Wednesday, July 21, 2004

interview with Sakher Habash

Corruption should never be replaced with corruption”
an interview with Sakher Habash
This week Palestine Report Online interviews Sakher Habash, member of Fateh's executive committee and coordinator for the Palestinian national forces, on the security situation in Gaza .

PR: What are the most recent developments with regards to the political crisis within the Palestinian leadership and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in particular? 

Habash: The crisis is not between the Palestinian Authority and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades because there is no one body bearing the Brigades' name. There are several different statements being released by various groups under the name of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and there are contradictions in the content of these statements – some parties adhere to the party line of the Aqsa Martyrs while others do not. Therefore, we must distinguish between those who are self-proclaimed Aqsa Martyrs members and the true Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
I think the most recent statement, issued under the name of the Aqsa Martyrs about the attack on Palestinian Authority positions and the abduction of [police chief] Ghazi Jabali, is not really from the Brigades. The reason is that the true Aqsa Brigades adhere to the political line of Fateh. The Brigades have their own philosophy when it comes to resisting and striking at the occupation, which varies slightly from that of Fateh's, but on the issue of fighting corruption, the Aqsa Martyrs adhere to Fateh's line.

I think the events we have seen recently are an attempt to spark a civil war and that those behind it are at the root of the corruption, claiming to be the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The current crisis, therefore, is not with the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades but with suspicious groups trying to shake the stability and security of the region in order to deliver a blow to the Palestinian Authority.

PR: What can we do about the lack of security and rule of law in the Palestinian street? 

Habash: The state of security chaos is a result of the failure to deal with problems from their inception. The popular saying goes, “treat your wound and it won't fester.” Corruption leads to more corruption and the state that we are in has occurred because of a few corrupt people who strive for material and financial goals that benefit only them.

This situation in Palestinian society in which there is no rule of law, necessitates a strong and solid stance. We need more competent and trustworthy officials to be appointed in order to get matters under control. The honest and powerful should be running things not the deceitful and powerful, such as Jabali. His shamelessness has ultimately led to his weakness. In the end he was delivered a blow in his own workplace. One corrupt person should never be replaced with another. And any replacement should not be on the grounds of personal loyalties but rather loyalty towards the Palestinian cause. I should not appoint someone just because of his loyalty to me in disregard of his faults.

The focus of the meeting today [July 20] with President Arafat was that the crisis calls for national unity on a sound and stable basis. We need honest people with integrity.

PR: What is Fateh's role in reversing this state of chaos? 

Habash: Fateh is calling for national unity and a unified stance in the Palestinian street. [Prime Minister] Abu Ala ' [Ahmad Qrei'] has said that he is convinced this state of chaos is the result of accumulation of going easy on vigilante groups and undisciplined militias.

The groups that carry out corrupt actions must have their covers blown and Abu Ammar must be at the helm of this action, followed by the joint national forces. They must stand hand in hand and talk with the same tongue. They must also specify the exact nature of the corruption in order to get a real hold over the security situation.

PR: What decisions were take when the Fateh Central Committee met with the national security council? 

Habash: Our first decision was that Ghazi Jabali's resignation should never have been accepted. Rather, he should have been expelled from his position and a clean and honest person put in his place as the head of the police service. Saeb Al Ajez was chosen and he is a competent and clean man. As for Musa Arafat, there was a campaign against him because of some of his actions, namely land-taking, which indicates corruption. In my opinion, the choice of Musa Arafat was not a sound one. But, President Arafat is using his authority and he will have to bear the consequences of this decision.

I think the people who rose up against the appointment of Musa Arafat are mostly people more clearly involved in corruption. Some are even involved with the Israeli occupation.

When Abu Ammar wants to carry out reforms, he must choose the right people and put them in the appropriate positions at the right time.

PR: Do you think that this wave of kidnappings signifies a new approach for some factions? 

Habash: The people who carried out these abductions were gangs and their actions were criminal, especially when they attacked former police chief Jabali. How could his position as head of the police service be belittled in this way? This has opened the door to chaos in the Palestinian street.

Now, we must reverse the mistake these groups have committed - a mistake which has actually given credence to the recent statements of [ UNenvoy] Terje Larson's about the Palestinians. His statements are in fact correct - we must fight the corrupt elements, which are allowing the world to say that the Palestinians should be put behind a security wall.

PR: Is the Authority going to remove Musa Arafat because of the people's rejection of his appointment? 

Habash: That is up to Abu Ammar.

PR: Do you feel that the latest reforms were basically a reaction to what happened? 

Habash: These changes were already on the table before all these events occurred. Unfortunately, however, the decisions were made at an inappropriate time. We hope that decisions will always be taken within the PA as actions and not just reactions because this is how things should operate. -Published July 21, 2004©Palestine Report

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