Mhanna: “Egypt is serious in ending divisions; Arabs intervention will add success factors”

Mhanna: “Egypt is serious in ending divisions; Arabs intervention will add success factors”

This is an interview with Rabah Mhanna, member of the political bureau of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) conducted by Ashraf Abu Al Hol and published on Monday by the Al Ahram daily in Cairo.

In the interview, Mhanna says that Cairo is serious in its efforts to end the internal Palestinian tension and that Egyptian officials set a period between 45 days and two months to formulate a vision for a comprehensive Palestinian dialogue which would continue for a number of days. He also said that Egypt is supported by several Arab countries in order to ensure the success of these talks.

The interview:

Q: Do you believe that the talks held by Cairo with the Palestinian factions could lead to positive results regarding internal Palestinian dialogue?

A: In our meetings with Egyptian officials, we felt serious efforts to ensure the success of these talks; they also managed to achieve Saudi, Yemeni and Syrian support.

Q: Is there a certain timeframe for the resumption of these talks?

A: I believe that the Egyptian officials who are sponsoring the talks will set a timeframe of 45 to 60 days to achieve a vision which will enable them to call for a comprehensive national dialogue which would last for several days; they are conducting utmost efforts and are widely supported by several Arab countries.

 Q: What happened during your talks with Egyptian security officials?

A: We agreed on many points, we disagreed on other points. For instance, we agreed that the dialogue should be based on the National Unity Document and the Cairo Agreement of 2005, we agreed that this dialogue aims at ending the internal divisions, we also agreed on forming a national unity government which has two main goals; uniting all Palestinian Authority (P.A) institutions and preparing for parallel presidential and parliamentarian elections, the elections should be based on the relative representation principle.

We agreed on the necessity to reform all P.A institutions but we disagreed on deploying Arab forces in Gaza due to political risks, we provided an alternative which suggests forming a national council which will reform the security devices on professional principles.

Q: Which role can the PFLP play in reducing the gap between Fateh and Hamas?

A: All proposals for national dialogue and all proposals for closing the gap came mainly through initiatives presented by the PFLP, the reason behind this is that we do not act as mediators, we act as a side which acts for the benefit of national interests.

Q: So far it seems that the PFLP and other factions have failed even in resolving the political prisoners issue between Fateh and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, can these factions, including the PFLP, resolve the crisis of national dialogue?

A: As for the issue of political prisoners between Fateh and Hamas, there is a party that is escalating the issue in Ramallah and another party conducting parallel escalation in Gaza, but we believe that with Arabic pressure, especially from Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia the task will have more chances for success.

Q: Do you think that Egypt and the Arab League will attempt to oblige Fateh and Hamas to accept certain initiatives to resolve the issue, or everything will be resolved by consensus?

A: During our meetings with the Egyptian officials and Mr. Amro Mousa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, we felt that its going that direction, I also believe that the Council of Arab Foreign Ministers will authorize Egypt to present a vision for resolving the crises, this vision would be based on the outcome of al talks held by Egypt with different Palestinian factions, this will create pressure on all factions to act for the success of these talks. The factions have to make a decision either to accept or reject this vision.  

Q: During your talks with Hamas, did you feel any willingness for compromise?   

A: Our brothers in Hamas make mistakes sometimes, but we believe that Hamas acts to achieve the national interests, our role and the Arab role is to encourage a comprehensive national dialogue.

Q: Do you believe that reforming the PLO should be conducted before the talks between Fateh and Hamas, or is this issue part of the talks, or will come after these talks?

A: I believe that this is an important issue, we focused on it in our meetings with Egyptian officials, I believe that president Mahmoud Abbas obstructed the implementation of the Cairo Agreement of 2005, part of this agreement was reforming the PLO. Reforming the PLO is essential and will boost its role as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

Q: When we talk about reforming the PLO is there a means to measure that real power of each faction in order to determine the representation of each faction in the PLO?

A: We are calling for that, we believe that Hamas and Fateh are two powerful parties, the PFLP is the third powerful party. There should be elections in Palestine and in exile, the power of each faction differs depending on several factors, and yes we believe that reforming the PLO on democratic basis will preserve and boost its agenda.

Q: Do you think that Abu Mazin (Mahmoud Abbas) is willing to resolve all issues with Hamas before he end his term as president in the coming January?

A: During the talks between the PFLP and Abu Mazin we felt serious intentions, but still some sides are acting to foil these talks.

Q: Recently you had strong statements against Hamas?

A: I criticized the statements of Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahhar, when he said during a conference in Rafah that Gaza is the starting point of the Islamic project. This is wrong, this is not only my opinion, and it is also the opinion of Mahdi Akef, the mentor of the Islamic Movement in Egypt. We met him and he told us the same thing.

Q: Do you think that Hamas will act to transform the Gaza Strip into an Islamic Emirate?

A: There is a stream in Hamas which believes in this, but the policy which is set by Hamas now  is that we are in a national liberation process, we should encourage this policy and we should support it for the sake of the national interests.