Mustafa Barghouti: Netanyahu Proved 'Not a Partner for Peace'
Palestinian Authority officials, rarely united on most issues, stood as one Sunday night in condemning Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's major policy speech as a "plan for war and a continuation of conflict" rather than the proposal for peace he repeatedly declared it was.
PA legislator Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a medical doctor trained in the former Soviet Union and Jerusalem, gave the prime minister low marks, saying Netanyahu had proved "once again" that he is "not a partner for peace."
Barghouti has long been considered a moderate. A distant cousin of jailed Tanzim terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti by contrast is an activist who founded the Palestinian National Initiative, a group formed as an alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas. He finished second to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in the 2005 elections, and he has consistently criticized both the PLO and the PA for corruption.
Barghouti spoke with reporters in a conference call Sunday night following Netanyahu's address.
The PA legislator said he was "absolutely disappointed," adding that he and other PA officials had been "hoping we would hear some real flexibility."
Netanyahu created "nothing but obstacles" with his much-anticipated speech, he said. The address, a response to U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East policy address delivered more than a week ago at Cairo University, was sure to "create severe disappointment" on the PA street, Barghouti warned.
The Israeli prime minister "did not commit himself to freezing settlements" as Obama and other world leaders have demanded, he pointed out. Nor did Netanyahu express willingness to negotiate on any part of Jerusalem.
And while Netanyahu repeatedly spoke of the Jewish ancestral right to the Land of Israel, Barghouti said in a voice thick with bitterness, the prime minister also mentioned that "we just happened to be there and don't have the right for full citizenship."
Barghouti especially slammed Netanyahu's unwillingness to absorb the immigration of five million Arab refugees, one of the issues the PA lawmaker named as the "core of the problem."
But he saved his greatest contempt for the prime minister's proposal that the PA accept a demilitarized state, saying it would leave the PA "unable to control its own borders" -- a situation he deemed entirely untenable. "If you put all the elements together," Barghouti said, "what you have is nothing but a plan to continue an apartheid system. He did not speak about a state. He spoke about a ghetto."
Peace, he said, is "where both people have the same rights, where both people respect each other, where we can live in freedom, and which can liberate both. We need to be free, both of us. I feel sorry for the Israelis because they lack leadership," he added, "someone who can get us out of this mutual hatred."
As for the current political climate, Barghouti said he hoped Netanyahu's speech would push the rival Fatah and Hamas factions towards unity, and "to understand that they are fighting about an authority that does not exist. True authority does not exist under occupation."
Barghouti said that ultimately, Netanyahu's plan would leave PA Arabs with no hope for a final status agreement with Israel, which he said would lead the next generation back to "the struggle."