Peace Watch revealed today an internal publication issued by the “Research and Thought” division of Chairman Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO, entitled “The Palestinian National Covenant Between Renewal and Being Frozen.” It was published in Ramallah at the end of April 1996, and was intended for the party’s internal cadres. The document declares that the PLO Covenant was frozen, but not annulled, and that no changes were made to the document at the recent session of the Palestinian National Council (PNC).

The publication surveys the three different stances in the PNC about changing the Covenant. The first approach accepted the importance of amending the Covenant, but conditioned changes on Israeli compliance with its obligations, and therefore opposed amending the Covenant at this time. Proponents of the second approach felt it was necessary to fulfill the Palestinian commitment to amend the Covenant without conditioning it on Israeli fulfillment of its obligations, and therefore favored immediate amendment. The third approach, which according to the document’s authors is the one that prevailed, is described as follows:

“Supporters of this approach felt that effort should be invested in the framework of the negotiations to reach a text of a decision that would grapple with the evil and corrupt acts which are expected from the Israeli side. If a death warrant is issued for the Palestinian Covenant in the manner in which the Israelis want – namely, annulment of the articles and amending before the beginning of the final status talks – then instead of addressing the necessary changes to the Covenant in the framework of a special session, the inclination was to obtain the approval of the PNC in a regular session, to undertake to amend the Covenant and to authorize the Legal Committee to redraft the National Covenant and to present it before the Central Committee at its first meeting.”

“The text of the Palestinian National Covenant remains as it was and no changes whatsoever were made to it. This has caused it to be frozen but not annulled. The drafting of the new National Covenant will take into account the extent of Israeli fulfillment of its previous and coming obligations, and the extent of Israeli fulfillment of its previous and coming obligations, and the extent of the commitment of the Israeli Prime Minister that will be elected at the end of May. The expectation of Peres’ return, and the possibility that Netanyahu will win, mean that in any event the text of the Covenant will reflect the adherence of the Government of Israel to its obligations and to the peace process. And this matter is riddled with doubt.”

The document also states that the PNC decided to authorize the Legal Committee to draft a new Covenant which shall include a number of future “security valves” based on international law as sell as on the Palestinian Declaration of Independence and political declaration that were issued on 15 November 1988 in Algiers, which asserted that Jewish settlements are illegal, occupied Jerusalem is Palestinian land and part of the independent Palestinian state, and that refugees have the fight to return. In addition, the document says, “the fact that the PNC did not hold a special session to make changes and amendments in the text of the National Covenant at this stage, as well as the failure to prepare a new Covenant in the shadow of psychological pressures, the closure and the other Zionist actions, was done to defend the new Covenant from being influenced by the current Israeli dictatorship.” According to the authors, the Israeli demand to amend the Covenant was in effect a demand to issue “a self-inflicted death certificate for the PNC and suicide for the PLO.”

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