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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: HANAN ASHRAWI OCTOBER 15TH, 2000

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: In Ramallah Hanan Ashrawi from the Palestinian Legislative Council is there, she's witnessed so many attempts to reach a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians and, how do you look forward to tomorrow's session, do you see the Palestinians getting anything out of it?

HANAN ASHRAWI: Well this is, these are extremely tense times and of course tomorrow's meeting is extremely complex and difficult. First of all President Arafat is going to the summit knowing that Palestinian public opinion is extremely suspicious and with tremendous pressure asking him not to go because they feel that the summit is there in order to abortive intifadah and to pre-empt the Arab summit and of course to rescue Barak from his own domestic crisis and to serve Clinton's interests but very few participants are focusing on Palestinian rights and needs. However there is also a will to ensure that there is a political process, that we cannot allow the dynamic of the confrontations to take over and that there has to be some sense, some voice of reason, particularly given the fact that it is not just American-Israeli-Palestinian, that you do have other components now for the first time a participation by the UN Secretary-General, by the EU leadership in the form of Solano and the Egyptians as well as other Arab countries, so it is expanding the degree of participation and at the same time attempting to deal with the immediate crisis in order to meet certain requirements on the ground.

DAVID FROST: What would you say at the moment is the status this morning as we speak of the peace process?

HANAN ASHRAWI: I think the peace process has been deteriorating or degenerating regularly for the last few years, it is unfortunate that it has lost its credibility, its impact, its substance, even its legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinians for a variety of reasons. Some of them built-in flaws, others dealing with the American Israeli alliance and putting pressure on the Palestinians to accept the violation of their own rights, including the violation of UN Resolution 242 which is the basis of the talks. So in a sense the peace process has become an instrument of victimisation for the Palestinians, rather than one of empowerment and peace and it became an objective, as though the processes and not peace is the end. And this process has been terribly flawed and the, the feelings of, of distrust, hostility have been building up, there are tremendous pent-up emotions because Israel continue to behave like an occupier rather than a peace party with land confiscations, building settlements, a state of siege, again shooting, killing Palestinians and getting away with it. This lack of accountability for Israel and the racist occupation behaviour using military might and threat and intimidation have, you know, gradually led to the destruction of any credibility for the process and of course for the US and any trust in the Israelis, therefore we've seen the latest eruptions as a result of a cumulative incremental process.

DAVID FROST: And at the moment though it's both sides who are talking of bringing hardliners into their cabinets, we read that in fact Yasser Arafat is planning to bring hardliners into his cabinet and of course Ariel Sharon is due to enter the Israeli Cabinet, neither of those are very good signs, are they?

HANAN ASHRAWI: No they're not, well Ariel Sharon to the Palestinians is a war criminal who's guilty of crimes against humanity, of a series massacres, thousands of Palestinians whether Shamran Shantilla refugee camps or Ribya massacre or the notorious 101 unit. So we don't think of him as a person of the moral fibre that can be even talked to let alone Barak who has himself assassinated Palestinians. But in terms of the Palestinians you do see a sort of national unity, I don't think you can say this is a hardline or a softline, there is a commitment to bringing about a just peace, not just any peace and not the peace that victimises the Palestinians and I don't think that Arafat is talking about a new Cabinet right now, he is just trying to save lives and I believe that it's the responsibility of all Palestinians now to rally together, this is what you see rather than a sort of swing to the right or to the left but rather a sort of pulling together with tremendous Arab solidarity and populace solidarity throughout the world, to bring home the message that Palestinians will not relinquish their rights or their lands or their freedom even in the course of the process.

DAVID FROST: And you're speaking to us from Ramallah which has been in all the headlines this week, as you came to do this interview what was the atmosphere there this morning, no violence?

HANAN ASHRAWI: No it's an atmosphere of very tense calm, an unnatural quiet so to speak, a wait-and-see mode. There are certainly vocal voices calling on Arafat not to go, or calling on him to adopt a very firm stance not to succumb to Israeli pressures. There is still tremendous pain because we haven't ended the funerals and the period of mourning, over 100 Palestinians killed, brutally killed and, and thousands still in hospitals injured and in the¿Palestinians are still in a state of siege, every city, town, village and camp is being blockaded by Israeli tanks, we are still in a stage where we cannot even communicate physically with the outside world, a total blockade, a total siege and of course tremendous threat by the Israeli Army, so the atmosphere is not normal so to speak and everybody is trying to gauge, you know what the other side's next move is.

DAVID FROST: Right well you communicated with the rest of the world this morning anyway and we thank you very much indeed Dr Ashrawi for joining us once, once again. Thank you very much indeed, the point, point of view there, how it looks from the Palestinian point of view.

END

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