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Palestinian views of the peace process

High-level officials in the Palestinian Authority (PA) have said, at different times, both that their "peace process" is intended to achieve a permanent peace with the State of Israel and also that it is only a temporary measure designed for the purpose of destroying Israel.

Many Palestinian officials, such as Yasir Arafat have called for peace in English language press releases but also for the eventual destruction of the Israel in Arabic language statements. There were several statemens made in Arabic that do call for peace ([1] (http://electronicintifada.net/coveragetrends/6myths.shtml#3)); critics claim that they were almost never explicit and unambiguous.

Introduction Acceptance of Israel's right to exist in peace is the first of the PLO's obligations in the Oslo accords. In Yasir Arafat's September 9, 1993 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as part of Oslo I, Arafat stated that "The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security." Statements and actions of Arafat and other leaders in the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA) during the years since Oslo I was signed might well be construed as saying that the PLO and the PA do not hope for, or intend to achieve, a permanent peace with the State of Israel. These views may be distinct from the views of the common Palestinian citizen, according to a large number of observers in Israel and the West.

Many of the following statements refer to making the territory of pre-1967 Israel into a Palestinian state; some have hypothesized that this is only a claim that Palestinians want to annex some Israeli territory into a new Palestinian state; however, the internal documents and statements of principles that the Palestinians refer to include the entire territory of the West Bank and Gaza as their goal. No documents from Palestinian sources exist which make lesser claims. Moreover, the PLO's main policy statement, the Palestinian National Covenant was never amended so that it would recognize Israel's right to exist.

Palestinians who state that the peace process is permanent and irrevocable

A leading PLO official has recently emerged as a voice for a new Palestinian view of the peace process and the State of Israel. Sari Nusseibeh calls for historic compromises by both Palestinian and Israelis, in order to secure a permanent and lasting peace. He explicitly states that Palestinians must give up their demand for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to immigrate into Israel; with this demand out of the way, he argues, a true and lasting peace can emerge.

Yassir Arafat (in Arabic, PA television, 16 December 2001): Once again, I call for a complete halt to all operations, especially suicidal operations, which we have always condemned. We will punish all those who carry out and mastermind such operations ([2] (http://electronicintifada.net/coveragetrends/6myths.shtml#3)).

Yasser Arafat stated (February 3, 2002): "For the past 16 months, Israelis and Palestinians have been locked in a catastrophic cycle of violence, a cycle which only promises more bloodshed and fear. The cycle has led many to conclude that peace is impossible, a myth borne out of the ignorance of the Palestinian position. Now is the time for the Palestinians to state clearly, and for the world to hear clearly, the Palestinian vision. But first, let me be very clear. I condemn the attacks carried out by terrorist groups against Israeli civilians. These groups do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom. They are terrorist organizations and I am determined to put an end to their activities. The Palestinian vision of peace is an independent and viable Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, living as an equal neighbor alongside Israel with peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. In 1988, the Palestine National Council adopted a historic resolution calling for the implementation of applicable United Nations resolutions, particularly, Resolutions 242 and 338. The Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist on 78 percent of historic Palestine with the understanding that we would be allowed to live in freedom on the remaining 22 percent under Israeli occupation since 1967. Our commitment to that two state solution remains unchanged, but unfortunately, also remains unreciprocated." Readers may compare this press release to his many Arabic statements (detailed below) where he states that any peace treaty must only be temporary, and that his ultimate goal is the elimination of Israel.

Palestinians are no strangers to compromise. In the 1993 Oslo Accords, we agreed to recognize Israeli sovereignty over 78 percent of historic Palestine and to establish a Palestinian state on only 22 percent." -- Saeb Erakat, Chief Palestinian negotiatior, August 5, 2000

At one point Faisal Husseini, senior PLO representative in Israel, stated that "Palestinians believe that Jerusalem should be a shared, open city; two capitals for two states."

In 2000, at the Camp David talks sponsored by US President Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak presented a final non-negotiable proposal to the Palestinian leadership. A map of that proposal may be found here: [3] (http://www.pmwatch.org/pmw/maps/finalstatus/2000campdavid.jpg)

Palestinians who state that the peace process is only temporary Arafat said on the PA's Voice of Palestine radio station in 1995, "The struggle will continue until all of Palestine is liberated." (Voice of Palestine, November 11, 1995)

In a 1995 speech, Arafat named two cities within pre-1967 Israel among those to which the Palestinian Arabs will be returning: "Be blessed, O Gaza, and celebrate, for your sons are returning after a long celebration. O Lod, O Haifa, O Jerusalem, you are returning, you are returning." (Ma'ariv, September 7, 1995)

Rashid Abu Shbak, a senior PA security official declared: "The light which has shone over Gaza and Jericho [when the PA assumed control over those areas] will also reach the Negev and the Galilee [which constitute a large portion of pre-1967 Israel]." (Yediot Ahronot, May 29, 1994)

Faisal Husseini, former Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem, was well known in Israeli circles as a Palestinian dove and moderate. He was an extremely high-ranking official who represented the most liberal faction of the Palestinian Authority. The following quotes on his view of the PA's peace process with Israel come from the June 24, 2000 issue of el Arav, an Egyptian newspaper. In a taped interview with journalist Shafik Ahmed Ali he stated:

"The Oslo agreements were a Trojan Horse....The strategic goal is to liberate Palestine from the river to the sea." When asked about the intentions of Arafat and the Oslo peace deal signed in 1993, he stated "I said three things then. First, after a long period of pregnancy, we brought into the world a child that was smaller, weaker and uglier than what we had hoped for. But despite everything, it was still our child, to foster, develop and strengthen until it could stand on its own two feet... Second, we are the 'Jews' of the 21st century. They snuck into our country in a variety of ways... and we only have to act now as they did in their day: To return to our country, to settle, to strike new roots, whatever will be in the country from which we were driven out."

Husseini then recounted the classical Greek story of the Trojan horse, and stated that:

"we all know what happened afterwards. Had the US and Israel understood before Oslo that all that remained of the Palestine liberation movement and the Pan-Arab movement was the Trojan Horse named Arafat or the PLO, they would have never opened their fortified gates and let him in." Husseini stated that he told Israelis and Americans "Get on the horse and don't ask what it is made of. Get on the horse, and your entry inside will turn into the dawn of an era of building and not an era of the end of hope!"

Husseini ended by stating that it is the obligation of all the Palestinian factions to view the peace process as only "temporary" and "gradual" steps. "We are setting an ambush for the Israelis and cheating them." Husseini ended by pointing out that the final goal of the Palestinian Authority is still the "liberation of all Palestine from the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean],...[even if it takes] 1,000 years, or generations upon generations."

The PA's Voice of Palestine radio broadcast a Friday prayer sermon by Yusuf Abu Sneineh, official preacher at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, in which he asserted: "The struggle we are waging is an ideological struggle and the question is: where has the Islamic land of Palestine gone? Where is Haifa and Jaffa, Lod and Ramle, Acre, Safed and Tiberias? Where is Hebron and Jerusalem?" (Voice of Palestine, May 23, 1997)

In an interview with Egyptian Orbit TV on April 18, 1998, Arafat was asked about his decision to sign the Oslo accords. He replied: "In 1974, at the Palestinian National Council meeting in Cairo, we passed the decision to establish national Palestinian rule over any part of the land of Palestine which is liberated."

In an interview with the Palestinian Arab newspaper Al Ayyam on January 1,1998, when asked his view of the Oslo agreement, Arafat replied: "Since the decision of the Palestinian National Council at its 12th meeting in 1974, the PLO has adopted the political solution of establishing a National Authority over any territory from which the occupation withdraws."

PA cabinet minister Abdul Aziz Shaheen told the official PA newspaper Al-Havat Al-Jadida (January 4, 1998): "The Oslo accord was a preface for the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Authority will be a preface for the Palestinian state which, in its turn, will be a preface for the liberation of the entire Palestinian land."

Arafat has also compared the Oslo accords to peace treaties that Mohammed, the founder of Islam, signed and then later discarded. In the Palestinian Arab newspaper Al Quds on May 10, 1998. Arafat was asked: "Do you feel sometimes that you made a mistake in agreeing to Oslo?" Arafat replied: "No .... no. Allah's messenger Mohammed accepted the al-Khudaibiya peace treaty and Salah a-Din accepted the peace agreement with Richard the Lion-Hearted."

In an interview with Egyptian Orbit TV on April 18, 1998, Arafat declared that the Oslo accords are comparable to "when the Prophet Mohammed made the Khudaibiya agreement.. .we must learn from his steps.. .We respect agreements the way that the Prophet Mohammed respected the agreements which he signed."

Speaking in a mosque in Johannesburg, South Africa on May 10, 1994, Arafat stated that the Oslo Accord was akin to the temporary truce between Muhammad and the Quraish tribe: "This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Muhammad and Quraish, and you remember that the Caliph Omar had refused this agreement and considered it a despicable truce...But the same way Muhammad had accepted it, we are now accepting this peace effort." (Ha?aretz, May 23, 1994)

The usage maps showing all of Israel labeled as "Palestine" by the PA is notorious. Such maps appear on PA Television; in the offices of PA officials; in textbooks used in PA schools; and on the shoulder-patches of PA police officers. The significance of the use of such maps was pointed out by the Washington Post back in 1988, when the PLO applied for admission to the World Health Organization, and used the map of all of Palestine in its application papers. The map "wipes out symbolically... a member-state" of the WHO, the Post remarked. (Washington Post, May 1, 1989).

Those allegations have been partially opposed, in a study (http://www.geocities.com/nathanbrown1/Adam_Institute_Palestinian_textbooks.htm) by Professor Nathan Brown of George Washington University in November 2001: On they other hand, they are supported by a report (http://www.edume.org/reports/1/toc.htm) of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace. Neither report denies, however, the extreme chauvinism and nationalism predominant in the Palestinian textbooks.

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