A number of months ago the Israelis and the (West Bank) Palestinians agreed on a list of men who would be taken off Israel's active wanted list if they laid down their arms. Zubeidi is one of them. So while there are millions of Palestinians, and no single one of them is representative of them all, this one needs to be listened to, for his words (and silences) are instructive well beyond his private persona.
My aim was for us, by means of the 'resistance' [code for terror attacks], to get a message out to the world. Back in Abu Amar's day [the nom de guerre of Yasser Arafat], we had a plan, there was a strategy, and we would carry his orders."Need I contextualize? The 2nd Intifada started two months after the Palestinians rejected the Israeli offers made at Camp David in the Summer of 2000, at which according to all versions the Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Barak made some dramatic proposals. One was to disband all settlements in Gaza and many of those in the West Bank. This cut the ground out from under the chief Palestinian grievance during the Oslo Process, whereby the Israelis couldn't possibly intend to relinquish territories if they were still building on them. After Arafat rejected the proposals without making any counter proposals, the negotiations continued in mid-September, and the violence broke out at the end of September. Zubeidi now tells that the decision to turn to violence was calculated and taken clearly, and the direction came straight from Arafat. Nothing particularly new about this, except that it was the opposite of approximately 100% of the media reportage at the time.
In effect, are you saying what Amos Gilad and intelligence always said, that Arafat planned everything?
"Right. Everything that was done in the intifada was done according to Arafat's instructions, but he didn't need to tell us the things explicitly. We understood his message."
The reason Arafat and his thousands of active followers felt they had to do this was "to get a message out to the world". This at a period where the number one time consumer on the schedule of the President of the United States was the Palestinians. After the Israelis retreated to what most of us regarded as too far in the face of Palestinian demands, in January 2001, and we threw out our government for doing so, the Palestinians escalated their violence dramatically, until eventually Israel violently put a stop to it in 2002-2004. As Zubeidi fully acknowledges:
We failed entirely in the intifada. We haven't seen any benefit or positive result from it. We achieved nothing. It's a crushing failure. We failed at the political level - we didn't succeed in translating the military actions into political achievements. The current leadership does not want armed actions, and since the death of Abu Amar, there's no one who is capable of using our actions to bring about such achievements. When Abu Amar died, the armed intifada died with him."Context, again: They systematically waged violence against Israeli civilians, in order to achieve more than the Israelis were willing to offer. Since by then Israel had offered effectively 100% of the West Bank, full partition of Jerusalem, dismantling of most settlements and some sort of land swap for those that would remain, one must ask what additional goals they had in mind?
Finally, what Zubeidi dosn't say - or rather, what he doesn't do. He admits defeat. He acknowledges that Israel cannot be beaten militarily, thus the whole thing was futile. (Bloody, destructive, murderous - but futile). And so what does he do with all this? He Kvetches. He sleeps till noon. He sometimes goes to play at being an actor, or not, depending. He expects an internal war to tear apart the Palestinians, but the most he feels he must do is damn his own politicians.
The thought of taking his very significant destructive power and turning it into something constructive, seems never to cross his mind. He has a long proven track record of leading his men to death in Israeli towns, but he cannot conceive of harnessing his charisma towards building the best they can possibly achieve in the present situation; the thought that if they were to focus on building rather than destroying they might even find eager partners in the Israelis doesn't even exist in his universe.
Truly a depressing interview.