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memri
December 27, 2000 No.
168

The Palestinian Position Regarding Clinton's Proposals

Arafat's advisor and chief editor of the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, Akram Haniyya, who participated in the Camp David negotiations, published an editorial titled "American Fast Food," in which he effectively rejects Clinton's proposals.[1] The following is a full translation of the editorial:

"The phone lines in the headquarters of the [Palestinian] presidency are likely to be subjected to massive pressure in the coming days. Dozens of phone calls from many capitals in the world are expected. Although the Muslim and Christian holidays occur simultaneously this year, the White House has declared high alert and delivered a message to dozens of capitals in all continents to contact [the PA] immediately."

"The content of this message may be summarized in one single sentence: Significant progress has been achieved, allowing for a historic opportunity to reach an agreement on a final settlement between the Israeli and Palestinian parties. The initiative demanded [of world leaders] may also be summarized in one single sentence: Call the Palestinian leadership in order to persuade it to accept the proposed [American] ideas."

"The scale of American-Israeli media activity and diplomatic urgency in the last couple of weeks almost succeeded in creating the impression that there is a genuine opportunity (the anticipation for which has lasted for a century) to establish a just and lasting peace settlement for the conflict. The impression created is that the issues of the negotiations have completely ripened and that nothing remained but some final touches, to be accomplished prior to the signing ceremony, that should take place before the final curtain of Bill Clinton's presidential term on January 20, 2001."

"We know very well that in the coming two weeks we are likely to hear the same old tune: 'don't miss the train;' 'take the opportunity before January 20 and before February 6' (the date for the Israeli premiership elections)."

"Therefore, the following three points should be made right from the beginning:

A) There is a Palestinian will to reach a peace agreement that will fulfill the Palestinian rights today rather than tomorrow. The Palestinian leadership understands very well the various aspects of the constitutional considerations in both the US and Israel. Therefore, no serious opportunity should be missed and no spark of hope should be left unexamined.

However, it must be stressed at this point that the Palestinian decision is guided only by the compass of the supreme national interests of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian timeline is determined, first and foremost, by this compass.

B) The continuous Palestinian declarations that any possible agreement must conform to the resolutions of international legitimacy are a fundamental and essential matter, not a product for media consumption. Therefore, it is unacceptable that [these] resolutions, which are the source of authority for the peace process, become mere slogans or preambles to agreements whose articles and detailed appendices negate the goal and essence [of the resolutions of international legitimacy themselves], distort their wording, and rob them of their spirit.

C) From the Palestinian perspective, what is needed is a final settlement that will truly have the 'quality of finality. ' In other words, only an agreement that determines all the minute details [and includes] full maps - an agreement that does not require dozens of additional future agreements for its implementation and does not conceal breaches or mines - may be signed.

The bitter experience of the last seven years of the negotiating process necessitates that any final agreement indeed be final."

"In view of these three criteria, [it is worth asking] whether the ideas read by President Clinton - who these days is packing up to leave - to the Palestinian and Israeli delegations last Saturday in the Oval Office, truly present new windows to a solution."

"Do the media turmoil and diplomatic urgency actually reflect a good opportunity? Or do they perhaps reflect a Democratic President's ambition to reach an agreement that will become part of his legacy -- a legacy that is now threatened by a Republican president-elect and by the first signs of a slowdown [in the American economy] that may hurt his main source of pride: the greatest period of economic prosperity since WWII?"

"Is this the marketing of an historic settlement to peoples who yearn for peace and for salvation from wars and destruction, or is it merely a recruitment for a campaign to reelect Barak as Prime Minister?"

"An objective reading of the American ideas uncovers some significant facts:

A) The [American] ideas ignore the most important lesson of both the Camp David summit and the Intifada, because they include a recognition of Israeli sovereignty over what is underneath the Al-Haram Al-Sharif. Thus, these ideas feed the fire and threaten to encourage religious wars. All this despite the fact that any objective observer should have realized, following the events of recent months, what Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem mean to the Arabs - Muslims and Christians alike.

B) Clinton's ideas contradict the resolutions of international legitimacy in several points. They violate Resolutions 242 and 338 by legitimating the Israeli settlements. Thus, they approve the annexation of Palestinian lands to Israel without offering a substitute, equal in both value and size, of Israeli lands [that will be transferred to Palestinian sovereignty]. In addition, they propose mechanisms for solving the Refugee Problem - the heart of the Palestinian problem - that negate the wording of Resolution 194 regarding their return to their homes. They propose instead the options of re-settlement of refugees, return to the Palestinian state, immigration to other countries, or compensation.

C) The American ideas as a whole constitute more than a declaration of principles and less than a framework agreement for a final accord. They [cover the issues] like a broad cloak, but create more questions than answers. They include ideas and principles that will require dozens of additional agreements to be implemented. Anyone who recalls that it took ten months of hard negotiations to reach an agreement about Al-Shuhadaa Street in Hebron (an agreement that has not yet been implemented), can imagine how many months or even years it will take to agree on the maps that result from Clinton's ideas regarding places that are in between Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, or areas that are in between settlements that are proposed to remain [under Israeli sovereignty] and the adjacent cities and villages.

D) While the American ideas clearly and decisively include all that is vital for Israel - they lack all that is vital for the Palestinians. While the [American] ideas demand taking the precious card of 'ending the conflict' from the Palestinian hand, they do not give [the Palestinians] final answers regarding the final borders of the Palestinian state, because this question is [delayed] for discussion in the map-drawing negotiations. In other words, Israel wins the 'final' with regards to the solution [of its problems], while the Palestinian side is expected to be satisfied with the 'temporary,' the 'delayed,' and the 'pending further negotiations,' after having given up its precious cards and having signed [the agreement] with its golden seal. "

"In addition, if we try to find out the philosophy underlying these ideas, we can easily see that the American administration is asfaithful as ever before to Israeli priorities and demands. At the same time, it disregards the Palestinian priorities. Furthermore, the security articles included in the [American] ideas negate the sovereignty of the Palestinian state and are detrimental to its relations with its Arab neighbors. Also, the ideas entail a naive attempt to deny the centrality of the Refugee Problem which is the most visible manifestation of the Nakbah and the Palestinian Problem."

"In addition, it turns out that the American ideas lack the vital lessons of the Intifada, especially in all that concerns the existence of the settlements as a substantial danger for the peace."

"The American President-elect, George Bush, justifiably warned in his campaign [warn] of subordinating the peace process to the domestic American timetable. Therefore, the American peace team should have learned the lesson of recent years and given the President advice that can meet the requirements of a just peace and can be in line with the source of authority that was set by Washington [itself] for the peace process. However, it seems that "the final shot" of this team, just like its previous shots, is not capable of hitting the desired target, due to structural problems [in the American peace team]."

"The Palestinian problem is too big for a solution to be 'cooked up' in a few days without taking into consideration what is necessary in order to acheive success and durability of a solution. The solution [that President Clinton proposes] is in the style of American fast food. Despite its attractive wrapping, it is not 'healthy food,' and is, in fact, 'indigestible' in the Middle East.'


[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 27, 2000.