Bassem Eid, founder and executive director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), was interviewed by the Herald’s featured columnist Zach Paikin on Sunday in Jerusalem. PHRMG was established in 1996 during the Oslo process to monitor human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) against its Palestinian citizens, and now monitors Israeli actions against Palestinians as well.
With a swirl of issues currently facing the PA, Mr. Eid, a Palestinian who resides in Jericho and works in Jerusalem, expressed the view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be solved through direct high-level negotiations in the near future and that the PA is very comfortable with the status-quo.
“I don’t think that the Obama administration right now has any priorities regarding the Middle East or the Iranian issue,” said Eid. “I don’t think that the Obama administration will bring peace to the Middle East. The whole Middle East crisis right now will delay, for a while, the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
One of the major obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking in recent years has been the Fatah-Hamas divide among Palestinians. Hamas contested and won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and seized the Gaza Strip by force in 2007. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has recently offered a unity deal to Hamas which would allow for it to continue its rule in the Gaza Strip in exchange for a Hamas cease-fire with Israel and an end to the Hamas boycott of Palestinian elections.
However, Mr. Eid is pessimistic about the chances of Palestinian political reconciliation and democratization. “I don’t believe that any new elections will take place while Gaza and the West Bank continue to be divided,” he said, referring to Hamas’ dictatorial rule in the Gaza Strip which separates it politically from the West Bank. “Without unity, you cannot have elections on only one part of your homeland. Hamas will never participate in such elections, neither in the West Bank nor in Gaza.”
Palestinian local elections set to take place last summer were cancelled after Fatah, the largest faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization, failed to devise a complete platform and list of candidates.
Mr. Eid also hinted that the PA’s pursuit of unilateralism instead of direct negotiations will hurt Palestinians in the long run. “If you have 180 countries who recognize the establishment of a Palestinian state without Israel, then that means that the international recognition of the Palestinian state is zero. Even if Salam Fayyad declares a Palestinian state, that doesn’t mean that a Palestinian state has been founded.
“I don’t think that the Palestinians will get anything from the United Nations. The whole world is condemning the building of settlements, but what are we getting from that?” he pointed out.
Mr. Eid is also a well-known activist in the fight against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and has expressed concern that the current Arab uprisings could lead to security threats to both Israelis and Palestinians. “I am afraid that after Mubarak we are going to see the [rise of the] Muslim Brotherhood movement,” he noted. “This will be considered as a threat not only toward Israel but also toward the Palestinians. The Palestinians, like Israel, will be surrounded by Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, the Syrians, and Iran.”
PHRMG is based in Jerusalem. More information about PHRMG is available at: http://www.phrmg.org/.