WASHINGTON -- A senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview Tuesday that last month's clashes along Israel's borders were a "rehearsal" for larger demonstrations planned for this Sunday to commemorate Naksa Day, the anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"The 5th of June will not be an ordinary day," said Sabri Saidam, deputy speaker of the Fatah Council and a former Palestinian Authority telecommunications minister. Saidam, who is visiting the United States as part of a U.S. State Department-sponsored conference on innovation, predicted "a third intifada" if Israel does not suspend new settlement construction in the West Bank and the current stalemate continues.
"You cannot negotiate your pizza while it's being eaten," said Saidam, whose father, Mamdouh Saidam, was a member of the Fatah Party's central committee and was killed by Israeli forces.
Prospects for renewed peace talks have withered in the wake of a Palestinian unity deal between Fatah and Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's May visit to the United States. Netanyahu responded to Hamas' reconciliation and U.S. President Barack Obama's public push for a Palestinian state by further digging in his heels on the key issues of borders and refugees.
Saidam said that Hamas "will not change its charter", which calls for the destruction of Israel, but said that was irrelevant because the militant party would not take part in any future peace talks. He compared the group's participation in a new Palestinian government to the acceptance in Israel's coalition government of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, whose leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, last summer wished a "plague" on Palestinians -- particularly Abbas, who Yosef said "should perish from this world."
Abbas plans to appeal to the United Nations General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state when the body meets in New York in September. Saidam said the Palestinian Authority has commitments from more than 150 of the 192 member states.
Still, the majority may not prevail. The United States has made clear it would use its veto in the U.N. Security Council to quash what Obama has called a "symbolic" vote, although Saidam and some in Israel argue there may be ways to circumvent such a move.
Saidam voiced disappointment with Obama's actions since he called for a "new beginning" with the Muslim world during a 2009 speech in Cairo. "He over-promised in Cairo," Saidam said, calling the president's speech last week "electioneering nostalgia" designed to win over American Jewish voters in 2012.
But even without Obama, Saidam said, the Arab Spring has brought Palestinians "closer to independence than ever," as evidenced by the border demonstrations. "We are inspired by the Arab revolution and not, as in the past, vice versa," he said. "Now it is different."