To be or not to be... Palestinians ponder the state of Arafat’s Palestine

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Khalil Marwan

Muharram 15, 1420 1999-05-01

Occupied Arab World

by Khalil Marwan (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 5, Muharram, 1420)

Yasir Arafat is perhaps the only person in the world who still clings to the fiction that there is a ‘peace process’ in the Middle East. The Oslo accords which he signed in September 1993 and September 1995 have been an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinian people. The wheelers and dealers in the Palestine National Authority (PNA) have used the Palestinian cause as a cover to enrich themselves. The result has been the further impoverishment of the Palestinian people and their repression by both the PNA and Israel.

On May 4, the five-year interim period established in the first Oslo agreement expires. Using the technical legal vacuum it creates, Arafat has made loud noises about declaring a Palestinian State on May 4 in an attempt to divert attention from the lack of progress in the so-called peace-process and draw attention to his own importance - and perhaps existence.

There is intense opposition from the zionists, who would deny the very existence of the Palestinian people if they had their way (Golda Meir had in July 1969 brusquely declared that there are “no Palestinian people”), and also from the US, the European Union, and even Russia. During a meeting with Arafat in Ghazzah on April 23, Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov said, “I repeat and say to the Palestinian Authority that they should have their independence and declare their state” but “the final Russian position regarding the May 4 is to extend the date of the (interim) agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Opponents of the declaration, who range from the mildly sympathetic French and Spaniards to the openly hostile British and Germans, argue that it would affect the outcome of the May 17 Israeli elections. The clear implication is that it would strengthen Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position. He is viewed as an obstacle to the so-called peace-process. He refuses to provide Arafat and the Arab rulers with even a figleaf behind which to hide their surrender. The Israeli Labour party is considered more suitable for that role.

There is equally strong pressure from the opposite camp. The 124-member Palestinian Central Council (PCC), the PLO’s mini-parliament in exile, is scheduled to meet in Ghazzah on April 27 (after Crescent International press time) to discuss whether to declare a State on May 4. Some members, Nabil Shaath for instance, who is a close advisor to Arafat, have already stated that the PCC meeting may extend beyond the May 4 deadline. This suggests that Arafat and his men are not going to declare a State on May 4, not because this reflects the sentiment of the Palestinian people, but because of zionist and international pressure.

Aware of this, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), one of the members of the PLO, said in a statement from Damascus on April 23: “It has become clear that the Palestinian Authority is preparing to delay the declaration of a state in May in response to American-Israeli pressure.” The PFLP rejected what it called the “policy of transforming Palestinian institutions into tools for the influential leadership in order to pass its positions and policies.”

Since the Oslo accords, the PNA has acted as a subcontractor for the zionists. It has been given limited autonomy in a few settlement-type enclaves, ringed by Israeli troops. It has shown itself as incompetent in all matters except repression, in which it is even more brutal than the zionists. PNA officials are hated and distrusted by the Palestinians they rule.

Equally sinister is the PNA’s campaign arguing for the validity of UN General Assembly Resolution 181, of November 1947. This was the basis for the partition of Palestine but resulted only in an Israeli state; the Palestinian state never materialised. Resolution 181 was fundamentally flawed: the UN had no mandate or authority to hand-over 60 percent of the land of the Palestinians to the country’s zionist invaders. This travesty of justice is now being cited by the PNA for the creation of their own mini-state in the few localities under their control. The Israelis, however, reject even this. UN resolutions have never been a bar to their expansionist policies in the region.

The current debate within PNA ranks also reflects the grand retreat by Palestinian secularists from the principled position of regaining the whole of Palestine. Starting from the complete rejection of the theft of their land - a position still held by the Islamic movement and supported by the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people - the PLO has gradually opted for an ever-shrinking parcel of land to be called Palestine.

There is a long history to the PLO’s independence declaration. It was first announced in Algeria in November 1988 at the height of the intifadah which had erupted a year earlier, much to the surprise of the PLO and other Palestinian secularists. In July 1988, king Husain had also washed his hands of claims to the West Bank in order to facilitate his contacts with the zionists - he could not publicly justify dealing with the enemy when it occupied a part of his land.

The PLO actually rode on the back of the sacrifices of the young mujahideen of the intifadah when it entered into secret negotiations with the zionists leading to the Oslo accords. In the process, it gradually retreated from pressing for the rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return to their land and homes, self-determination, and Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as a sacred Muslim city. It is now reduced to demanding a Palestinian pseudo-state, which in reality will remain subservient to the zionists and have less real power than local councils in most other countries.

Arafat has put great trust in the Americans, hoping that they will exert pressure on the zionists to accommodate his minimalist demands. If he thinks the US will get him anything, he knows neither America nor the total control that the zionists exercise in Washington.

Muslimedia: May 1-15, 1999

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