since the storm over his relationship to Barack Obama. Here are a few choice excerpts:

On the situation in Palestine and prospects for peace:

"Both the occupation regime and the settlement enterprise have gotten constantly stronger since the negotiating process began in 1991 - after being weakened by the first intifada. These twin processes went on steroids after the second intifada started in 2000. If these two bulldozer-like endeavors are not rapidly reversed - not halted, reversed - then there is no possibility whatsoever of a two-state solution. These processes - the consecration of the occupation regime and the expansion of settlements - have been ongoing for 41 years. I suspect that because of them, combined with the blindness of Israeli leaders and the weakness of Palestinian leadership, there is little chance for a two-state solution to be implemented. And anyone who wants to implement a real, equitable two-state solution would have to explain in detail how they would uproot all or most of the settlements. Equally difficult will be overcoming the powerful interlocking complex of forces in Israeli society that have extensive material, bureaucratic, political and ideological interests in the Israeli state's continued control over the lives of 3.5 million Palestinians, a control that is exercised under the pretext of security."

On what change Obama will bring:

"In any case, much will depend on who is chosen for the key positions relating to the Middle East. If some of the unimaginative, close-minded and biased advocates of conventional thinking who bear a major share of the responsibility for the mess we have been in for over 20 years - from the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations to that of Clinton, even before George W. Bush made things even worse - are appointed to important posts, my expectations will be low. I was involved in the negotiations as an advisor to the Palestinian delegation from Madrid in 1991 until June 1993, before Oslo. Those American officials who helped get the Palestinians and Israelis into the mess they are in via a deeply flawed negotiating process, and a cowardly refusal to confront occupation and settlement head-on when it would have been far easier to do in the 1980s and 1990s, do not deserve another chance to ruin the future of the peoples of this region."

On the situation in Gaza:

"Although the responsibility of Israel in this matter is paramount, the efforts of Palestinians and of outsiders have been insufficient as well, and we will all be affected by such an outcome, so we all have an urgent responsibility to act. More immediately, targeting a civilian population of 1.5 million people of the Gaza Strip with hunger, deprivation and effective imprisonment, whatever the nature of their leaders, is criminal and is a violation of international law, as are all attacks on civilian populations, Jewish or Arab - something I have said repeatedly in talks here. That people, whether in Tel Aviv, Ramallah, the Arab countries, or the capitals of the world, can remain silent while Gazans are punished on this scale is beyond belief."

Eldar makes it clear in the introduction of the interview that when Khalidi is talking about "close-minded and biased" appointees, he is talking about Dennis Ross. I am surprised that no decision has yet come out about what, if any, position Ross will have in the Obama administration. There have been rumors that he may become involved in policy towards Iran rather than the peace process, and Dan Kurtzer's recent appointment [edit: I meant rumors that he would be appointed, see comments] would suggest he may be kept away. But I wonder whether there is any debate about bringing Ross in in the Obama camp.