(Commentary by Yehoshua Porat, Ma'ariv, 7.5.97, p. B7)


About a year ago, the Palestinian National Council convened in Gaza for a special session. At one of the meetings, on 24.4.96, resolutions were passed about "amending the National Covenant by cancelling the articles that contradict the exchange of letters between the PLO and the Israeli government on 9 and 10 September 1993" and to the effect that the "Palestinian National Council charges the legal committee with redrafting the National Covenant and bringing the new text to the central council at its first meeting." In this way, the PLO apparently fulfilled its commitment to cancel the articles in its Covenant calling for the destruction of Israel.

Shimon Peres, then prime minister, was overjoyed when he learned about the passing of these resolutions. He saw them as the most important event from an ideological standpoint in the history of the Middle East in the last century.

Several days after this resolution was passed, I asserted to the Israeli public that this was actually a sophisticated fraud. The resolution did not refer to specific articles that were apparently canceled, and therefore there was no way of knowing what was actually canceled, since there are deep differences of opinion over the questions of which articles of the Covenant run counter to the exchange of letters between the PLO and the Israeli government.

Does this include only those articles which explicitly negate Israel's right to exist, or does it also apply to the articles which deny any link whatsoever between the Jews and the Land of Israel, Zionism, the partition of the country, those which attribute the right of representing all Palestinians -- including Israeli Arabs -- to the PLO, and those which support the armed struggle to liberate Palestine?

Twenty-eight important and learned Middle East experts responded to my remarks in an advertisement which was published in Ha'aretz on 7.5.96, under the title, "The Whole Truth about the Cancellation of the Palestinian Covenant," in which they determined that this decision constituted "an important step to the reformulation of the Palestinian Covenant, in accordance with the PLO's commitments."

What has happened since? First of all, at the close of the Palestinian National Council session, a final statement was issued, which included all of the session's decisions; the decision to cancel the Covenant was not mentioned at all. When several PNC members were asked about the identity of the articles which were canceled, they did not know how exactly to respond; each of them had a different version regarding the number of articles an their identity.

Some time later, at a meeting with Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi, Yasser Arafat denied that the Covenant had been canceled and claimed that nothing had happened, though afterwards, there was a PLO member who denied Arafat's remarks. In any case, Qaddafi was apparently convinced that the Covenant had not been canceled, and he did not return to criticizing the PLO over its cancellation.

A year has passed since then, and not only has the PNC legal committee not met and not discussed -- and certainly not proposed -- a new version of the Covenant's articles, but Arafat announced that it would never come about, and nothing would be done until Israel itself adopts a constitution!

There are good-willed Israelis who say that all of this is not important, and that the main thing is deeds. However, even the speaking of words and adhering closely to their content, is an important political and educational act. The PLO is refusing to cancel these articles because it does not want to nullify its conceptual foundation, and various PLO spokesmen have repeated this from time to time, from April 1996 until now.

Second, by not canceling these articles, the PLO has shown how far it is prepared to go in honoring the main commitment which it took upon itself to fulfill in exchange for receiving territories from Israel.

And third, and this is the main point: Israel is constantly being demanded to take "confidence-building measures" to convince the Palestinians of the seriousness of its intentions for peace, in order to dispel their concerns and mollify them. We also need "confidence-building measures," we also need to be convinced that the PLO does not intend to continue its war against us after a peace agreement is achieved between it and Israel, that it too has given up on its demands regarding the territory of the State of Israel, and that it does not intend to bring about the destruction of Israel by forcing it to agree to the return of the 1948 refugees to within its borders. Instead of this, we are hearing the exact opposite. The demand to exercise the "right of return" of these refugees to their "lands and homes" inside Israel and the reestablishment of the neighborhood of Sheikh Bader in the heart of western Jerusalem on the ruins of the Knesset and Supreme Court buildings.

That is all that has occurred in this matter over the past year, and those who told "The Whole Truth about the Cancellation of Palestinian Covenant" to the Israeli public on 7.5.96, in an advertisement in Ha'aretz, have led it -- and maybe themselves as well -- astray.

Note From Canadian Friends:
A complete translation of the covenant is available at

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