- Longtime affiliate of the PLO, the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, and Yasser Arafat
See also: Yasser Arafat Palestinian Authority Fatah
Born in 1938 in Safed, British Mandate of Palestine, Nabil Shaath earned a
Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Economics. In 1965 he moved to Cairo, Egypt. Four years later, he took a teaching job at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Shaath also worked as an industry consultant and management trainer in Algeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. In 1970 he joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and headed its Planning Center from 1971-81. In 1974 he accompanied Yasser Arafat in the first PLO delegation to the United Nations. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Shaath was often said to be "the real power behind (Arafat's) throne."
Shaath was a member of the 1991 Madrid delegation and played a leading role in the Oslo peace negotiations two years later.
In 1997 the Palestinian Legislative Assembly charged that Shaath, a wealthy man who owned numerous business enterprises in the Arab world, was guilty of corruption and demanded that he be imprisoned. In August 1998 a commission indeed found evidence of criminal corruption by Shaath, but he remained in power and subsequently took a post in the newly formed Palestinian Authority (PA). Over the years, Shaath has held numerous positions with the PA, including: chief negotiator, foreign minister, cabinet minister, international co-operation minister, planning minister, minister of information, and acting prime minister. He is currently a member of the Fatah Central Committee in charge of International Relations.
Shaath has pledged that “the Palestinian Authority will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” on grounds that such recognition “would directly threaten the Muslims and Christians in Israel and prevent Palestinian refugees, who left their homes and villages a number of decades ago, from being granted the right to return to them.”
In May 2011, Shaath said that Hamas should not be asked to recognize Israel's right to exist because such an arrangement was “not logical” and “not workable.”
In a July 13, 2011 interview with ANB TV (Lebanon), Shaath elaborated: “At the end of the day, we want to exert pressure on Israel in order to force it to recognize us and leave our country. This is our long-term goal.” Moreover, he flatly rejected the prospect of any arrangement whereby Israel and Palestine might coexist side-by-side as “two states for two peoples.” “They can describe Israel itself as a state for two peoples,” Shaath said, “but we will be a state for one people. The story of two states for two peoples means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this.”
But while Shaath undeniably favors a one-state solution (without Israel), he has tailored a very different message for English-speaking audiences, as evidenced when he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on September 21, 2011 that he wanted the Israeli “occupation” to end so that the Palestinians could thenceforth “be in peace with Israel, as neighbors, two states side by side.”
During an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation five days later, Shaath disingenuously asserted that the Palestinian Authority was willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist. When a questioner noted that the PA, at that very moment, was attempting to reconcile with Hamas, whose charter calls unequivocally for Israel’s destruction, Shaath replied: “Well, I don’t know about Hamas and I don’t know about charters … we are not particularly interested in charters, we are interested in what people do on the ground.” In a more candid moment during the interview, Shaath characterized the very existence of Israel as an illegal “occupation.”
In early 2012 Shaath said that Hamas was “moderating its positions” due to the weakening of the Syrian government that had long supported the terrorist organization. He went so far as to label Khaled Mash'al, leader of Hamas’s military wing, whom the United States has labeled a “specially designated global terrorist,” as the “dove in Hamas.”
This profile is adapted in part from the article, "Voices of Palestine: Nabil Shaath," by Arnold Ahlert and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on January 11, 2012.