The high point of President Bill Clinton’s middle east mission – his participation in the Palestine National Council meeting where he witnessed the PNC annulling the PLO Covenant by a voice vote – may turn out to be somewhat anticlimactic.
Arafat’s commitment to annul the 1964 PLO Covenant on 9th September, 1993, remained the condition that the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin required for Israel to enter into any agreement with Arafat and the PLO.
Yet what has transpired in the five years that it took Arafat to cancel the Palestinian covenant is that the PLO Covenant has become engrained in the foundations of the Palestinian state in the making.
Tragically, no decision by the PNC, however well intended, can put the toothpaste back in the tube.
At the outset of the 1998-99 Palestinian school year, the first academic study of the hundred and fifty new school books used by the Palestine Authority showed that the PLO Covenant remains the central theme of the Palestine Authority school curriculum. Israel is referred to in PA school books as the “Zionist enemy”, while Zionism is equated with Nazism, “JIHAD”/holy war is taught as the duty of Palestinian school children, and the need to liberate “all of Palestine” remains a pervasive theme in all PA textbooks, while the official PBC “Voice of the Palestine Authority” radio and TV networks quote the PLO Covenant in almost every aspect of its daily media output. That official PLO media incitement has not let up since the WYE accord was reached in October.
The PLO Covenant remains the living “raison d’etre” of the Palestinian Arab refugee camps operated by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, for almost fifty years, which provides for more than three million Palestinian Arab refugees to refugee camps, under the PLO Covenant‘s premise and promise of the “inalienable right of return” for Palestinian refugees to return to the homes within Israel proper that they left in 1948, a dream endorsed by the annual ratfication of UN resolution #194.
One of the first acts of the Palestine Authority was to reject any rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugee camps, because the PLO Covenant forbids any change in the “refugee status quo”. The spokesman of the Palestine Legislative Council informed me today that the principles of the PLO Covenant that forbid rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugee camps will continue to be enforced.
Indeed, during the American First Lady Hillary Clinton’s visit to an UNRWA school in an UNRWA Refugee Camp, the children excitedly sang songs of their imminent return to the homes that their grandparents left in what are now in Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, and Haifa.
Moreover, since yet another principle of the PLO Covenant is that Jews should not be able to purchase new lands in Palestine since 1917, the Palestine Legislative Council enacted a statute in November that made it a capital crime for Jews to purchase land anywhere which the PLO consider to be “Palestine”. The PLC was not only referring to the west bank and to Gaza. Meanwhile, the popular FATAH movement, under the steady leadership of Yassir Arafat since 1964, issued a new constitution this week in which the FATAH absorbed all of the principles of the PLO Covenant that advocate Israel’s destruction.
Not everyone in the president’s entourage expressed unreserved enthusiasm with the PNC decison to annul the PLO Covenant.
US Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the senior congressional witness to the PNC session in Gaza, held a press conference before returning to Washington to warn that any PLO decision that contravened the annulment of the PLO charter would run into congressional opposition to the aid promised to the Palestine Authority by President Clinton.