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Fatah's view on the ICC prosecutor seeking arrest warrants for Israel-Hamas leaders

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Much of this week's news about the war in the Middle East is actually out of Europe. That's where three nations took a step toward an independent state alongside Israel, as announced by Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris.

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PRIME MINISTER SIMON HARRIS: Ireland, Norway and Spain are announcing that we recognize the state of Palestine.

INSKEEP: Palestinians watching this include Sabri Saidam. He's a politician in the city of Ramallah, which spreads over hillsides in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. So this Palestinian is outside Gaza, and he also is not a member of Hamas. He's a leader of Fatah, a rival party that favors a two-state solution. We met last fall, when I was reporting in Ramallah, and Saidam explained how his party has lost Palestinian public support to Hamas.

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SABRI SAIDAM: People are saying to us, OK, you have taken us on a ride of peace - or for peace - over decades. You have produced no results, so why not resort to armed confrontation?

INSKEEP: Now Saidam says he himself has lost many relatives in the war in Gaza.

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SAIDAM: Hello?

INSKEEP: Mr. Saidam.

SAIDAM: Hi.

INSKEEP: This week, we called him back to see what he made of the three European nations recognizing a new country.

SAIDAM: Well, this is considered to be an irreversible process, whereby this step would mean that the full right of the Palestinians is totally acknowledged now by members of the international community.

INSKEEP: Most United Nations member states already recognized that right. Saidam hopes that eventually leads to full U.N. membership for Palestine, although it likely wouldn't happen without the United States. In the short term, the latest recognitions create a problem for Palestinians.

SAIDAM: It's such a complex situation, to be honest with you.

INSKEEP: Israeli officials have talked of cutting off tax revenue that Israel had been sending to Palestinians, with the money passing through Norway, one of the countries that just displeased Israel.

SAIDAM: Now, with everything, you know, folding, it looks like, you know, this process is totally sabotaged.

INSKEEP: Palestinian civil servants have already seen their pay cut by 50%. The Palestinian politico faces an even more complex situation because of the other news out of Europe - the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for leaders of Israel and Hamas. Earlier this week, we asked an Israeli official what he thought about that. Now we put the same question to a Palestinian.

Was that an appropriate step?

SAIDAM: Well, let me say that we have said, day in and day out - as Palestinian Authority, as PLO, as Fatah - that everybody that commits a crime would have to be held responsible for such a crime through the international judicial system.

INSKEEP: He said Palestinians wanted justice long before October 7.

SAIDAM: But our requests have fallen on deaf ears. Now we are hoping that we can see at least justice being upheld.

INSKEEP: Do you approve of the move to arrest Hamas leaders specifically?

SAIDAM: Well, I would say you need to ask me about every person that had doubts about his or her actions in the world. I would say, before we talk about Hamas, we need to talk about Israel, that's been running the occupation for the last 76 years.

INSKEEP: Remember, Saidam is in a party opposed to Hamas, but he sidestepped questions about arresting Hamas leaders. He was more direct about the Israeli leaders, the prime minister and defense minister.

SAIDAM: I would say the two have been involved in actions that are qualifying to be actions of genocide, and they need to be investigated big time, and images that are coming out of Gaza - the loss of family members; as far as I'm concerned, a million other Palestinians - is certainly something that qualifies to be investigated big time.

INSKEEP: And then, on the other side, there are the Hamas leaders - Palestinian leaders Ismail Haniyeh, Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif - accused by the prosecutor of extermination, murder, taking hostages, rape and sexual violence, torture and a number of other things growing out of the October 7 attacks and other actions since then. Should they be investigated in the same way and prosecuted in the same way?

SAIDAM: Well, I would say, you know, we leave it to court, 'til a decision is taken by the court. Then we can discuss together my position on the matter. As far as I'm concerned, anybody that does any wrong towards any human in the world has to be questioned worldwide.

INSKEEP: Is it politically difficult for a leader of Fatah, your party, to speak against the leaders of Hamas because there is, among Palestinians, a great deal of support for Hamas?

SAIDAM: Well, it's not the case. As you know, we've been trying ourselves to achieve consensus within the Palestinian political scene. We would like to see a way forward out of this.

INSKEEP: As we've reported on NPR, Palestinians are trying to form some kind of consensus government, and this is hard because of Hamas. The international community rejects it, but many Palestinians support it, and this leaves Palestinians like Sabri Saidam, who favor a two-state solution, with very little leverage. Saidam says his people still need outside powers to help move that idea forward.

SAIDAM: So we will be lobbying the American administration. We will be encouraging the international community, on the other hand, to recognize the state of Palestine, and we will continue to talk internally for an endeavor upon which we can see the consensus that I've talked about regarding the Palestinian front.

INSKEEP: In many world capitals, actors in the war and their allies are making their moves. Outside of Hamas, other Palestinians still have very few moves they can make. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.