Speaking at an event at the American University in Cairo titled “The Future of Palestine after October 7,” Amr Moussa, a distinguished elder statesman of the Arab world, called for unity among Palestinian political factions and a renewal of Arab solidarity with Palestine.
Amr Moussa is a former foreign minister of Egypt and former secretary-general of the Arab League. He was interviewed by the Egyptian novelist and cultural commentator Ahdaf Soueif at the AUC event, held on November 27 at the university’s Tahrir Square campus.
Responding to questions from Soueif, Moussa reviewed scenarios for the course of the Palestinian cause after the end of the catastrophic Israel-Hamas war that has claimed the lives of over 13,000 Palestinians in Gaza since October 7, health authorities in Gaza say.
Moussa called for creating a new form of Arab solidarity with Palestine through intellectual and political agreements that could be followed to negotiate a two-state solution and end the conflict with Israel.
“It is not a requirement that all Arab states do this,” he said. “If five countries are able to agree on the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state, this can be achieved.”
On the prospects for Arab solidarity with Palestine on negotiating a two-state solution with Israel: “It is not a requirement that all Arab states do this. If five countries are able to agree on the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state, this can be achieved.”
He also called for addressing what he described as the “dangerous internal Palestinian division” and uniting all factions under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization, so that the PLO becomes the true representative and the only one that has the right to negotiate with Israel.
Since 2007, political leadership in Palestine has been split between the West Bank, partially governed by the Palestinian Authority, and Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, the armed group that led the surprise attack on Israel on October 7 that precipitated the current war.
Leading Palestine After October 7
Soueif asked about the chances of agreeing on a prominent Palestinian figure to lead the negotiations for the Palestinian cause in lieu of Mahmoud Abbas, the deeply unpopular president of the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah.
Names that have been mentioned as potential post-war leaders in Palestine include Marwan Barghouti, who has been jailed on terrorism charges in Israel since 2002, and Hanan Ashrawi, a longtime Palestinian politician, scholar, and former peace negotiator.
“Marwan Barghouti is suitable to head the Palestine Liberation Organisation and be an alternative to current President Mahmoud Abbas,” Moussa responded. Under international pressure, “Israel may accept his release.”
Moussa pointed out that Barghouti could become Palestine’s Mandela or Gandhi in the coming period. “There is general consensus on the personality of Marwan Barghouti,” he said, “because he is not corrupt, and he gave his life for the Palestinian cause.”
Dealing with Israel
Talking about the course of negotiations with Israel, Moussa said that the Israeli government “is not ready for peace; rather, it aims to expand the annexation of lands at the expense of the Palestinians.”
On potential post-war leadership in Palestine: “Marwan Barghouti is suitable to head the Palestine Liberation Organisation. … There is general consensus on the personality of Marwan Barghouti because he is not corrupt, and he gave his life for the Palestinian cause.”
He said he expected that the leadership of the current Israeli government would soon end, and added: “The Israeli political community has a group of rational people with whom it is possible to deal. This is their time, especially in light of their desire to establish peace with the Arab countries.”
In response to a question about how to deal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Moussa said that any negotiation with the current Israeli government “cannot result in temporary or permanent peace.”
He added that Netanyahu, the Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, among others, “must be tried as war criminals in accordance with international law, but the Security Council turns a blind eye to them.”
Courting World Opinion
Soueif asked what could be done to persuade the American administration to take a more favourable position towards Palestine. Moussa answered that the Biden administration felt that it was losing because of its policies to support Israel. Washington had previously proposed the idea of having a single government to administer the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but no path was reached regarding this proposal.
Moussa criticised the “global silence” regarding what is happening to the Palestinian people, a silence he described as “strange and unacceptable.” He also called the U.N. Security Council’s rejection of resolutions to stop the war “illogical and very strange.”
“The Security Council, the International Criminal Court, and the United Nations have all lost their credibility and influence with a number of Arab and Western peoples,” he said. He contrasted those bodies with “other international organisations that have gained the world’s respect for their reliance on human-rights principles, such as Unicef, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation, and other non-governmental bodies such as the Red Crescent and the Red Cross.”
Rejecting Forced Displacement
Moussa praised Egypt for rejecting attempts to force the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Moussa noted that Egypt had temporarily opened the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, but had stipulated that this was only to allow aid convoys to enter Gaza and so that foreign passport holders and injured Palestinians who needed medical care could leave Gaza.
Egypt acted out of consideration for its own national security requirements, he said, but still refused to dilute the Palestinian cause.
On the “global silence” regarding what is happening to the Palestinian people: “The Security Council, the International Criminal Court, and the United Nations have all lost their credibility and influence with a number of Arab and Western peoples.”
In other remarks, he said: “Recently, Israel believed, because of its power and the Western support, that it would declare a single state. I expected an explosion from the Palestinian people against Israel. I know the Palestinian people well, and they are a people who reject occupation, aggression, and being pitied.”
Moussa concluded his remarks by saying: “Unless the current situation changes, there will be an October 8 and an October 9 under different circumstances.”
In response to a question from the audience, he advised against entering into “any open-ended negotiations, because it means that you will concede a lot.”
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