July 14, 2000 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 30

Palestinian Strategies at the Camp David Summit

July 14, 2000 | By Y. Carmon and Aluma Dankowitz*
Palestine | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 30

As the Camp David summit began, senior PA officials re-emphasized their fundamental requirements: the right for an independent state, which they claim is not contingent on the negotiations with Israel and which they intend to declare unilaterally - their demands for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which they claim obligates Israel to withdraw from land beyond the June 4, 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem - and the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 regarding the right of the 1948 refugees to return to their homes and be compensated.

The Palestinian Negotiating Strategies

The three Palestinian "bargaining chips" the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida describes are: UN Security Council Resolution 242, the decision of the PLO Central Council to declare an independent Palestinian state independently of the negotiations [referred to as a unilateral declaration of independence or UDI], and the possibility of the resumption of violence, if the summit fails.[1]

Resolution 242

The Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO establishes Resolution 242 as the basis for the peace process. The PLO claims that by accepting that, it already delivered the "painful historical concession" of the Palestinian demand for sovereignty over land within Israel's June 4, 1967 borders.[2]

"The government of Israel is now required," PA Information Ministry Director General, Hasan Al-Kashef wrote, "to cross the bridge [i.e. implementation of Resolution 242] that the Begin government crossed 21 years ago in its settlement with Egypt, and that the Rabin government crossed in Wadi Arabeh [the treaty between Israel and Jordan]. Barak crossed a similar bridge several weeks ago when he withdrew from South Lebanon in accordance with Resolution 425, and when he stated his willingness to implement Resolution 242 in the Syrian track."[3]

Israel, through its legal advisor Elyakim Rubinstein, recently reiterated its position that Resolution 242 does not apply to Palestinian territories that were not under Palestinian sovereignty before 1967. However, this contradicts Israel's acceptance, anchored in the Declaration of Principles, of Resolution 242 as the basis of the Oslo process. Therefore, the PA rejected this claim and Arafat warned that if Israel renounces Resolution 242, "the Palestinians would return to UN General Assembly Resolution 181 [the Partition Plan of 1947]."[4] PA Planning and International Cooperation Minister, Nabil Sha'ath, stated that in such a case "the Palestinian people have the right to demand the implementation of Resolution 181 and return to Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre."[5]

A Unilateral Declaration of an Independent Palestinian State

The PLO claims that the Oslo process does not rule out the possibility of a UDI, independent of Israeli approval. The Palestinians consider the intention to declare such a state and the international support this state would garner to be a means of pressuring Israel in the negotiations. However, the Palestinians prefer to avoid such a unilateral declaration because it may prompt Israel to annex large parts of the territories in retaliation. Therefore, although the PLO Central Council declared in early July 2000 that September 13 is the official date for the UDI,[6] senior Palestinian officials revealed the intention to postpone the declaration to an unspecified date before the end of the year.

Secretary General of the PA Presidency, Al-Tayyeb Abd Al-Rahim, said, following the meeting of the PLO Central Council, that "after September 13, the date would be open... which means that we may announce it in September, or in mid November, on the day in which the Palestinian National Council [PNC] declared independence in 1988 in Algeria."[7]

PNC Chairman, Salim Al-Za'anoon, also, stated that "the decision of the Central Council in its previous session was that the declaration of the state should come before the end of the year, therefore the council will consider the many [possible] dates…" He stressed that the council is not tied to any of the proposed dates.[8]

The Resumption of Violence

The PLO perceives Israel's concern about the resumption of violence as a Palestinian bargaining chip, although the Palestinians themselves are equally worried about it.

Leaks from Israeli cabinet meetings discussing military preparations, which include the possible use of airpower and armor, for the outbreak of violence which may ccompany a Palestinian UDI prompted severe reactions from the Palestinians. The Fatah movement described the "Israeli threats" as a declaration of war and in a June 20, 2000 communique rejected them altogether: "…In any situation, our people are able to teach [Israeli Chief of Staff Mofaz] a lesson he will never forget."[9] The Fatah movement also declared a state of emergency in its ranks in preparation for the UDI in order to "counter all possibilities of Israeli aggression against Palestinian lands."[10]

Arafat himself warned in a public speech: "No one can threaten us. Whoever forgot should remember the [Palestinian victories in] the battle of Al-Karameh, [Jordan, 1968], the battle of Beirut [1982], and in the 7 years of the Intifada… we are ready to erase everything [i.e. the peace process] and resume [the struggle] from the beginning…."[11]

Secretary General of the PA Presidency, Al-Tayyeb Abd Al-Rahim, stated on the day that the Camp David summit began that "the Palestinian people are ready for all possibilities, be it the peace of the brave or other options which will secure Palestinian rights for an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and for the right of return for the refugees."[12]

PA Justice Minister, Freih Abu Midein, expressed his "eagerness for Israel to carry out its threats… because this is the best option for the Palestinian people… The Israelis forget and ignore the fact that Israeli security is now in the Palestinian pocket rather than the other way round. Today, after 5 years [on our lands], we are an influential and active factor controlling Israeli security rather than Israel controlling us. This is a result we are proud of… We are confident that we can pay a high price for defending our homeland. In the past we lost a 100,000 martyrs and now we are ready to sacrifice five or six thousand. We say therefore to the Israeli generals who are thirsty for the blood of the Palestinian people: 'true, this blood is precious to us, but we will wholeheartedly sacrifice it.'"[13] Abu Midein added, "No matter how many martyrs the Palestinian people sacrifice, at the end of the day the Jewish people will be the ones to pay the price…"[14]

"We are not afraid of the sounds of the weapons," said Khaled Musmar, Deputy Head of the National Guidance Directorate, "As President Abu-Ammar [Arafat] said in the past, we are all seekers of shahada [martyrdom]. So it was in the past and so it will be in the future until either our people's will is realized or we become martyrs. This is the big difference between us and [the Israelis]. They love life as much as we love shahada."[15]

In the last few days, however, PA officials have attempted to tone down and show that the Palestinians want to avoid the outbreak of violence. The head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Saib 'Ereiqat, said in an interview to CNN that the Palestinian people are not interested in the escalation of violence at this stage, because no one will profit from it.[16]

PNC Chairman, Salim Al-Za'anoon, expressed his hope that there would not be a clash with Israel. "We do not wish to spill [even] a single drop of blood from any Israeli or Palestinian child… but should the negotiation drag on and on we will make our declaration and announce to the world that the interim period has ended."[17]

A Final Agreement?

In view of the impossibility of reaching a final agreement on the basis of the fundamental demands of both sides, the Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Barak is willing to give up his main demand in the negotiations - an unequivocal declaration ending the conflict - and substitute it with "a registration of mutual demands and the establishment of an agreed mechanism for the settlement of these demands, with a defined time table, and an agreement that there will be no additional demands in the future."[18]

Israel wishes to establish a mechanism for continued negotiation, as the Oslo mechanism expires by September 13, 2000. In exchange for Palestinian acceptance for postponing the Jerusalem and refugee issues, Israel may agree to significant territorial concessions and may recognize, at least de facto, the Palestinian state.

The Palestinians share the analysis that a final and comprehensive settlement is impossible at this stage and blame Israel for this impasse. Head of the PA delegation to the Final Status negotiations and Palestinian Legislative Council Chairman, Ahmad Qurei', aka Abu 'Alaa, stated "Barak sentences the summit to failure with his five red-lines."[19] Secretary General of the PA Presidency, Al-Tayyeb Abd Al-Rahim, stated, "If Israel wants to reach a complete end of the conflict, it should adhere to the source of authority on which the peace process is based and refrain from postponing any issue, especially the issues of Jerusalem, the refugees, and the return to the June 4, 1967 borders."[20] PA Minister of Information and Culture, Yasser Abd Rabboh, added "We will not agree to waste efforts reaching a [new] general declaration of principles or searching for another source of authority."[21]

Or Another Interim Settlement?

Both sides would prefer to prevent a crisis that will lead to violence. Procedurally, time can be gained through another summit, because the Palestinians have effectively postponed the UDI until the end of the year 2000 and reportedly showed an interest in a series of summits.[22] A possible result of the summit is a long term Interim Settlement. It appears that the Camp David negotiations will revolve around the characteristics of such a settlement, in which Israel may offer significant territorial concessions, refrain from annexing territory in response to a UDI, and agree to a more vague version of its demand to declare "the end of the conflict." The Palestinians, on the other hand, may agree to postpone solving the tough issues - Jerusalem and the refugees - and maintain the status quo on the issue of the settlements.

Still, there is no guarantee that the two sides will agree to make these concessions and even if they do, it is not guaranteed that these concessions will be enough for a long-term interim agreement, nor is there any guarantee that a signed agreement will be implemented.

*Aluma Solnik is a Research Associate with MEMRI. Yigal Carmon is MEMRI's President.

[1] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), July 9, 2000.

[2] Al-Ayyam (PA), July 8, 2000.

[3] Al-Ayyam (PA), July 8, 2000.

[4] Al-Ayyam (PA), July 3, 2000.

[5] Al-Quds (Palestinian), July 5, 2000. PA Justice Minister, Freih Abu Midein also made this argument in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), July 3, 2000.

[6] Al-Quds (Palestinian), July 4, 2000.

[7] Al-Hayat (London-Beirut), July 6, 2000.

[8] Al-Ayyam (PA), July 3, 2000.

[9] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), July 6, 2000.

[10] The Hamas movement also vowed to "participate in the defense of the Palestinian lands from any new Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people." Al-Hayat (London-Beirut), July 6, 2000.

[11] Al-Hayat (London-Beirut), June 26, 2000.

[12] Al-Quds (Palestinian), July 12, 2000.

[13] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), June 20, 2000.

[14]Al-Risala (Palestinian), June 22, 2000. Columnist Hassan Al-Batal, of daily Al-Ayyam, June 6, 2000, and columnist Fuad Abu Hijleh of Al- Hayat Al-Jadida, June 22, 2000, rejected Abu Midein's call for violence.

[15] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), July 10, 2000.

[16] Al-Quds (Palestinian), July 10, 2000.

[17] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July, 2, 2000. Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Nabil Sha'ath, similarly stated, "We hope that this declaration [of the Palestinian state] will not be used by Israel as a pretext to wage war against us… by no means do we [intend to] attack, but we are ready to defend this state." Al-Quds (PA), July 5, 2000.

[18] Ha'aretz (Israel), July 7, 2000.

[19] Al-Ayyam (PA), July 8, 2000.

[20] Al-Quds (Palestinian), July 12, 2000.

[21] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), July 10, 2000.

[22] According to Ha'aretz (Israel), July 11, 2000, Egyptian President Mubarak told Prime Minister Barak that "The Palestinians prefer a series of summits."

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