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World: Habash: Israel Will Fall

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“Our political policy remains to see Israel destroyed. ” So declared one of the most intransigent of Palestinian leaders, Dr. George Habash, in an interview last week with TIME Correspondent Dean Brelis. Habash is head of the Marxist, pro-Moscow Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; it is the second largest commando group (after Yasser Arafat’s Al-Fatah) and has been responsible for some of the most notorious Palestinian terrorist acts. The P.F.L.P. leader talked with Brelis in a well-guarded room at Tripoli’s Beach Hotel shortly before the anti-Sadat summit ended. Excerpts:

Q. Has Assad really split with Egypt?

A. What is clear at the present moment is that Assad and Sadat are on two different wavelengths. I think Assad meant it when he said that there can never be a final divorce between Syria and Egypt. There can be a divorce of two people—between Sadat and Assad. I think that is what happened.

Q. What do you think of Sadat’s going to Israel?

A. The obstinacy of Israel will not make any solution possible. Sadat’s strategy will naturally lead to disaster. It is the strategy of a desperate man. His strategy after the 1973 war led to concessions, such as Sinai II. Now he is making more concessions. And he is 100% wrong. I don’t believe Sadat can last. His days are numbered. Outside Egypt, he is finished as an Arab leader.

Q. Won’t Egypt be better able to cope with its economic problems if it is at peace with Israel?

A. Sadat is facing special hardships within Egypt. His economy is facing almost imminent collapse. But Egypt is only strong as long as it is linked to other Arab countries. By going to Israel, Sadat has isolated himself, and his policy will end in ruination.

Q. What can the Tripoli summit accomplish in its attempts to check Sadat?

A. This conference will take some steps. It’s no longer a secret that many organizations are aiming to finish Sadat. He will be overthrown.

Q. How? By assassination?

A. We prefer a political overthrow.

Q. Do you expect Saudi Arabia to back the anti-Sadat summit?

A. One thing is clear: the Saudi Arabian masses have condemned Sadat as a traitor. The Saudi Arabian rulers know how their people feel, and that is why they have not given open backing to Sadat. One result of the conference will be to consolidate progressive Arab opinion. We don’t expect support from reactionary forces of the Arab world. But all over the world there are progressives and there are reactionaries. In the front ranks of the reactionaries are the Israelis and those Arabs who march with them.

Q. Why won’t the the Palestinian rejectionists give up their cry for Israel’s destruction?

A. The Palestinian masses believe they are fighting for a very just cause. I cannot imagine our people saying they are tired. Israel is a fascist state, and I cannot believe that it will last. All struggle against fascism must win. We believe the Jews are oppressed, and one day Jews and Arabs will again live side by side in Palestine.

Q. Sadat has said that unless you follow his lead, there will be bloodshed in south Lebanon and Syria. Do you agree?

A. Because Syria has rejected Sadat, there will be trouble in south Lebanon and Syria. Sadat will be ready to cooperate with Israel to make all kinds of trouble because the ultimate goal is to finish off the Palestinians. Sadat will also be attempting to destroy Assad himself. Sadat is now thinking that anything he can do to create difficulties for his opponents he will do:—without hesitation and with the compliance of the Israelis.

Q. Do you feel that [United Nations Resolution] 242 and Geneva are still viable today as a means of negotiating peace?

A. A solution for the Palestinians has been blocked by Sadat. Geneva is in the refrigerator. Geneva and 242 are finished. There should be other political and strategic approaches to peace, otherwise there will be war.

Q. What is your approach to a peace settlement?

A. If we could have gotten peace by going to Geneva, O.K. But that is not the situation. Our political struggle based on 242 and Geneva no longer applies. That route is blocked. So we must find a new way. But how? We should not stop our political struggle, and we can continue it through the United Nations, alliances, and through meetings like the one in Tripoli.

Q. What is your approach to a military solution?

A. If one thinks in terms of 1967 and 1973, no one could make the decision to fight. Israel is too powerful for that kind of war, and Israel would win. But there is another way of fighting. One can fight inside Israel. We can fight from the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, and we can cross into Israel. This is the long struggle. In 20 years I can see us fighting in Haifa, Jerusalem, in all the occupied towns, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t win that war.

Q. What is the position of the Palestinian people today?

A. Our position is very difficult. We have no good news to report to our people. I don’t think we will have good news next year, or the year after. But 20 years from now Israel will start to fall. Israel will be in a struggle it will not be able to face. Then the good news will begin for our people.

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