UNITED States President Donald Trump unveiled his long-deferred Israeli-Palestinian peace plan on January 28, 2019. NewsDay (ND) reporter Vanessa Gonye spoke to the outgoing Palestinian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Taghrid Senouar (TS), who gave an insight on the Palestinian question and the relations between Zimbabwe and her country.
ND: President Donald Trump presented what he called the “deal of the century”, and of course, your leadership rejected it. Can you tell us what this deal is offering to Palestinians and why you have rejected it?
TS: Our leadership rejects this! It’s not a deal, rather it is the old-new Israel plan endorsed by the US administration which entrenches the occupation and illegal annexation of Jerusalem, Jordan Valley, the illegal settlements which amount to war crimes under international law, the control of Palestinian land, air and maritime space, borders and resources reducing our people to live in Bantustans linked by tunnels and bridges.
All this is in contravention and fragrant violation of international law, UN charter and United Nations resolutions as well as the perspective of peace in the Middle East.
His Excellency, President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership and people reject very clearly this plan. We reject and refuse any plan that doesn’t meet our legitimate rights and aspirations.
ND: What’s next because Israel seems to have scaled its move to annex the Jordan Valley and apply Jewish law in the occupied places of West Bank?
TS: Palestine upholds international legitimacy and universal principles. We are committed to just and lasting peace.
This can be reached through the resolution of the Palestinian question on the basis of international law, the relevant UN resolutions and according to the vision of the two States solution.
As occupied people, we are the ones interested in peace which is based on internationally agreed parameters and justice for our people.
ND: Is the two State solution viable? Is it not the time to fight for equal rights?
TS: We want equal rights. Israel is withdrawing itself from the two States solution. We have done everything on our side, but it is the Israeli side that has not honoured what we agreed upon.
ND: While a lot of countries have come to condemn the deal of the century, is the international community doing enough to pressure Israel to stop its occupation of Palestine?
TS: The international community has been active on the Palestinian question. What we need is to make Israel abide by international law. This is what lacks in the Palestinian question.
ND: One of the key issues is Jerusalem, which Trump proposed to make the capital of Israel. Why is Jerusalem such a key issue in the conflict?
TS: It is part of the states Israel occupied in 1968. It is the centre of social, political and economic life of Palestine (its capital). It holds also religious sites for the Christians, Muslims and Jews. It holds symbolic values.
We have always, as Palestinians, upheld peace for all religions. The status of Jerusalem is very clear; there is no doubt about it on international law.
This we can see on the effect of Trump’s announcement of the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We had America and Israel on one side and Palestine and the rest of the world on the other side.
ND: The Palestinian question (particularly the situation in West Bank and Gaza) has been equated to the apartheid system which was in South Africa. Can you give an insight on some of the similarities?
TS: I quote Desmond Tutu “What is happening in Palestine is worse than what South Africans went through during apartheid.” The law that applies to settlers in West Bank is different to Palestinians.
Home demolitions, no right to build and confiscation of land; also not being given the freedom to travel to Jerusalem while anyone from anywhere around the world can visit.
ND: Some viewpoints have suggested that Palestinians are not united, especially Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Hamas.
TS: The PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Our President, HE Mahmoud Abbas has said there will be a delegation of different PLO factions that is going to meet with Hamas in the coming days to reach an agreement to unite the Palestinian parties. The goal of all Palestinians is to fight occupation.
ND: Israel Defence minister Bennet Naftali said their ultimate goal was to make Palestine a semi-autonomous State within Israel, but without security. What do you have to say about that?
TS: He is not the one who decides for the Palestinian’s (13 million people) rights and how we live under Israeli control. The Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves. It is not up to the occupying power to decide the fate of a nation.
ND: You have been in Zimbabwe for four years, how have you maintained the relations between Zimbabwe and Palestine. Are there any key projects that the two countries are involved in?
TS: I spent four years in your beautiful country. Palestine and Zimbabwe enjoy good relations that date back to the liberation struggle and we continue with the good relations. We are exploring other horizons for co-operation in other fields for the mutual interests of our peoples.
ND: Zimbabwe is predominantly a Christian country and a lot of Christian Zimbabweans travel to Israel every year and barely does the Palestinian name come into conversation despite Bethlehem being in occupied West Bank …
TS: Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho are all part of occupied territories in Palestine. Israel is controlling our borders. This conflict is political not religious, it is a colonial expansionist project. It is a question of the domination by a power on another population. It is Israel’s goal to make the occupation profitable.
ND: As a woman in diplomacy and politics considering where you are coming from, how is it being in that position?
TS: Women are half of the Palestinian society and have always played a full role in the quest for freedom.
Women pay a big price as a result of the occupation, therefore, the position of women in the Palestinian society is important.
It is not strange for women to be in leading roles in the Palestinian society. We have plenty of women ambassadors.
ND: What’s your message to the people of Zimbabwe?
TS: The people of Zimbabwe are very peaceful, very warm. I enjoyed serving my country here. There are a lot of similarities (goodwill, resilience). I wish them all the prosperity and to keep the unity always as a free nation.
ND: Do you think Palestine will ever be free?
TS: Certainly, it will be free. Every occupation is meant to end. Oppression and occupation are not of the 21st century. We will never give up on our right to freedom.
With support from Zimbabwe, Africa and the rest of the world, we will become free. Like the African countries who united to fight for liberation, we will also make it.