The following are excerpts from articles which appeared in the Egyptian English weekly, Al-Ahram.

A Watershed in Israel
by Mohamed Sid-Ahmed

David Levy’s resignation should not be regarded as one other minister quitting Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, but as the beginning of the end of an entire Israeli strategy. Much will depend on the Arab parties devising a counter strategy.

… Given the uncertainties surrounding the entire peace process, it is not surprising that radicalism is acquiring the upper hand throughout the region.

… The most dangerous manifestation of the growing radicalisation of the region is the upsurge of terrorism. In Algeria, it has claimed over 1,000 victims since the beginning of Ramadan alone. And, though the body count in the Luxor massacre was nowhere near as high, for Egypt it has set a new record of brutality. Faced with these developments, Washington cannot continue to turn a blind eye to Netanyahu’s provocative behavior, without losing its credibility as an honest broker, not only in Arab eyes but in the eyes of the whole world.

Real Facts on the Ground
by John Whitbeck
an international lawyer, based in both London and Paris,
who writes frequently on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Whether or not Mr. Netanyahu likes it, the state of Palestine already exists, and Palestinian statehood is not even an issue in the “permanent status” negotiations which, according to the Declaration of Principles signed in September 1993, must reach an agreement not later than May 1999.

According to the Declaration of Principles, the issues to be covered during “permanent status” negotiations are “Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest.” Palestinian statehood is not mentioned, but the reference to “borders” and “other neighbors” would make no sense except in the context of an agreement between states. Israel’s eventual formal acceptance of Palestinian statehood is clearly implicit in the terms of the Declaration of Principles, but, as a matter of international law, Israel’s prior acceptance is not an essential precondition for the state of Palestine to exist.

While extending diplomatic recognition to foreign states lies within the discretion of each sovereign state, there are four customary criteria for sovereign statehood: a defined territory over which sovereignty is not seriously contested by any other state; a permanent population, and willingness of the state to discharge international and treaty obligations; and effective control over the state’s territory and population.

While Israel has never defined its ultimate borders, the state of Palestine has effectively done so. They encompass only that portion of historical Palestine occupied by Israel during the 1967 War. Sovereignty over expanded east Jerusalem is explicitly contested, even though, after three decades, none of the world’s other 192 sovereign states has recognised Israel’s claim to sovereignty. The sovereignty of the state of Palestine over the Gaza Strip and the rest of the West Bank, however, is uncontested.

Israel has never dared even to purport to annex these territories, presumably recognizing that doing so would raise awkward questions about the rights (or lack thereof) of those who live there. Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank in favor of the Palestinians in July 1988. While Egypt administered the Gaza Strip for 19 years, it never asserted sovereignty over it. Since November 1988, when Palestinian independence and statehood were formally proclaimed, the only state asserting sovereignty over those portions of historical Palestine which Israel conquered in 1967 (aside from expanded east Jerusalem) has been the state of Palestine, recognized as such by 124 other states encompassing the vast majority of humanity.

… Palestinian statehood is not within Israel’s power to grant or deny. The Palestinian state exists. Only once this most fundamental “fact on the ground” is absorbed by Israel — and American — public consciousness will it be possible for meaningful “permanent status” negotiation to begin and for both peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians to be achieved.

Oslo’s Last Chance
by Graham Usher

There is a growing realisation on the part of the Fatah leadership especially that the period of Palestinian concessions in the hope of American action is over. “We understand that the longer the situation stays as it is the weaker and more unpopular the PA will become.” admits Fatah’s West Bank leader, Marwan Barghouti. “The people judge whether the PA or Fatah is weak or strong according to progress on the ground. If the further redeployments happen, this will strengthen Fatah. But the reverse is also true. This means that we must concentrate on the political and internal fronts at the same time. Internally, the priority is to maintain the national dialogue with Hamas and the other opposition parties.

Politically, we must continue our efforts in the international community and with the Israeli peace camp to pressure Netanyahu. We have to put him in a corner.”

The problem is that Fatah and the PA have been trying to do just that for the past year and have gleaned neither redeployments nor a halt to settlement building. In this sense, Arafat may be right when he calls the Washington meetings the “last chance” for Oslo. But Barghouti is less convinced that “a renewed Intifada” would be the outcome should Washington again fail to deliver the goods. “I don’t expect any future resistance would follow the Intifada model”, he says. “It would rather be by guns.”

The Challenge of Israel
by Edward Said

We claim that we want statehood and independence, yet none of the most basic institutions of statehood are in anyone’s mind. There is no basic law where the Palestinian Authority rules today, the result of one man’s whim not to approve such a law, in flagrant defiance of the Legislative Assembly. Our universities are in an appalling state, starved for money, desperately run and administered, filled with professors who struggle to make a living but have not done a stroke of research or independent work in years. We also have a large and impressive group of extremely wealthy businesspersons who have simply not grasped that the essential thing for any people is a massive investment in education, the construction of a national library, and the endowment of the entire university structure as a guarantee that as a people we will have a future.

… It is no use blaming the failures of the current PLO on a few inadequate and corrupt individuals. The fact is that we now have the leadership we deserve, and until we realize that we are being driven further and further from our goal of self-determination and the recovery of our rights by that leadership which so many of us still serve and respect, we will continue to slide downwards.

… We need the support of the Arab intellectual and cultural community which has devoted too much time to slogans about Zionism and imperialism and not enough to helping us fight the battle against our own failures and incompetence. The challenge of Israel is the challenge of our own societies.