Following is a summary of the comments found in the Palestinian media regarding the treaty signed on Friday between Israel and the PLO.
Changing the Palestinian Covenant
Unlike the English version of the memorandum, according to which the meeting addressed by Mr. Clinton will "reaffirm the decisions of the Executive Committee and the Central Council regarding the amendment of the Covenant," the Arabic version printed in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida states that it will be President Clinton who will "reaffirm his commitment to the peace process."1 No Palestinian reaffirmation is mentioned.
his Palestinian version was repeated in a comment made on Palestinian television by the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Saib Ereiqat, who said, "members of the Palestinian National Council [PNC], Palestinian Legislative Council [PLC], the Central Council, women’s organizations and trade unions will convene to listen to Clinton, not to vote."2
The head of the Gaza preventive security apparatus, Muhammad Dahlan, stated categorically that the Palestinians rejected all Israeli terms regarding security. The Palestinian security apparatus will fight only the military, not the political, organizations. Therefore, the political organizations will not be outlawed. When asked whether a formula for fighting terrorism was adopted, he answered that no such formula existed, and that the Palestinians rejected the Israeli demand to act against institutions and against activities in the Mosques. The Palestinians, he continued, also rejected the Israeli demand to participate in the Palestinian plan for action or to see it.3
On the issue of confiscating illegal weapons, Dahlan stated that there is no agreement on lowering the number of weapons in the PA’s possession. On the contrary, he claimed that the Palestinians demand more weapons for their security apparatuses, and Israel is still withholding one thousand rifles that belong to the Palestinian people.4
About lowering the number of Palestinian policemen, Dahlan indicated that the Palestinians do not intend to lower their number. He said "we have no problem providing one list of policemen and another list of policemen who do administrative work and are unarmed."5
Dahlan said that CIA involvement will be of a "political nature" and that "the fact that it will act as an arbitrator is serving [Palestinian] interests."6
alestinian leaders addressed the implications of the agreement on both Zionist and Palestinian ideologies. The agreement’s supporters, such as Minister of Supplies in the PA, Abd Al 'Aziz Shahin stated that the Israeli right-wing government’s readiness to give away territory indicates that the Zionist ideology is crumbling and that the PLO will succeed in fulfilling its platform sooner or later.7
Secretary-General of the Presidency, Al Tayyeb Abd al Rahim, said to the Voice of Palestine Radio that the agreement represents the collapse of Israeli ideology and that Clinton’s commendation to Arafat for the many years he led the struggle of his people represents "an admission that the years-long struggle of the Palestinians is not regarded as terrorism."8
Col. Muhammad Al-Masri, columnist in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, said that the Israeli side was guided by "Jewish merchant tactics" in discussing every single detail in order "to trap" the Palestinian side. But the agreement "marks the defeat of the Torah ideology" because those right-wing forces in Israel who waved the banners of "Greater Israel" from the Nile to the Euphrates and the "security" of Israel have now joined the negotiations in order to negotiated Palestinian lands that are considered by the Torah ideology to be the land of Israel.9
While the Palestinian spokesmen point to the changes in Zionist ideology the Palestinian ideological firmness was reasserted. Fatah member of the PLC Fuad 'Id said that the agreement is just "one step in the path we have marched for fifty years."10 Secretary-General of the Fatah in the West Bank, Marwan Al Barghuthi, commended Arafat for stating that there will be no concession on Palestinian axioms that include the Right of Return, the Right to Self Determination, and the Establishment of an Independent State on the entirety of the Palestinian land with Jerusalem as its capital.11 Head of the Education Committee of the PLC and member of the Fatah Central Council, Abbas Zaki, said that the Palestinians have talked about an independent state since the ten points plan, [namely, since the "strategy of phases" plan of 1974.]12
In the negotiations Israel demanded that Israeli concessions would be carried out only if the Palestinian Authority complies with its commitments. Prime Minister Netanyahu stated in several interviews that this conditionality was established in the agreement.
Contrary to the Israeli claim that Israeli fulfillment of its part of the agreement is conditional on Palestinian compliance, Palestinians say their compliance is conditional on Israeli compliance and they will only act if Israel fights terrorist acts by Israeli extremists.
Head of the Preventive Security Apparatus in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan stated in the interview with Al-Ayyam, "I cannot arrest a Palestinian citizen who killed an Israeli and at the same time give the Israeli the right to commit terrorist acts against Palestinians, for a simple reason: my primary security mission is, as we have said since the first day of the Gaza- Jericho agreement, to protect Palestinian security and defend Palestinian citizens."13
Minister of Supplies in the PA, Abd Al 'Aziz Shahin, reiterated Arafat’s oft stated refrain that the PA will not act like the SLA [the South Lebanese Army, which fights alongside Israel against the Hezbollah].14
Columnist Fuad Abu Hijleh said that the Palestinians also have "lists of wanted Jews who committed terrorist acts and the government of Israel rewarded by releasing them with a bail that is lower than the price of a pack of cigarettes." The CIA’s mission, according to Abu Hijleh, is to make sure that Israeli killers and blood spillers are punished in really detering manner. "We call for action based on the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…."15
The Palestinian Intentions Regarding May 5, 1999
Israeli media interpreted some clauses in the agreement as indicating that the Palestinians will refrain from declaring an independent Palestinian state on May 5, 1999. Arafat, in his White House Speech, as well a day later in Vienna, said only that the Palestinian people have the right to declare an independent state. In the local Palestinian media, however, PA and Fatah leaders continue to state that declaration of an independent state is still being planned for May 5, 1999. Abbas Zaki, head of the Education Committee in the PLC, and member of the Fatah Central Committee, stated categorically that with the end of the interim period in May 1999, a Palestinian declaration of independence cannot be regarded as a "unilateral act" that violates the agreement.16 Secretary of the Fatah in Jenin, Qaddura Musa stated that the struggle must go on until the fulfillment of all of the Palestinian people’s national rights in their entirety.17
Marwan Al-Barghuthi stated that the agreement threatens the Palestinian national unity. Nevertheless he called upon the Palestinian public to cooperate with the agreement on the basis of its being the continued liberation of Palestinian land from the hands of the occupiers. "The agreement demonstrates," he said, "the Palestinian national determination to achieve victory and create the state on the Palestinian land in its entirety."18 Quddura said "The Fatah movement has led the Palestinian struggle on the path and should continue the journey."19
[i] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, October 26, 1998
[ii] Palestnian Television, October 26, 1998.
[iii] Al-Ayyam, October 26, 1998.
[xiv] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, October 26, 1998