PIJ: What is your reading of U.S. President George W. Bush's speech [on July 16, 2007] and his call for serious negotiations and an international peace conference? Is this going to help?

Jibril Rajoub: I think that the Palestinian people are fed up with "good will statements." We are looking to see something moving on the ground. We are looking for practical mechanisms to start implementing the Road Map and the Bush vision, and international legitimacy.

So, in other words, you think these were just pretty words.

I hope that good will statements will be translated to practical acts on the ground.

Do you see any prospects for this translation?

I think that the one who should be asked is George Bush, because those slogans and those pretty statements - we have been hearing them for years now. I hope that the Americans do understand that their interests in the Middle East are facing a threat as a result of their crazy policy.

How serious is this threat?

Serious. Everybody is against them; everybody is now thinking that the Americans are being led by the nose by the crazy Israeli government. Everybody thinks that the Israeli occupation is a threat. The American double-standard policy also is a source of threat and enmity. This is no longer a secret.

What is your opinion of the appointment of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as Quartet envoy?

I think that Tony Blair, in spite of his mistakes in Iraq, in the Israeli-Arab conflict has been balanced and rational all the time. But as far as I know, his mandate has nothing to do with politics.

That's the issue; his mandate is only economic.

It means that Uncle Sam is still insisting on keeping all the cards in his hands.

What do you think Blair's mission should be, to help move things forward?

The man has good experience, and I think that the man has the trust of all the regional parties of this conflict. And I do believe that he's aware of the needs and the challenges, and he could contribute more than anyone else. This is what I can tell you. But this does not mean that I have any reservations about Condoleezza Rice; on the contrary, I think that she is the only rational voice in the American administration.

What do the Palestinians need now? What immediate measures need to be taken?

Now, the living conditions, the closure, the settlements, the expanding of the settlements, the drastic change on the demographic and geographic status of East Jerusalem due to the policy there - all those things are a nightmare and concern for all the Palestinians. I do believe that starting with the living conditions, economic development, lifting the closure - with a political horizon - is what the Palestinians need.

These are the immediate steps?

The immediate step is to renew hope for the future and to assure food for the Palestinian people, and also the issue of security. These are the main nightmares and concerns for all the Palestinians.

The Israelis have their issue of security for everything, and the Americans seem to believe that the Israelis will not do anything until they feel that the Palestinian security forces can take control.

The ones who destroyed the security forces are the Israelis. It is no secret that the goal of the Israelis during the last seven years has been to destroy all the Palestinian security forces and reorganize them according to their own interests. Security, for the Israelis, is an excuse to undermine the opportunity to have a viable independent Palestinian state. Israelis should decide whether they want security or they want settlements and lands. If they want security, the shortest road and way to assure security is to make peace and end their occupation. Security is just to justify their unilateral aggressions against the Palestinian people and on the Palestinian territories, through closures, by suffocating people and building settlements.

Let's say Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) concludes some kind of agreement with Israel as a temporary measure. He needs a truce - he needs armed people in the West Bank not to undertake any attacks. Could his security forces ensure this?

Since the agreement of March 2005, the Cairo agreement, a truce has almost been functioning. And those who are initiating the attacks are the Israelis, in Nablus, in Jenin, in Tulkarm, everywhere. I do believe that Abu Mazen is committed, Abu Mazen is serious, Abu Mazen is loyal to the reconciliation. Security is also for the Palestinians; they need security. Even according to the Israelis' experience, I don't think that it's possible to assure security through attacks, through assassinations.
Security only needs a political resolution. A political decision could contribute, could deliver security. As for the Israelis, if they want security, they should conduct bilateral engagement, and enable Abu Mazen to strengthen, consolidate and reorganize the security services. I am pretty sure that the military struggle and attacks by the Palestinians are means to end the occupation. As soon as there is hope for other ways, I am sure that the Palestinians will cooperate. But as a matter of principle, I think that since March 2005, all kinds of military attacks inside the Green Line have stopped.

You mentioned the Cairo agreement; that agreement was between all the Palestinian factions. Now, after Gaza and Hamas, there is a problem. Do you personally support a renewal of the dialogue between Fateh and Hamas?

Listen, the Palestinian entity is one Palestinian family. What happened in Gaza was crossing the red line. The coup was, I think, a shame and a crime, and I do believe that the people of Hamas should take many steps back in order to pave the road for national dialogue. But the solution should be a Palestinian national tactic, and through national dialogue barred from any outside influence or pressure. But I do believe that the first step should come from those who initiated this coup.

What kind of steps should they take?

I think that they know exactly what they should do. I do believe that the "doers" of this coup know exactly what kind of steps could normalize [the situation] and pave the road back to national unity. As Fateh people, we feel harmed; we feel pain. But in spite of that, this is our people, and this is the only motherland that we have and we have no other choice.

Presumably in this case, you don't support an international force in Gaza?

I think the issue of an international force should be a Palestinian national demand to protect us from the Israeli occupation. If this is the end, in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza - to protect the Palestinian people from Israeli aggression and to separate us from the Israelis, observe the borders - we would have it, sure. But nationally, internally, I do believe the national approach, national tactics, national mechanism should be the way to settle the problem.

Do you think Fateh has lost the confidence of the Palestinian people, and if so, what does it need to do to regain it?

I think that Fateh is still a necessity and still important to the Palestinian people. I do believe in that as a pragmatist and a nationalist Palestinian, and that Fateh should draw the right conclusions and reorganize and consolidate the movement. I believe that this is the wish of all the Palestinians from all the political factions. Now, I think that all of us have started to understand that reorganizing and reforming Fateh should be a priority.

This is something we've heard quite a lot.

I know, but I do believe that we are now facing - I don't want to call it a tragedy, but - two challenges, two crises; losing the elections and also what happened in Gaza has urged all the people of Fateh to start reconsidering and thinking about the right approach to our movement, our goals, our policy, even towards the role of foreign powers.