NEWS

‘Some of us manage to stand up and fight’

In a dramatic plea to the international community, especially to the European Union, Yasser Arafat warned that the ultra-aggressive policy of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the American government’s absorption in the November elections may be the coup de grace to the so-called road map for resolving the Palestinian issue, removing any last hope for restarting the process. The plea was made in an interview with Kathimerini, who met the president of the Palestinian Authority on the evening of May 1 in his semi-ruined headquarters in Ramallah, where he has been confined for two-and-a-half years, encircled by Israeli troops. The interview began as the results of the first exit polls of an internal vote by Likud, the Israeli ruling party, were coming out, guaranteeing the rejection of Sharon’s proposal for Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. In the lengthy interview, the Palestinian leader criticized Sharon’s proposal as a stratagem to undermine the road map and categorically denied scenarios of his own possible transfer from Ramallah to Gaza. He allowed for a small ray of optimism when speaking of a possible governing coalition between Sharon and Shimon Peres’s Labor Party, which would inevitably entail the exclusion of fanatical right-wing elements. Arafat laid grave charges against the Israeli army for using prohibited arms, such as chemical weapons and depleted uranium against the Palestinians. High-spirited and voluble, the Palestinian leader moved beyond the burning issues of the moment to landmarks in the history of the Palestinian movement and his own eventful personal itinerary from the disaster of 1948 to the siege of Beirut, his moving memories of Andreas Papandreou and celebratory meetings with Bill Clinton to other more recent, but dramatically different times. The discussion moved from politics to personal experience and extended into a working meal after the interview, to which he gave Kathimerini the honor of an invitation and which was attended by his comrades and colleagues, including Abdul Abdullah, until recently the Palestinian ambassador to Athens, and now deputy foreign minister (who describes himself as an «ambassador of Greece to Palestine»).