"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 peoplebetween 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?