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September 28, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 130

An Official Palestinian Vision of Peace

September 28, 2000
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 130

Israel's primary demand in its negotiations with the Palestinians is a declared end of the conflict. In exchange, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is offering, according to an editorial in the leading liberal Israeli paper Ha'aretz,[1] to share sovereignty in Jerusalem and over Temple Mount itself with the Palestinians (breaking all of his pre-election redlines and long-standing Israeli "taboos"). On the other hand, the Palestinians are responding that the conflict cannot be brought to an end unless Israel not only gives up territory and permits the return of the refugees to pre-1967 Israel, but also relinquishes its Zionist characteristics and history. The following editorial, taken from the Palestinian National Authority website, challenges the very idea, as raised by Barak, of ending of the conflict.

"The demand of the Israeli Prime minister Ehud Barak, that any final status agreement signed with the PLO should include a clause announcing the "end of the conflict" between the two peoples is a unique request, certainly a rare occurrence in international relations. The insistence on this point, however, is significant, and reflects some specific features of this particular conflict."

"It is indeed, at first sight, a strange demand. Why can't the Israelis be satisfied with the end of belligerency, the end of war, the end of violence, as had been the case with Egypt more than two decades ago? Why ask for a solemn reference to something as legally abstract as "the conflict," as though treaties and leaders had the power to commit history? What particular blindness to the way history moves could inspire such an unreasonable claim?"

"Historically, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has involved peoples, not only institutional machines. Its fall into progressive oblivion (and probably not its sudden, magic-like disappearance) depends wholly on the future relations between these peoples, and certainly not some administrative or diplomatic decision, treaty or decree."

"First of all, the end of the conflict depends on a just and mutually acceptable solution to its core-issues: it is linked to the issue of Jerusalem, and to the restoration of Palestinian Arab sovereignty over the Holy City. It is linked to the exercise, by the Palestinian people, of its inalienable right to self-determination, and it is linked to the right of Return of Palestinian refugees. These are the basic elements of the conflict, and international legality provides the basic components of its solution."

"But most of all, the end of the conflict is linked to historical reconciliation, which implies, if not absolute justice, at least the acknowledgment of what happened: the truth. This is something we have learnt from our South-African brothers after the downfall of apartheid… For Israelis, this means recognizing that the State of Israel was created through a military campaign of ethnic cleansing which inflicted a gross and massive injustice upon the Palestinian people. Without facing this fact, Israelis cannot achieve real peace, cannot achieve reconciliation, and therefore no "end of the conflict." Even more so: without a change in the whole system of Jewish-Arab relations, including the system of representations, the use of symbols and the production of images, within the state of Israel itself, as well as in its relations to others, there can be no definitive end to the conflict. The recent anti-Arab racist utterances of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and the lack of official reaction in Israel are a good negative example of what has to cease and change in order for the conflict to come to an end. And without a genuine reconciliation with the peoples of the area, which cannot depend upon a momentary imbalance of material power, there can be no stable and durable Israeli-Palestinian peace. In short, this is a long-term, protracted process, which will result from the effective achievement of peace, and not from a declaration. The end of the historical conflict which has opposed the Israeli and the Arab peoples, and first and foremost the Palestinian Arab people, can in no way be put as a prerequisite to the signing of an agreement. Unless of course the intention is to prepare for the undoing of the agreement under the pretext that the said article has been violated by history!"

"What the Israeli Prime minister has in mind, in fact, is to put an end to all Palestinian claims: that's a different story. But the outcome is the same: Palestinian claims can only end when Palestinian rights are recognized, and rights, by definition, are neither negotiable nor exchangeable. There is no shortcut, and no discount price on peace. It is in the genuine interest of the Israeli people to achieve a just and durable peace with the Palestinian and the other Arab peoples. But this demands the moral courage to face the truth, redress injustice, and turn a new page, not the skill to organize pressure upon a weaker partner in the vain hope of extracting from him some gratuitous statement and a blank check on the future."[1]


[1] Ha'aretz (Israel), September 8, 2000. The editorial, entitled "In Arafat's Hands," states: "To Israeli ears, it seems that the prime minister has reached the extreme limits of his ability to move toward the Palestinian position, whereas Arafat came across as refusing to take the last decisive step…. Even from the point of view of the Israeli peace camp, prime responsibility for a disappointing outcome [of the peace process] and for its inherent, dangerous potential now passes over to Yasser Arafat."


[1] "The End of the Conflict?" Palestinian National Authority website, pna.net, August 22, 2000.

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