This is the first in a series of periodic updates on issues relating to Palestinian compliance with the October 23, 1998 Wye River Memorandum. This update focuses on the Palestinian obligation to amend the PLO Covenant which calls for Israel’s destruction.
The Palestinian Commitment at Wye
The Wye agreement states (Article II, Paragraph C(2)) that the PLO Executive Committee and the Palestinian Central Council will reaffirm Yasser Arafat’s January 22, 1998 letter to President Clinton concerning the nullification of problematic articles in the PLO Covenant.
Subsequently, according to the agreement, “PLO Chairman Arafat, the Speaker of the Palestine National Council, and the speaker of the Palestinian Council will invite the members of the PNC, as well as the members of the Central Council, the Council, and the Palestinian Heads of Ministries to a meeting to be addressed by President Clinton to reaffirm their support for the peace process and the aforementioned decisions of the Executive Committee and the Central Council.”
The Palestinian Position Since Wye
1) Following is an October 26, 1998 Voice of Israel radio interview with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. The interview was conducted in English.
“Well, once again, I think the PNC met in 1996 and all articles that were inconsistent with the letters exchanged in 1993 between the Government of Israel and the PLO were changed. And later, President Arafat wrote President Clinton a letter on the 22nd of January 1998 specifying the articles that were either nullified or amended.
And it was agreed at the Wye River that the PLO Central Council will meet to ratify the letter of President Arafat to President Clinton. And then it was agreed that the members of the PNC [Palestinian National Council], the members of the Legislative Council, the labor unions, women’s organizations and all political systems will attend a meeting at which President Clinton will address all these issues.
The PLO will not convene in terms of officially ratifying the articles that were changed. It is the Palestine Central Council, and the agreement is very specific on this.”
2) In an October 26, 1998 interview on official Palestinian Authority television, Saeb Erekat said, “the PNC members, the Legislative Council, the Central Council, women’s groups and labor unions will all convene to listen to Clinton, but not to vote [on changing the Covenant].”
3) On October 26, 1998, the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda published the text of the Wye River Memorandum, but the section referring to the PLO Covenant was altered and makes no mention of the PNC changing the Covenant. The newspaper’s version reads as follows:
“PLO Chairman Arafat, the Speaker of the Palestine National Council, and the speaker of the Palestinian Central Council will invite the members of the PNC, the members of the Central Council and the members of the Palestinian Government to a meeting at which President Clinton will speak to reaffirm his [Clinton’s] support for the peace process.”