- When permanent status negotiations begin, borders of the state of Palestine, including Jerusalem and all other territories occupied in 1967, will be determined by the terms of reference of the Oslo Agreement.
- the “peace of the brave”, must ensure the rights of Palestinians as set forth in international resolutions. These rights must include, among others, the Palestinians’ right of return to the land from which they have been exiled.
- From now on, all international forums and contacts should be mined in order to bring to bear the maximum amount of international pressure on Israel.
- Palestinians sense a lack of seriousness on the part of the Palestinian leadership and note the gap between its statements and its practices… Committees recommended by the Central Council to prepare the way for full Palestinian sovereignty have never been activated… The efforts of the whole world to support us will not be of any use to us if we fail to get the credibility we need from our own people.
Borders First – Official Fatah Website
In agreeing recently to play the role of mere “facilitator”, rather than mediator and referee, in the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, the US appears to be abandoning its responsibilities as a co-sponsor of the peace process. This role change creates a situation similar to the one that existed before Netenyahu’s election in 1996. It appears that the Labour Party is trying, before the word of Dennis Ross becomes absolute in the region, to forestall any obstructionist moves on the part of the Likudniks and their US supporters. We have already lived through the difficulties which resulted from the pro-Israeli bias of the Oslo Agreement. Now, if we are to prevent a total breakdown in the peace process, it is time to lay down new terms of reference for negotiation.
The Oslo Agreement set forth objectives, along with schedules and deadlines. In order to evaluate what has been achieved in the past five years, we need to compare these stated objectives with the actual results which came about. Sound management of the process in the days and weeks ahead cannot rest on good will alone.
Clearly, on the Palestinian side, there is an enormous gap between objectives and results, all the way from the Oslo Agreement through the Wye Memorandum. Indeed, so few achievements were made that it could be said that the major result of the five-year process was Palestinians’ success in keeping their objectives unchanged — despite the massive pressure put on them by both Ross, Netenyahu and their respective governments. Both parties, US and Israeli, made every effort to impose their own vision on the Palestinian leadership. Again and again, in myriad ways, representatives of both countries attempted to lower the expectations of Palestinians regarding our future.
What Palestinians need now is not simply a new chapter in our dealings with Israel. Just as important is the need to open a new chapter in our internal relationships among our own Palestinian people. Palestinians today are painfully aware of the gap that exists between the verbal commitments made by the Palestinian leadership and the practices of that leadership. Instead of being fed more statements, we need to define, once and for all, a national consensus on each of the issues that confront us.
Already, in calling for merging implementation of the Wye Memorandum with negotiation of final status issues, Barak is making it clear that, in this respect at least, he is taking a stand every bit as dangerous as any taken by Netenyahu. In failing to implement the Wye Memorandum by canceling the third Israeli troop withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, and thus failing to carry out Israel’s commitments under the interim agreements, Barak is, in effect, arranging things so that in the final status negotiations, Palestinians will have to re-negotiate issues that have been negotiated already. In the June 16 issue of Ha-aretz, the Israeli left-wing daily, Yuel Marcos wrote that Barak has implicitly threatened Arafat that if the third withdrawal does not become part of the final status negotiations, then negotiations could drag on endlessly. Barak cannot, he told Arafat, begin the negotiations with such a large territorial concession. Barak also warned, according to Marcos, that negotiation of all final status issues will be extremely difficult. Obviously, what is being suggested — and none too subtly — is that Palestinians should expect to make concessions regarding the final status issues if they want to see the interim commitments fulfilled.
Despite the lack of concrete achievements during Netenyahu’s term, Palestinians in fact made significant progress in a realm less tangible but just as vital: that of international consensus on the justice of our cause. Such consensus will be essential when final status negotiations do begin. The Berlin Declaration on Palestinian self-determination, for instance, in raising the subject of United Nations Resolution 181, will have an important influence on the issue of Palestine’s borders. In the same international resolution which created the state of Israel, Resolution 181 affirms the right of Palestinians to create their own state. The resolution further establishes international law as the arbitrator for determining the borders of the Palestinian state.
The Palestinian leadership insist that the Wye Memorandum and the remaining as-yet-unimplemented parts of the Hebron Protocol, as well as all other interim issues, be fairly concluded before final status negotiations begin. Palestinians insist that issues which have already been negotiated, but not implemented by the Israeli side, are not to be subject to re-negotiation as final status issues. Final status issues must include only those not already negotiated — issues which will be tough enough when tackled separately, such as the third phase of Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank and the related issue of future borders of the Palestinian state.
The Israeli Labour Party now in power must undertake to fulfill all obligations its government has already assumed without subjecting them to the Likud’s destructive influence. Clearly, the Israeli army should withdraw from all the Occupied Territories except those related to the issues of Jerusalem, Israeli military installations, borders, and settlements established before the signing of the Oslo Agreement. (Settlements established after the Oslo Agreement were signed are illegal under the terms of that agreement and should be dismantled immediately.) This means that Israeli troops should withdraw from all of Area C, with the exception of lands related to the issues just mentioned. This is the scope of withdrawal which is in line with the spirit of the Oslo Agreement. When permanent status negotiations begin, borders of the state of Palestine, including Jerusalem and all other territories occupied in 1967, will be determined by the terms of reference of the Oslo Agreement.
The historic peace agreements grew out of the need to put an end to all wars in the region and to establish a true and lasting peace. Such a peace, called first by Palestinians and now by Barak, echoing them, the “peace of the brave”, must ensure the rights of Palestinians as set forth in international resolutions. These rights must include, among others, the Palestinians’ right of return to the land from which they have been exiled. The term “peace of the brave” implies that both parties to the peace should achieve historic rights based on principles fair to both. The term also suggests that our belief in the future of humanity should help us bring about the kind of democracy that guarantees a just and lasting peace.
The Palestinian “state” that Barak has talked about does not meet these criteria. Barak’s vision of a Palestinian state is to Palestinians no more than a symbolic step along the path toward statehood. A “state” on a mere 3% of the area of Palestine is not a state at all, but rather, at best, a kind of limited autonomy. A “state” in which half of the population lives in refugee camps is not a state. A “state” in which land can be confiscated at will for settlement by another people, with no concern for human values, is not a state. Finally, a “state” without Jerusalem as its capital may be a state for most, but is not the state of Palestine.
Our state will be achieved on the basis of full separation from Israelis. As Barak himself has said, quoting the American poet, “A good wall makes good neighbors.” The Palestinian “wall” that is likely to achieve real peace and stability is one that gives our state its borders with Egypt in Gaza in the South and with Jordan in the East.
As we enter the permanent status negotiations, we will require new terms of reference, ones that Oslo does not provide. We also require adherence to the Fourth Geneva Convention, despite the opposition of Israel and the US.
US opposition to the convening of the conference in Geneva is merely one more sad reminder of US pro-Israeli bias. It shows, further, to what lengths the US is prepared to go in denying Palestinians the right to employ the legal mof the internatiocommunity to advance our cause. Over the objections of both Israel and the US, the conference was indeed held, with the sole concession that sanctions allowable under international law not be discussed, as a gesture of good will towards the newly elected Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak. From now on, all international forums and contacts should be mined in order to bring to bear the maximum amount of international pressure on Israel. Such connections and the international support they bring will go far to strengthen the position of the Palestinian negotiating team in any future negotiations.
The conflicting positions taken by different sectors of Israeli society toward the Geneva conference confirm the importance of the event. On the one hand, the conference was officially described as a “non-event on a non-issue”. On the other hand, Moshe Zack described the conference as a destructive event for Israel. In the Jerusalem Post Zack wrote that the conference was based on United States General Assembly resolutions that consider East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory occupied by the Israelis. The conference opens the way for the international community’s adoption of measures against Israel that no US veto can deter. Finally, Zack noted that Palestine was invited on an equal footing with countries that signed the Geneva Convention.
Barak’s call for resumption of negotiations on all tracks — Syrian and Lebanese as well as Palestinian — means that the leadership of the three should coordinate a unified strategy for achieving a just peace in the region. This strategy should be based on a full understanding of both the positive and negative aspects of agreements reached with Israel. Meanwhile, the Palestinian call for a summit including Egypt and Jordan in addition to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine indicates how deeply Palestinians are committed to the larger Arab cause.
The importance of united international and Arab positions does not constitute an alternative to a unified Palestinian strategy on present and future requirements. As was mentioned at the beginning of this article, Palestinians sense a lack of seriousness on the part of the Palestinian leadership and note the gap between its statements and its practices. Official Palestinian reaction to Barak’s moves came very late. Committees recommended by the Central Council to prepare the way for full Palestinian sovereignty have never been activated. In fact, three months have passed without any of these committees having been convened. Such lassitude can only strengthen the position of those who do not respect the Palestinian institutions that endorse decisions which are at once most dangerous and most important. The Central Council, it should be mentioned, is the Palestinian institution that endorsed the Oslo Agreement. It also represents the Palestinian National Council, and filled the legal vacuum created by the expiration of the interim negotiation period.
The efforts of the whole world to support us will not be of any use to us if we fail to get the credibility we need from our own people.
Revolution until victory!