February 3, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5632

Columnist In Palestinian Authority Daily: Use The 'Yes And No' Tactic In The Current Negotiations

February 3, 2014
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 5632

In a recent column in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam, Hassan Al-Batal claimed that the Palestinians, who are Sunni, are permitted to use the Shi'ite concept of taqiyya – that is, intentional deception in order to survive – as well as ambiguous words, to conceal their real position so as to gain advantage in negotiations. He says that this is what Yasser Arafat did when he was required to revoke the Palestinian National Charter.

The following are excerpts from the column, which was published December 21, 2013:

"...The term La'am [is a combination of the Arabic words for 'yes' and 'no'] that Arafat learned from [Lebanese Druze leader] Kamal Jumblatt when the Palestinians objected to the Lebanese army's intervention [in their affairs] at the beginning of the civil war [there, in 1975]... Indeed, Arafat later used [this method at a 1989 press conference] in Paris when he said that the Palestinian National Charter was 'obsolete.'

"I asked a Sunni colleague: Is it permitted to use the Shi'ite concept of taqiyya? He answered cautiously, It is possible to use tawriyya [that is, words that mean two different things]...

"Politics has [the concepts of] objection in principle, agreement in principle, agreement under certain terms, [and also] 'reservations' – [the latter of which] are actually [a tactic of] evasion [to be used when you have] the American rival in front of you and the Israeli enemy behind you. Or, as [the Arab poet] Al-Muttanabi said, 'Greeks behind you and Greeks in front of you – which way will you go?' Arafat [also] said this to the hero of the defense of the Shatila refugee camp [in Lebanon], 'Ali Abu Touq, after the Palestinian forces left [Lebanon in 1982, in order to justify the exit from the country].

"Kerry will return for a tenth round [of negotiations] and will ask Abu Mazen and Netanyahu for their answers. Abu Mazen will go to the Arab foreign ministers and ask them for another response to the change to the Arab peace initiative. Once, this initiative included [an Israeli] withdrawal from Arab territory; now [after this change] it refers to an [Israeli] withdrawal plus a Palestinian state with minor geographic corrections.

"They say that Abu Mazen has sent President Obama a letter [expressing] reservations about Kerry's plan; this is reminiscent of [Ariel] Sharon's 14 reservations about the Mitchell Plan [sic][1] for the evacuation of settlements established after 2001.

"Kerry wants to put out the fire beginning with the edges and working his way to the center – that is, [he wants to] begin with the issue of Israel's security and of drawing borders, and from there to move on to the problems of the refugees and Jerusalem... Counter to popular opinion in the Palestinian public, I do not believe the negotiators will be easy prey for their Israeli counterparts or the American mediator...

"The Palestinians have fought a very hard war at a bad time for the Arabs, and now they must negotiate at a time that is even worse...

"We can find creative middle-ground solutions for an interim stage so that neither side is harmed. However, the permanent agreements face an [underwater] mine, like submarines do – namely the Jewishness of Israel. [Solving this problem] is a very difficult task...

"On [the issue of the Jewishness of Israel], Abu Mazen said: 'They can call themselves whatever they like, and can pass a U.N. resolution that they are a Jewish state. European [countries], the U.S., and any other country that wants to can do this also – but we will only recognize the State of Israel [that is, not its Jewishness].'

"[Like] the mixing of alcoholic drinks, there is a mixing of taqiyya, turiyya, and la'am. We failed at [using this mix] in 2000 at Camp David [when President Clinton blamed Arafat for the breakdown of negotiations], and we do not want to bear the responsibility for another failure. The Palestinian 'cunning' should deal with Israel's 'deceptiveness.'"

Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam


[1] The reservations were actually to the 2003 Road Map, a political program presented by George W. Bush for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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