‘Prime Minister Hanan Ashrawi’

Talking to himself, he said: «So we go back to square one. It is as if we did not do anything.» An inner voice replied to him: «Don’t be so depressed. What happened was to be expected. A people resisting the occupation and striving for freedom will pay the price in the form of hardships, martyrs, those injured and destruction.» He said, «I know; but the question is whether all of this was avoidable.» The voice protested: «But you know that the road to peace is mined by the settlement policies. There was no choice but to resist.» Hesitantly, he said, «Does all of this mean that we’ve come closer to the day of freedom?» The voice was confident in saying, «Definitely!» He wasn’t pleased with the answer. So he asked, «Why is there such assuredness and why have the Israelis, headed by Sharon, become more radical, the Americans intent on humiliating us, the world almost forgetting us, while there are people who have neither bread nor hope?» The conversation stopped as the time of the important political meeting arrived. His host greeted him and introduced him to the others. Then they all sat to listen to a fiery speech; but they didn’t have any answers to his questions. The meeting talked about national unity, reform, democracy, human rights and rule of law, like a recording filling the time between live music at a party without beginning or end. He became restless as he listened to the speeches one after the other, all regurgitating the same words and slogans. After a while, he came up with enough courage to ask, «Apart from the slogans that have bored us and our people, does anyone among us have a new idea to present to our people and the world?» The faces around the large table grew grim, except for that of a young woman whose eyes were full of life and hope. She said, «If the chairman would allow me, I have a specific suggestion.» The woman did not heed the eyes trying to penetrate her thoughts. She continued: «I suggest appointing Hanan Ashrawi as prime minister with full authority to appoint ministers and administer and monitor the PNA. She should be accountable to the Legislative Council. She must start immediately to set the basis for a democratic Palestinian institution as a step toward establishing a state ruled by law.» Several in the audience raised their hands wanting to speak; but the woman continued: «I hope that the chairman will allow me to present my idea in full. I suggest that Hanan Ashrawi go to the planned international peace conference to get the message across that there is little precious time before total destruction. She must make it clear that there is no other choice but to reach a peace agreement that would be implemented immediately, and which leads to a fully sovereign Palestinian state within one year. During this year, Israel would withdraw gradually from the settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. Negotiations for a just solution to the refugee issue would start immediately. International monitoring should ensure the implementation of the agreement by both sides under a set time frame. One of the articles of the agreement should provide sanctions against any party that does not implement its commitments. At the end of the year and with the declaration of the Palestinian state, the Arabs should declare their acceptance of Israel and the end of the conflict.» One screamed: «What about Yasser Arafat? Where is he in all of this?» She replied firmly: «He is at the top of the PNA and the head of the PLO and its symbol. As for the prime minister, it is a new post with the responsibilities of running the PNA and the negotiations.» Another asked, «What about Fatah and the other parties?» She replied: «Ms Ashrawi would have the authority to appoint whomever she sees fit in her cabinet. Her choice would be based on qualifications, not political, personal or clan loyalties. Loyalty should be to Palestine only. She could choose members of the Legislative Council or from outside it.» Another asked sarcastically: «What about the security branches and armed militias? Will they comply with this?» The woman wavered for a moment, but regained control and said: «This is a test of loyalty to Palestine. These militias and security branches have a track record proving that their first loyalty is to their homeland. Today is an ideal opportunity for them to prove that. The new cabinet has to organize the security branches and bring them under the law. It has to collect weapons and give the opportunity to the different parties to join the political landscape and establish parties to enter parliamentary elections.» She added, «Some people might have their loyalties elsewhere; and the masses have to judge them according to the law, and by supporting the new cabinet that is backed by the PLO and its chairman, Yasser Arafat.» One protested: «I don’t think that this suggestion is practical. There will be many problems and confrontations. Many cannot escape their personal and political loyalties. I can go as far as saying that many of them don’t know how to work as a team. Disagreements and personal ambitions will prevail. Such a cabinet would fall due to conspiracies from within and without.» She said challengingly: «This is our last chance to build a national state based on justice and law. If my suggestion is not practical, then what is the solution?» One replied: «We won’t have any choice but to ask for the restoration of an international mandate on Palestine to enable the people to attain independence and train a new leadership and government. There are many mistakes; and it isn’t shameful to seek the experience of friends on issues of government and administration. This mandate would be for five years, during which elections are held, judges are trained on the independence of the judiciary, parliamentarians trained on the independence of the legislature, ministers and first secretaries trained on how to run their ministries and law enforcement personnel trained in respecting the law and people’s rights.» The woman looked around her and found no opposition.