President Bush rolled out the red carpet at the White House for Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), while Yasser Arafat is still a hostage of the Israelis in Ramallah. Can we assume that the Palestinians are prepared to sacrifice Arafat in order to acquire a state? Yasser Arafat, as elected head of state, appointed Abu Mazen prime minister. We belong to the same party, Al Fatah. Abu Mazen can’t do anything outside Arafat’s guidelines. It is good that President Bush has received one of our people’s representatives. But the real issue is to exert pressure on the Israelis to withdraw from the occupied territories. A few days ago, a meeting between Abu Mazen and Ariel Sharon ended in an impasse. We’re waiting for President Bush to demand Sharon’s compliance with the provisions of the «road map.» Why should the «road map» succeed, when as you have noted, the Oslo peace process failed? For many reasons. The Intifada has changed the scene over the past three years. The Israelis are exhausted, they have no sense of security and many of them have left the country. More than 1.4 million Israelis live below the poverty line. Sharon promised them security but hasn’t managed to provide it. Israeli society has started to become discontented, seeing that Sharon is capable of taking revenge on the Palestinians but not of bringing peace. Sharon ‘a warmonger’ Do you think there can be peace with Sharon in power? I don’t think so. Sharon is the last student of Zabotinski, an extremist warmonger who is at the end of his political life. What do you think of the latest proposal by Shimon Peres to turn Jerusalem into a kind of «international capital» under the aegis of the United Nations? It is a change in the Israeli stance. Until yesterday, they were saying that Jerusalem was the eternal capital of Israel. The new position represents some progress. The UN plan to share the territories between Israel and Palestine determined the status of greater Jerusalem as an international city. Consequently, if the Peres proposal is adopted by the Israeli government – which I doubt – the situation will improve. In any case, we want Jerusalem to be an open city, accessible to all the international community, the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine, with its western part under Israeli administration and the eastern part under Palestinian administration. Is the return of the refugees a matter of principle or a negotiating card for the Palestinian side? It is a matter of principle. No Palestinian leader can relinquish the right of refugee return. Not Arafat nor Abu Mazen nor anyone can deprive the refugees of the right to return, an elementary human right that is safeguarded by international justice. The Palestinian organizations declared a truce at the end of June. Does this mean that the Intifada, at least in its armed form, has reached an impasse? No. The international community, especially the sponsors of the «road map,» have asked us to give Israel time to comply. We decided on a three-month moratorium on Israel, a chance to implement the provisions of the «road map.» If they don’t, then the Intifada, the legitimate resistance of our people to the occupation, will continue. How dangerous is the division of the Palestinian movement into the worldly, pluralist PLO and Islamic organizations such as Hamas and Jihad? There’s no division. The Zionists represent at least three discrete streams and only united after the formation of the State. Hamas and Jihad are part of our national liberation struggle, even though they don’t participate in the PLO. We’re fighting the same enemy. We have good relations with them; I meet their representatives whenever I go to Syria. In the foreign press you appear as a likely, if not the most likely, successor to Arafat. Would you contend for such a role? My main aim is to see our revolution succeed. President Arafat is the leader of the revolution and he will continue to be as long as he lives. My role is clearly defined, as I have been elected the PLO’s secretary and foreign minister.