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Middle East

Palestinian Prime Minister: 'We are committed to non-violent resistance'

Despite continuing violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah stressed his government's commitment to non-violent resistance and peace in an interview with DW's Conflict Zone.

Watch video 26:01

Rami Hamdallah on Conflict Zone

The war between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East sometimes feels like a never-ending conflict. In the past months, tensions have been rising again, with a

series of attacks

on civilians on both sides of the divide.

On this week's Conflict Zone with Tim Sebastian, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said his government has a commitment to "reach a settlement with Israel through peaceful means."

To that end, Hamdallah stressed the importance of Israel applying all UN resolutions which call on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian land, so that Palestinians can establish an independent sovereign state.

"The expansion of settlements on a daily basis kills the viability of a Palestinian state," Hamdallah said.

Gaza Proteste Palästinenser Nahal Grenzübergang

Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians are an almost daily occurrence in Gaza and the West Bank

Peace with Israel?

Asked how the Israelis are supposed to make peace with Palestinians who are disunited, Hamdallah said: "We are doing our best to reach a unity government. Hamas is invited."

While the Palestinian government has been negotiating with the fundamentalist organization Hamas for years,

opinion polls

by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research show that a growing number of Palestinians actually support an armed conflict as "the most effective means of establishing a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel."

In the interview with Tim Sebastian, Hamdallah however stressed his commitment to "reach a historical, political settlement with Israel, based on the UN resolutions, and based on the two- states vision."

Non-violent resistance vs. incitement

Throughout the interview, Hamdallah stressed his government's commitment to non-violent resistance.

"We need a political horizon. We have to give our people hope. We have been under occupation for 51 years. 60 percent of the people have never left Gaza," he said.

Gaza Anhänger der palästinensischen Abgeordneten Najat Abu Bakr

Is the Palestinian government inciting violence against Israelis?

The Fatah-run Awdah-TV channel recently broadcast a music video that calls on Palestinians "to drown Jews in a sea of blood and kill them as you wish."

Asked why the government allows such incitement, Hamdallah said that his government doesn't allow incitement and blamed Israel for "pushing these people towards radicalism."

"I tell you our commitment is to non-violent resistance. This is our commitment," he said. Hamdallah didn’t, however, specifically condemn recent attacks by Palestinians against Israelis.

Corruption allegations

Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas took office in spring 2005 for what was supposed to be a five year term, but he is still in power 11 years later. The lack of effective oversight of the president, as well as nepotism and a lack of reforms have increased corruption allegations.

New York UN Gipfel Palästinensischer Präsident Mahmoud Abbas

Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas has been in office twice as long as he was supposed to

According to a

report

by the not-for-profit policy research institute Middle East Monitor, corruption is endemic in the Palestinian Authority and is spreading across all sections of Palestinian society.

Abdelqader al-Husseini, chairman of the Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), recently said that without the reactivation of Palestine's legislative council, which has not sat since 2007, there will be no end to corruption.

But in the interview, Hamdallah rejected these accusations: "We created institutions based on transparency and accountability. We are accountable, we are transparent," he said.

Teachers on strike met with riot police

Public schools in Palestine have been on strike for more than a month now, demanding better conditions and wages. The protest has given rise to the largest demonstrations in the West Bank in 20 years.

Conflic Zone host Tim Sebastian und der palästinensische Premierminister Rami Hamdallah

MP Najat Abu Bakr was almost arrested for showing solidarity with the teachers' strike in Palestine

In an attempt to stop the teachers from protesting, the government has cracked down on teachers, meeting them with riot police, threats of arrest, overnight detention and loss of jobs. This action was denounced by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Confronted with his government's actions, Hamdallah stressed his admiration for teachers and said: "I myself am a teacher. The president is a teacher. We highly respect our teachers."

He added that just a few weeks ago, thousands of teachers were allowed to demonstrate in front of his office. Hamdallah also said none of the teachers who have protested will be sacked.

Cracking down on free speech

It's not just protesters who have faced problems for criticizing the government. The US-based non-governmental organization Freedom House

reported

last year that several media outlets were routinely pressured to provide favorable coverage of the government. According to the report, journalists who criticized the government faced arbitrary arrest, threats and physical abuse.

Gaza Stadt Proteste Palästinenser

This week's guest on Conflict Zone is Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah

Hamdallah said this is not the government's policy and that mistakes like these can happen anywhere. "I cannot deny that sometimes certain incidents happen," he said, adding that if abuses occur they are investigated.

Palestine's Prime Minister said the same about torture of people under arrest. According to Amnesty International's latest

report for 2015/2016,

“torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common and was committed with impunity by Palestinian police and other security forces in the West Bank. The victims included children."

Confronted with this report, Hamadallah said: "Torture happens. But this is not the policy. It happens on an individual basis. Sometimes mistakes happen, right?"

The full Conflict Zone interview will air on March 16 at 17:30 UTC.

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