Towards a National Consensus - Official Fatah Editorial

Official Fatah Website http://www.fateh.net/e_editor/99/300999.htm

There is consensus among Palestinians throughout the world on the fact that the creation of an internationally recognized Palestinian state is long over-due. As for the shape of the state, and the means of its actualization-- these are matters for Palestinians to determine; and on these, our national consensus involves a call for full and immediate implementation of all international resolutions with regard to borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees and the full range of rights, privileges and responsibilities accorded to any sovereign state.

1. The state's borders

According to legal, internationally approved United Nations resolutions, the borders of our state are those of June 4, 1967. UN Resolution 242, in particular, stipulates that the forceful confiscation of another people's land is an unacceptable act on the part of any state. Terms of this resolution have already been applied in the cases of both the Egyptian and Jordanian borders. Fair and complete application of both this resolution, as well as of the principle of land for peace, means the full withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territories occupied in the war of 1967.

2. Jerusalem as the eternal capital of our independent state

Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967, borders includes -- despite Israeli protests to the contrary -- withdrawal from East Jerusalem since it forms part of the lands forcefully occupied by Israeli forces during the 1967 war. It is our repossession of East Jerusalem which will give our state its legitimacy in the eyes, not only of its own people, but of the entire world.

Nor does sacred Jerusalem include only the holy places seized from Arab hands, but the whole of East Jerusalem. We will not settle for the definition of "our" portion of Jerusalem that Yossi Beilin and others propose, i.e., Abu Dis and other areas neighboring the city proper.

We reject as illegal, as we have always done, the Israeli annexation and Judaization of Jerusalem. We reject Israeli quibbling over the omission of the article "the" in the text of the UN resolution stipulating that "territories" taken by force shall be returned to their rightful owners. UN Resolution 252, issued on August 21, 1968, clearly labels all actions, including administrative and legislative measures, undertaken by Israel in East Jerusalem as null and void.

3. Settlements

When UN Resolution 242 was passed, Israel had as yet constructed no settlements on the Palestinian land it had occupied. A child's logic would show that if it is illegal to take land by force, then it is also illegal to build on these same lands taken by force. However, in other attempts to put an end to Israeli legal nit-picking, the United Nations has issued a number of resolutions since construction of the settlements declaring their illegality and emphasizing their role as obstacles to peace.

One of these, UN Resolution 446, issued on March 22, 1969, described the Israeli practice of building settlements on occupied Arab land as a dangerous obstacle to peace in the Middle East and ruled that the settlements have no legal basis.

Another, UN Resolution 452, passed on July 20, 1979, outlined the dangerous consequences settlement building has on attempts to reach a peaceful solution in the region. The resolution called on the Israeli authorities to stop all settlement activities throughout the occupied territories, including in East Jerusalem.

Yet another, Resolution 465, issued on March 1, 1980, called yet again on the Israeli government to halt all settlement activities, to dismantle existing settlements, and to stop all plans for building new settlements in all the occupied territories, including Jerusalem.

4. Refugees

United Nations Resolution 242 also emphasized the need to achieve a just agreement on the matter of Palestinian refugees. Justice requires the implementation of the terms of international law, including all UN resolutions related to the issue. In Clause 11, UN Resolution 194 makes it clear that the United Nations General Assembly sees the necessity of allowing refugees to return to their land as soon as possible, if they are to live in peace with their neighbors. The resolution also called on the responsible governments or authorities to pay compensation to those Palestinians who suffered property loss or damage, in accordance with international law.

To date, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted no fewer than 49 separate resolutions harking back to the terms of UN Resolution 194 and emphasizing the refugees' right of return. The UN General Assembly has also gone on record as deploring the fact that Palestinian refugees have not yet been able to exercise their right to return to their lands nor received compensation for loss or damage to their property.

Clearly, UN Resolution 194's Clause 11 is a key to the implementation of the just arrangement called for in UN Resolution 242. The refugee issue ought to have been tackled, but was not, in the Gaza-Jericho stage of the peace process. Finally, the memo issued at the Sharm al Sheikh meeting did at least call for a revival of the "misplaced" committee, to consist of members from Egypt, Jordan, the Palestine National Authority and Israel, to take up work on the refugee issue as of October 1, 1999.

5. Self-determination: the establishment of a sovereign Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital

This last issue is non-negotiable, subject to the will only of the Palestinian people, and not subject to an Israeli veto.

The above description of our stand on the five issues -- borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees and sovereignty -- constitutes a document embodying our national consensus, on the basis of which a negotiating strategy can be built for the final-status talks. These five points on which we share a national consensus are not up for bargaining. Already, we have learned the hard way that any movement in the direction of yielding up our historical rights in return for some diluted international stamp of approval involves serious concessions on our part. On these five points we do not compromise.

As long as the Palestinian negotiating team takes a firm stand on these five issues, it will be supported at both formal and popular levels. It is understood that final status negotiations are not to be merged with interim issues such as the unconditional release of Palestinian political prisoners, the third "pulse" withdrawal as per the Sharm al Sheikh Memorandum, and the final stage withdrawal that is to leave only 10% of West Bank land under Israeli control, and to put an end to the A, B, and C classification of areas.

We call on researchers, negotiators and officials to stop coming up with alternative scenarios, which only give the Israelis yet another chance to stall. We call on you to respect the difference between interim issues -- which were to be tackled with the understanding that making gains on these is crucial to regaining all our rights -- and final status issues. We call, moreover, on our negotiators to refrain from that flexibility of negotiating style which has in the past allowed the Israelis to do less than implement fully all the requirements of international law as regards our people and our land.

Like his predecessor, Netenyahu, Ehud Barak has followed a policy aimed at lowering Palestinian expectations for their future. First, he tried insisting that interim and final status issues be merged. When the Palestinian leadership rejected that ploy, Barak suggested orchestrating a declaration of principles on final status issues with the third round of Israeli troop withdrawal from occupied Palestinian lands called for in Oslo II. Again, the Palestinian team refused to go along, and it was agreed in end that negotiations on the third troop withdrawal would be concluded one month before an agreement was reached on a declaration of final status principles.

In the meantime, the Palestinian side has received a letter of assurance from the US, in which the US clearly states that Israel should fulfill all of its obligations under the interim agreements, regardless of any developments arising from final status negotiations. The letter adds that US officials have learned from Ehud Barak that Israel will implement the third round of troop deployment in accordance with Article 2, Clause C of the Sharm al Sheikh Memo, even if the parties do not reach an agreement on the declaration of principles by the date suggested in Article 1, Clause C.

In addition to the national consensus already described, a national dialogue must take place. In order for this to happen, certain measures must be taken which strengthen the people's faith in the PNA institutions and leadership. There must be administrative reform and an end to the corruption that now exists in our government. Taking the necessary steps to put its own house in order will ensure the PNA increased support from the Arab world. This support is badly needed, as we prepare for talks which will affect the entire region.

Finally, we call on the United States and Europe to play a crucial role in forcing Israel to fulfill commitments it made under the various agreements its leaders have signed. The UN, as well, has a vital role to play. As sponsor of all the resolutions that constitute the legal backbone of our claim, the United Nations could help greatly to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East by speaking out now, clearly and unequivocally, to support the principles which it has voiced.

Revolution until victory!

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