January 15, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 643

Yasser Arafat and Ahmad Qurei (Abu 'Alaa) Speeches to PA Legislative Council Prior to Vote on New Government

January 15, 2004
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 643

On November 12, 2003, prior to the confidence vote on the new Palestinian government, Chairman Yasser Arafat and his appointee for Prime Minister, Ahmad Qurei (Abu 'Alaa,) spoke to the Palestinian Legislative Council. Their messages carried special weight given their timing – prior to the council's endorsement of the new PA government, and following the crisis sparked by Abu Mazen's resignation and Yasser Arafat's continued isolation from the international political arena. The following are excerpts from the two speeches : [1]

Recognition of Israel and a Call for Peace

Arafat: "The Israeli government has been spreading false rumors that we do not want peace with the State of Israel. I would like to address the Israeli people and say publicly that this is not true. The forces of peace in Israel know this. We have recognized the State of Israel, and we will not reverse this position. We recognized it in our National Council and when we signed the Oslo accords at the White House. We will never reverse our position on the right of the Israeli people to live in security, peace, and stability side by side with the independent Palestinian people in the independent state of Palestine, [with the establishment of] a viable, comprehensive, and just peace in our region. The Arab summit conference has also approved this in the peace initiative drafted by the Saudi Crown Prince…
Hear me, Israelis! The time has come for us to exit from this continued war of destruction, which provides neither you nor us with security and leads neither you nor us to a safe and just peace. There is something in these last three or more bad years to persuade the Israeli government that the occupation, the settlements, the racist separation fence – the new Berlin Wall – and the harm to our holy places are unable to provide security… I especially praise the forces of peace in Israel, which struggle for peace between the two peoples… I welcome the meetings that are to be held by them to push the peace process forward…

"The plan of the new [PA] government stresses, in the name of the Palestinian people, full adherence to the peace option and the road map."

Abu 'Alaa: "You are fully aware, sisters and brothers, of the international situation in which we are living following the events of September 11th… You are aware of the infamous attempts to [call] our national struggle terrorism and accuse us of being terrorists. You know how notions have been reversed and norms have been changed, where [our] glorious struggle is confused with mischievous terrorism… It is a situation that we certainly do not accept, but we cannot ignore it either… We will always be able to address this situation without accepting it or succumbing to its terms. We must stop the practice of [self-] justification and blaming others… We need to garner the forces of peace and fairness to our side…

"We pursue peace and coexistence; we pursue freedom, independence and national dignity. We are not terrorists and we never shall be. Our struggle has never been directed against children, women and civilians. It is against demolition of houses, uprooting of trees, killing and assassination. We do not want our women to give birth at military checkpoints; we do not want to be prohibited from praying at the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Resurrection. We are against the confiscation of our land and we stand for our basic rights to movement, work, education, and health care. We have never rejected the choice of peace; on the contrary, we have taken risks to attain this dream, which is shared by all humankind…

" The [new PA] government confirms that the partial and transitional solutions have never been and will never be sufficient to put an end to the conflict; on the contrary, they will prolong and escalate such conflict. Therefore, we call upon the parties to the conflict, mainly the Quartet, to hold an international conference under their supervision to attain a final solution to the conflict, to be based on President Bush's vision of two states and on the implementation of relevant U.N. resolutions – 242, 338, 425, 1397, and 194 – which stipulate the termination of Israeli occupation and settlement expansion in all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied by Israel on June 5, 1967, including East Jerusalem, as well as the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty and Jerusalem as its capital, existing side by side with Israel along the June 4, 1967 lines and resolving the question of Palestinian refugees in accordance with U.N. resolution 194…

"You, the Israelis, I call upon you – government and people – to open a new page in our relations and joint work in order to achieve a just peace… Be confident that we accept you and want you as neighbors we shall respect. We want for you and for us a genuine and real peace; we want peace that preserves our rights and protects your security and ours; we want peace based on broader cooperation that sets the ground for cohabitation and creates opportunities for coordination in all fields that would benefit both parties…

"Believe, Israelis, that we aspire for peace, security, and stability and that we cannot achieve this without mutual advantages. The security of one side cannot be realized at the expense of the other side. Let us help each other in ending this vicious cycle of war in order to remove frustration and despair from the hearts of your children and ours… I call on you to respect our will, choices, leadership and leader – Yasser Arafat – and to lift the siege imposed on him and halt your threats against him. I call upon you to cure the wounds of the peace process, which are the settlement expansion, the separation wall, and what you are doing around Jerusalem to isolate it… Let us work seriously to realize this important mission, a mission of permanent settlement and establishment of the independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel."

Condemning and Ending the Violence

Arafat: " All the operations and violence against Israeli civilians occurred after Israel damaged our security apparatuses, reoccupied the Palestinian cities and territories, and imposed a curfew and a military and economic siege on our people and on its leadership and the national authority.

"Our people, our authority, and the P.L.O., did not hesitate for a moment to condemn these attacks and the continuing war against our people, our land, and our holy places. The leadership expressed its constant willingness to accept security responsibility after Israeli forces begin to withdraw to the September 28, 2000 lines, and after [Israel] announces that it is seriously willing to conduct negotiations and not escape from negotiations. [These negotiations are] aimed at solving all problems by peaceful means through dialogue, rather than by military means, violence, assassinations, damage to our entire infrastructure – agricultural and economic – and [sowing] destruction in our homeland and our people."

Abu 'Alaa: "Our government … has set a number of principles and basic tasks to direct its mission [at the top of] the national agenda. It shall endeavor to achieve them with persistence, patience, and deliberate cooperation with you and with our people… [Among these principles is a call to] the Palestinian people and all Palestinian forces and factions to end all violence and counter violence, as stipulated in the road map … an act aimed at achieving a mutual and comprehensive ceasefire…

"It is unacceptable to any of us that the anarchy of using weapons will continue, and for [these disturbances to continue]: shelling from amongst the public, armed demonstrations and [demonstrations] by masked men aimed at showing their strength against some of us; intimidating residents, even to the point of killing and kidnapping; smuggling goods, arms, and drugs; and pushing aside the central authority and proliferation of centers of decision making… It is unacceptable to us that the interpretation of one man or one group will take us where they want and decide in the name of the public, on the pretense that its position is the best and its program is the general national program…

"We support pluralism of opinions, ideas, and interpretation, but we also support the exclusivity of government and of the decision-making body. We support freedom of opinion and expression, but we oppose defamation and degradation. We support strengthening the infrastructure of the civil organizations, but we oppose tribal fanaticism and the primitive mentality of vengeance. Above all, we support obeying the law and the regime …

"[One of the government's tasks is to] end the state of chaos, as an integral part of reinforcing the rule of law and enforcing public order. [I refer to] the chaos of bearing and transferring arms, storing arms among civilians, armed demonstrations with shooting, etc."

A Call for Reform

Arafat: " The demand for municipal elections is just and legitimate. The new government must act to provide the necessary conditions and atmosphere for holding these elections as soon as possible."

Abu 'Alaa: "[Part of the new government's agenda is to] pursue and complete the reform process approved by the PLC and begun by previous Palestinian governments … [and to] support the activity of the Central Elections Commission and fully cooperate with it in order to prepare all the appropriate conditions for holding these [elections] within the shortest possible time, no later than June."

Insisting on the Right of Return

Arafat: "I wish the new government, headed by Abu 'Alaa, success in carrying out the national, political, and security missions that will realize the great aim of our people – freedom, independence, the right of return to Palestine, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."

Abu 'Alaa: " We pursue truth and peace. We do not preach war and revenge. Therefore, we shall continue our commitment to all our rights: the right of return, self-determination, and the establishment of our independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. We shall continue tirelessly to call for the realization of the longed-for and viable peace. We shall defend ourselves and our rights with the assertiveness that has characterized the Palestinian spirit, [which has withstood] the harshest of trials."

Addressing Palestinians in exile, Abu 'Alaa said, "Our dream will not be realized and our eyes will not close until our rights are actualized and we return to our land… We will act with determination and patience until the banners of victory wave over the walls of Jerusalem…"

Unifying Palestinian Security Apparatuses [Under Arafat's Control]

Abu 'Alaa: "[One of our missions will be to] unify the work of all Palestinian security forces and coordinate the operation of their various apparatuses through a well-defined and clear mechanism. Out of a profound understanding of the importance of achieving this essential goal at this sensitive stage in the life of our people, the Palestinian leadership has made a determined decision to consolidate the Palestinian security forces under the framework of the National Security Council."

Prisoner Release

Abu 'Alaa: "[Our government's agenda includes making] a serious effort, using all means, to release our brave prisoners from the prisons of the occupation… as a condition for any agreement with the Israeli government. [The agenda also includes] ensuring the provision of the necessary support for their families, and for the families of the martyrs and other casualties."

Israel's Alleged Use of Depleted Uranium Against Palestinians

Arafat: "Two delegations, American and Dutch, discovered together with us that depleted uranium is being used against our people, in violation of international law."

[1] Al-Ayyam, (PA), November 13, 2003. The English translation of Abu 'Alaa's speech was taken in part from the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Information site:

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