Fadi Elsalameen – CNN Interview – Comments on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority
Aired July 29, 2014 – 15:30 ET on CNN
BALDWIN: Few people have tried as hard as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to broker the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. What does Kerry have to show for it? So far nothing other than criticism from Israelis who say he has blundered and blundered badly. What do Palestinians think of him?
Fadi Elsalameen is a senior adjunct fellow with the American Security Project and a commentator on Arab-Israeli Affairs. He joins me from Washington. Fadi, welcome back.
Let me just ask you this with Secretary Kerry, he is getting slammed by Israeli media for legitimizing the role of Hamas. How do Palestinians feel about him?
FADI ELSALAMEEN, SENIOR ADJUNCT FELLOW, AMERICAN SECURITY PROJECT: First of all, Secretary of State John Kerry is a man that has fought in war. He knows what is the price of war. His job is not to be the Israeli spokesperson. His job as an American secretary of state is to look at what are the issues that are destabilizing the region and how can he protect American interests.
What he has done by pushing a peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis is precisely that. He has warned — before we are in this mess, he has made a clear warning to both Palestinians and Israelis and he has said if this peace effort does not work, we are heading towards violence.
I think what you are seeing now from the Israelis is a pushback so that they cannot be blamed for what is happening. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s only achievement if you look what is happening now is that he is the second longest serving prime minister in Israel. That doesn’t happen out of space. You have to basically out maneuver people, you have to escape committing yourself to political achievements.
That’s what basically the prime minister of Israel has done. He has basically put his coalition survivorship, him being a prime minister as a priority to actually achieving peace with the Palestinians and the Israelis and if he’s uncomfortable with that and basically his way of creating some comfort is pushing back and blaming the secretary of state for wanting to create peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, I don’t think that is a fair criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry at all.
BALDWIN: In the 2 minutes I have two additional minutes have I with you, we talked yesterday at length. In terms of a permanent cease- fire. I asked you what is Hamas priority and you said absolutely the blockade. What about the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas? Is it the same priority, access?
ELSALAMEEN: From what I know, and I just spoke to some of the Palestinians who are traveling with President Abbas to Cairo. Apparently Hamas has finally made up its mind and everybody accepts the cease-fire. They are going as one delegation to Egypt. What will happen is they will announce a 48-hour cease-fire where the Israelis will also accept it, as well and then both sides will sit down in Cairo and agree to one, lifting the blockade.
The Palestinian Authority will take over the Rafa Crossing with some help from the European Union. I think that’s where everybody is moving ahead. So it’s from what I know that Hamas has accepted the cease-fire contrary to what they announced before. I believe one of their spokesmen is making this point as we speak.
BALDWIN: OK, so that would be the 48-hour cease-fire that we’re hearing from you. Do you think there’s enough ground to forge this unity government?
ELSALAMEEN: You know, you’ve heard talks earlier that people are worried that if you topple Hamas, then you are going to have more radical groups taking the Gaza strip. That is not the only alternative. The other alternative that exists, which everybody should be supporting, which I believe also the secretary of state was trying to push is that you have the Palestinian Authority as a body that is willing to take over the Gaza strip as a body that is accepted even by Hamas to come and take them over. So I believe that this should be the effort that everybody should be pushing for. You know, earlier you had.
BALDWIN: Fadi, I have to cut you off. Please do come back. You’ve been back two days. We want to make sure we’re hearing both sides. Fadi Elsalameen, senior adjunct fellow with the American Security Project, appreciate you very much.