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Home > International Relations in an Emerging Multi Lateral World > Conflict Resolution > PLO - Israel Peace Process

PLO - Israel Peace Process

[see also  Documents related to Israel - PLO Process off site]

Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, Washington, 13 September 1993 
Agreed Minutes to the Declaration  
Israel - PLO Recognition: Exchange of letters between PM Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat, 9 September 1993

Chomsky on Oslo Peace Process, 2 April 2002  .." The function of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was to control the domestic population of the Israeli-run neocolonial dependency. That is the way the process unfolded, step by step, including the Camp David suggestions..."


Declaration of Principles
on Interim Self-Government Arrangements

Washington, September 13, 1993

The Government of the State of Israel and the P.L.O. team (in the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to the Middle East Peace Conference) (the "Palestinian Delegation"), representing the Palestinian people, agree that it is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict, recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights, and strive to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security and achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process. Accordingly, the, two sides agree to the following principles:

Article 1

AIM OF THE NEGOTIATIONS

The aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, the elected Council (the "Council"), for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

It is understood that the interim arrangements are an integral part of the whole peace process and that the negotiations on the permanent status will lead to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

Article II

FRAMEWORK FOR THE INTERIM PERIOD

The agreed framework for the interim period is set forth in this Declaration of Principles.

Article III

ELECTIONS

  1. In order that the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip may govern themselves according to democratic principles, direct, free and general political elections will be held for the Council under agreed supervision and international observation, while the Palestinian police will ensure public order.

  2. An agreement will be concluded on the exact mode and conditions of the elections in accordance with the protocol attached as Annex I, with the goal of holding the elections not later than nine months after the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles.

  3. These elections will constitute a significant interim preparatory step toward the realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements.

Article IV

JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction of the Council will cover West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period.

Article V

TRANSITIONAL PERIOD AND PERMANENT STATUS NEGOTIATIONS

  1. The five-year transitional period will begin upon the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area.

  2. Permanent status negotiations will commence as soon as possible, but not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period, between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian people representatives.

  3. It is understood that these negotiations shall cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest.

  4. The two parties agree that the outcome of the permanent status negotiations should not be prejudiced or preempted by agreements reached for the interim period.

Article VI

PREPARATORY TRANSFER OF POWERS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

  1. Upon the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles and the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, a transfer of authority from the Israeli military government and its Civil Administration to the authorised Palestinians for this task, as detailed herein, will commence. This transfer of authority will be of a preparatory nature until the inauguration of the Council.

  2. Immediately after the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles and the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, with the view to promoting economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, authority will be transferred to the Palestinians on the following spheres: education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation, and tourism. The Palestinian side will commence in building the Palestinian police force, as agreed upon. Pending the inauguration of the Council, the two parties may negotiate the transfer of additional powers and responsibilities, as agreed upon.

Article VII

INTERIM AGREEMENT

  1. The Israeli and Palestinian delegations will negotiate an agreement on the interim period (the "Interim Agreement")

  2. The Interim Agreement shall specify, among other things, the structure of the Council, the number of its members, and the transfer of powers and responsibilities from the Israeli military government and its Civil Administration to the Council. The Interim Agreement shall also specify the Council's executive authority, legislative authority in accordance with Article IX below, and the independent Palestinian judicial organs.

  3. The Interim Agreement shall include arrangements, to be implemented upon the inauguration of the Council, for the assumption by the Council of all of the powers and responsibilities transferred previously in accordance with Article VI above.

  4. In order to enable the Council to promote economic growth, upon its inauguration, the Council will establish, among other things, a Palestinian Electricity Authority, a Gaza Sea Port Authority, a Palestinian Development Bank, a Palestinian Export Promotion Board, a Palestinian Environmental Authority, a Palestinian Land Authority and a Palestinian Water Administration Authority, and any other Authorities agreed upon, in accordance with the Interim Agreement that will specify their powers and responsibilities.

  5. After the inauguration of the Council, the Civil Administration will be dissolved, and the Israeli military government will be withdrawn.


Article VIII

PUBLIC ORDER AND SECURITY

In order to guarantee public order and internal security for the Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Council will establish a strong police force, while Israel will continue to carry the responsibility for defending against external threats, as well as the responsibility for overall security of Israelis for the purpose of safeguarding their internal security and public order.

Article IX

LAWS AND MILITARY ORDERS

  1. The Council will be empowered to legislate, in accordance with the Interim Agreement, within all authorities transferred to it.

  2. Both parties will review jointly laws and military orders presently in force in remaining spheres.

Article X

JOINT ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN LIAISON COMMITTEE

In order to provide for a smooth implementation of this Declaration of Principles and any subsequent agreements pertaining to the interim period, upon the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles, a Joint Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Committee will be established in order to deal with issues requiring coordination, other issues of common interest, and disputes.

Article XI

ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN COOPERATION IN ECONOMIC FIELDS

Recognizing the mutual benefit of cooperation in promoting the development of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel, upon the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles, an Israeli-Palestinian Economic Cooperation Committee will be established in order to develop and implement in a cooperative manner the programs identified in the protocols attached as Annex III and Annex IV .

Article XII

LIAISON AND COOPERATION WITH JORDAN AND EGYPT

The two parties will invite the Governments of Jordan and Egypt to participate in establishing further liaison and cooperation arrangements between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian representatives, on the one hand, and the Governments of Jordan and Egypt, on the other hand, to promote cooperation between them. These arrangements will include the constitution of a Continuing Committee that will decide by agreement on the modalities of admission of persons displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, together with necessary measures to prevent disruption and disorder. Other matters of common concern will be dealt with by this Committee.

Article XIII

REDEPLOYMENT OF ISRAELI FORCES

  1. After the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles, and not later than the eve of elections for the Council, a redeployment of Israeli military forces in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will take place, in addition to withdrawal of Israeli forces carried out in accordance with Article XIV.

  2. In redeploying its military forces, Israel will be guided by the principle that its military forces should be redeployed outside populated areas.

  3. Further redeployments to specified locations will be gradually implemented commensurate with the assumption of responsibility for public order and internal security by the Palestinian police force pursuant to Article VIII above.

Article XIV

ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL FROM THE GAZA STRIP AND JERICHO AREA

Israel will withdraw from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, as detailed in the protocol attached as Annex II.

Article XV

RESOLUTION OF DISPUTES

  1. Disputes arising out of the application or interpretation of this Declaration of Principles. or any subsequent agreements pertaining to the interim period, shall be resolved by negotiations through the Joint Liaison Committee to be established pursuant to Article X above.

  2. Disputes which cannot be settled by negotiations may be resolved by a mechanism of conciliation to be agreed upon by the parties.

  3. The parties may agree to submit to arbitration disputes relating to the interim period, which cannot be settled through conciliation. To this end, upon the agreement of both parties, the parties will establish an Arbitration Committee.

Article XVI

ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN COOPERATION CONCERNING REGIONAL PROGRAMS

Both parties view the multilateral working groups as an appropriate instrument for promoting a "Marshall Plan", the regional programs and other programs, including special programs for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as indicated in the protocol attached as Annex IV .

Article XVII

MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

  1. This Declaration of Principles will enter into force one month after its signing.

  2. All protocols annexed to this Declaration of Principles and Agreed Minutes pertaining thereto shall be regarded as an integral part hereof.

Done at Washington, D.C., this thirteenth day of September, 1993.  

For the Government of Israel
For the P.L.O.  


Witnessed By:

The United States of America
The Russian Federation


ANNEX I : PROTOCOL ON THE MODE AND CONDITIONS OF ELECTIONS

  1. Palestinians of Jerusalem who live there will have the right to participate in the election process, according to an agreement between the two sides.

  2. In addition, the election agreement should cover, among other things, the following issues:

    1. the system of elections;

    2. the mode of the agreed supervision and international observation and their personal composition; and

    3. rules and regulations regarding election campaign, including agreed arrangements for the organizing of mass media, and the possibility of licensing a broadcasting and TV station.

  3. The future status of displaced Palestinians who were registered on 4th June 1967 will not be prejudiced because they are unable to participate in the election process due to practical reasons.


ANNEX II : PROTOCOL ON WITHDRAWAL OF ISRAELI FORCES FROM THE GAZA STRIP AND JERICHO AREA

  1. The two sides will conclude and sign within two months from the date of entry into force of this Declaration of Principles, an agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. This agreement will include comprehensive arrangements to apply in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal.

  2. Israel will implement an accelerated and scheduled withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, beginning immediately with the signing of the agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho area and to be completed within a period not exceeding four months after the signing of this agreement.

  3. The above agreement will include, among other things:

    1. Arrangements for a smooth and peaceful transfer of authority from the Israeli military government and its Civil Administration to the Palestinian representatives.

    2. Structure, powers and responsibilities of the Palestinian authority in these areas, except: external security, settlements, Israelis, foreign relations, and other mutually agreed matters.

    3. Arrangements for the assumption of internal security and public order by the Palestinian police force consisting of police officers recruited locally and from abroad holding Jordanian passports and Palestinian documents issued by Egypt). Those who will participate in the Palestinian police force coming from abroad should be trained as police and police officers.

    4. A temporary international or foreign presence, as agreed upon.

    5. Establishment of a joint Palestinian-Israeli Coordination and Cooperation Committee for mutual security purposes.

    6. An economic development and stabilization program, including the establishment of an Emergency Fund, to encourage foreign investment, and financial and economic support. Both sides will coordinate and cooperate jointly and unilaterally with regional and international parties to support these aims.

    7. Arrangements for a safe passage for persons and transportation between the Gaza Strip and Jericho area.

  4. The above agreement will include arrangements for coordination between both parties regarding passages:

    1. Gaza - Egypt; and

    2. Jericho - Jordan.

  5. The offices responsible for carrying out the powers and responsibilities of the Palestinian authority under this Annex II and Article VI of the Declaration of Principles will be located in the Gaza Strip and in the Jericho area pending the inauguration of the Council.

  6. Other than these agreed arrangements, the status of the Gaza Strip and Jericho area will continue to be an integral part of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and will not be changed in the interim period.


ANNEX III: PROTOCOL ON ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN COOPERATION IN ECONOMIC AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS

The two sides agree to establish an Israeli-Palestinian continuing Committee for Economic Cooperation, focusing, among other things, on the following:

  1. Cooperation in the field of water, including a Water Development Program prepared by experts from both sides, which will also specify the mode of cooperation in the management of water resources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and will include proposals for studies and plans on water rights of each party, as well as on the equitable utilization of joint water resources for implementation in and beyond the interim period.

  2. Cooperation in the field of electricity, including an Electricity Development Program, which will also specify the mode of cooperation for the production, maintenance, purchase and sale of electricity resources.

  3. Cooperation in the field of energy, including an Energy Development Program, which will provide for the exploitation of oil and gas for industrial purposes, particularly in the Gaza Strip and in the Negev, and will encourage further joint exploitation of other energy resources. This Program may also provide for the construction of a Petrochemical industrial complex in the Gaza Strip and the construction of oil and gas pipelines.

  4. Cooperation in the field of finance, including a Financial Development and Action Program for the encouragement of international investment in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and in Israel, as well as the establishment of a Palestinian Development Bank.

  5. Cooperation in the field of transport and communications, including a Program, which will define guidelines for the establishment of a Gaza Sea Port Area, and will provide for the establishing of transport and communications lines to and from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to Israel and to other countries. In addition, this Program will provide for carrying out the necessary construction of roads, railways, communications lines, etc.

  6. Cooperation in the field of trade, including studies, and Trade Promotion Programs, which will encourage local, regional and inter-regional trade, as well as a feasibility study of creating free trade zones in the Gaza Strip and in Israel, mutual access to these zones, and cooperation in other areas related to trade and commerce.

  7. Cooperation in the field of industry, including Industrial Development Programs, which will provide for the establishment of joint Israeli- Palestinian Industrial Research and Development Centers, will promote Palestinian-Israeli joint ventures, and provide guidelines for cooperation in the textile, food, pharmaceutical, electronics, diamonds, computer and science-based industries.

  8. A program for cooperation in, and regulation of, labor relations and cooperation in social welfare issues.

  9. A Human Resources Development and Cooperation Plan, providing for joint Israeli-Palestinian workshops and seminars, and for the establishment of joint vocational training centers, research institutes and data banks.

  10. An Environmental Protection Plan, providing for joint and/or coordinated measures in this sphere.

  11. A program for developing coordination and cooperation in the field of communication and media.

  12. Any other programs of mutual interest.


ANNEX IV: PROTOCOL ON ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN COOPERATION CONCERNING REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS

  1. The two sides will cooperate in the context of the multilateral peace efforts in promoting a Development Program for the region, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, to be initiated by the G-7. The parties will request the G-7 to seek the participation in this program of other interested states, such as members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, regional Arab states and institutions, as well as members of the private sector.

  2. The Development Program will consist of two elements:

    1. an Economic Development Program for the 'West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

    2. a Regional Economic Development Program.

    3. The Economic Development Program for the West Bank and the Gaza strip will consist of the following elements:

      1. A Social Rehabilitation Program, including a Housing and Construction Program.

      2. A Small and Medium Business Development Plan.

      3. An Infrastructure Development Program (water, electricity, transportation and communications, etc.)

      4. A Human Resources Plan.

      5. Other programs.

    4. The Regional Economic Development Program may consist of the following elements:

      1. The establishment of a Middle East Development Fund, as a first step, and a Middle East Development Bank, as a second step.

      2. The development of a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian Plan for coordinated exploitation of the Dead Sea area.

      3. The Mediterranean Sea (Gaza) - Dead Sea Canal.

      4. Regional Desalinization and other water development projects.

      5. A regional plan for agricultural development, including a coordinated regional effort for the prevention of desertification.

      6. Interconnection of electricity grids.

      7. Regional cooperation for the transfer, distribution and industrial exploitation of gas, oil and other energy resources.

      8. A Regional Tourism, Transportation and Telecommunications Development Plan.

      9. Regional cooperation in other spheres.

  3. The two sides will encourage the multilateral working groups, and will coordinate towards their success. The two parties will encourage intersessional activities, as well as pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, within the various multilateral working groups.

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AGREED MINUTES TO THE DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES ON INTERIM SELF-GOVERNMENT ARRANGEMENTS

A. GENERAL UNDERSTANDINGS AND AGREEMENTS

Any powers and responsibilities transferred to the Palestinians pursuant to the Declaration of Principles prior to the inauguration of the Council will be subject to the same principles pertaining to Article IV, as set out in these Agreed Minutes below.

B. SPECIFIC UNDERSTANDINGS AND AGREEMENTS

Article IV

It is understood that:

  1. Jurisdiction of the Council will cover West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations: Jerusalem, settlements, military locations, and Israelis.

  2. The Council's jurisdiction will apply with regard to the agreed powers, responsibilities, spheres and authorities transferred to it.

Article VI (2)

It is agreed that the transfer of authority will be as follows:

  1. The Palestinian side will inform the Israeli side of the names of the authorised Palestinians who will assume the powers, authorities and responsibilities that will be transferred to the Palestinians according to the Declaration of Principles in the following fields: education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation, tourism, and any other authorities agreed upon.

  2. It is understood that the rights and obligations of these offices will not be affected.

  3. Each of the spheres described above will continue to enjoy existing budgetary allocations in accordance with arrangements to be mutually agreed upon. These arrangements also will provide for the necessary adjustments required in order to take into account the taxes collected by the direct taxation office.

  4. Upon the execution of the Declaration of Principles, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately commence negotiations on a detailed plan for the transfer of authority on the above offices in accordance with the above understandings.

Article VII (2)

The Interim Agreement will also include arrangements for coordination and cooperation.

Article VII (5)

The withdrawal of the military government will not prevent Israel from exercising the powers and responsibilities not transferred to the Council.

Article VIII

It is understood that the Interim Agreement will include arrangements for cooperation and coordination between the two parties in this regard. It is also agreed that the transfer of powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian police will be accomplished in a phased manner, as agreed in the Interim Agreement.

Article X

It is agreed that, upon the entry into force of the Declaration of Principles, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations will exchange the names of the individuals designated by them as members of the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Committee.

It is further agreed that each side will have an equal number of members in the Joint Committee. The Joint Committee will reach decisions by agreement. The Joint Committee may add other technicians and experts, as necessary. The Joint Committee will decide on the frequency and place or places of its meetings.

Annex II

It is understood that, subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal, Israel will continue to be responsible for external security, and for internal security and public order of settlements and Israelis. Israeli military forces and civilians may continue to use roads freely within the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area.


Done at Washington, D.C., this thirteenth day of September, 1993.


For the Government of Israel
For the P.L.O.


Witnessed By:

The United States of America
The Russian Federation

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Israel - PLO Recognition

Exchange of letters between PM Yitzhak Rabin and
PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat

1. LETTER FROM YASSER ARAFAT TO PRIME MINISTER RABIN:

September 9, 1993

Yitzhak Rabin
Prime Minister of Israel

Mr. Prime Minister,

The signing of the Declaration of Principles marks a new era in the history of the Middle East. In firm conviction thereof, I would like to confirm the following PLO commitments:

The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.

The PLO accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.

The PLO considers that the signing of the Declaration of Principles constitutes a historic event, inaugurating a new epoch of peaceful coexistence, free from violence and all other acts which endanger peace and stability. Accordingly, the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators

In view of the pormise of a new era and the signing of the Declaration of Principles and based on Palestinian acceptance of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid. Consequently, the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant.

Sincerely,

Yasser Arafat
Chairman
The Palestine Liberation Organization


2. LETTER FROM YASSER ARAFAT TO NORWEGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER:

September 9, 1993

His Excellency
Johan Jorgen Holst
Foreign Minister of Norway

Dear Minister Holst,

I would like top confirm to you that, upon the signing of the Declaration of Principles, the PLO
encourages and calls upon the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to take part in
the steps leading to the normalization of life, rejecting violence and terrorism, contributing to peace
and stability and participating actively in shaping reconstruction, economic develoment and
cooperation.

Sincerely,

Yasser Arafat
Chairman
The Palestine Liberation Organization


3. LETTER FROM PRIME MINISTER RABIN TO YASSER ARAFAT:

September 9, 1993

Yasser Arafat
Chairman
The Palestinian Liberation Organization

Mr. Chairman,

In response to your letter of September 9, 1993, I wish to confirm to you that, in light of the PLO commitments included in your letter, the Government nof Israel has decided to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and commence negotiations with the PLO within the Middle East peace process.

Yitzhak Rabin
Prime Minister of Israel

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Chomsky on Oslo Peace Process
Courtesy: Z Magazine / ZNet, 2 October 2002

Z: Is there a qualitative change in what's happening now? 

I think there is a qualitative change. The goal of the Oslo process was accurately described in 1998 by Israeli academic Shlomo Ben-Ami just before he joined the Barak government, going on to become Barak's chief negotiator at Camp David in summer 2000. 

Ben-Ami observed that "in practice, the Oslo agreements were founded on a neo-colonialist basis, on a life of dependence of one on the other forever." 

With these goals, the Clinton-Rabin-Peres agreements were designed to impose on the Palestinians " almost total dependence on Israel," creating "an extended colonial situation," which is expected to be the "permanent basis" for "a situation of dependence." 

The function of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was to control the domestic population of the Israeli-run neocolonial dependency. That is the way the process unfolded, step by step, including the Camp David suggestions. 

The Clinton-Barak stand (left vague and unambiguous) was hailed here as "remarkable" and "magnanimous," but a look at the facts made it clear that it was -- as commonly described in Israel -- a Bantustan proposal; that is presumably the reason why maps were carefully avoided in the US mainstream. 

It is true that Clinton-Barak advanced a few steps towards a Bantustan-style settlement of the kind that South Africa instituted in the darkest days of Apartheid. Just prior to Camp David, West Bank Palestinians were confined to over 200 scattered areas, and Clinton-Barak did propose an improvement: consolidation to three cantons, under Israeli control, virtually separated from one another and from the fourth canton, a small area of East Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian life and of communications in the region. 

And of course separated from Gaza, where the outcome was left unclear. But now that plan has apparently been shelved in favor of demolition of the PA. That means destruction of the institutions of the potential Bantustan that was planned by Clinton and his Israeli partners; in thelast few days, even a human rights center. The Palestinian figures who were designated to be the counterpart of the Black leaders of the Bantustans are also under attack, though not killed, presumably becauseof the international consequences. 

The prominent Israeli scholar Ze'ev Sternhell writes that the government "is no longer ashamed to speak of war when what they are really engaged in is colonial policing, which recalls the takeover by the white police of the poor neighborhoods of the blacks in South Africa during the apartheid era." This new policy is a regression below the Bantustan model of South Africa 40 years ago to which Clinton-Rabin-Peres-Barak and their associates aspired in the Oslo "peace process." 

None of this will come as a surprise to those who have been reading critical analyses for the past 10 years, including plenty of material posted regularly on Znet, reviewing developments as they proceeded. Exactly how the Israeli leadership intends to implement these programs is unclear -- to them too, I presume. It is convenient in the US, and the West, to blame Israel and particularly Sharon, but that is unfair and hardly honest. Many of Sharon's worst atrocities were carried out under Labor governments. Peres comes close to Sharon as a war criminal. Furthermore, the prime responsibility lies in Washington, and has for 30 years. That is true of the general diplomatic framework, and also of particular actions. Israel can act within the limits established by the master in Washington, rarely beyond. 

Z: What's the meaning of Friday's Security Council Resolution? 

The primary issue was whether there would be a demand for immediate Israeli withdrawal from Ramallah and other Palestinian areas that the Israeli army had entered in the current offensive, or at least a deadline for such withdrawal. The US position evidently prevailed: there is only a vague call for "withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities," no time frame specified. The Resolution therefore accords with the official US stand, largely reiterated in the press: Israel is under attack and has the right of self-defense, but shouldn't go too far in punishing Palestinians, at least too visibly. 

The facts -- hardly controversial -- are quite different. Palestinians have been trying to survive under Israeli military occupation, now in its 35th year. It has been harsh and brutal throughout, thanks to decisive US military and economic support, and diplomatic protection, including the barring of the long-standing international consensus on a peaceful political settlement. There is no symmetry in this confrontation, not the slightest, and to frame it in terms of Israeli self-defense goes beyond even standard forms of distortion in the interests of power. The harshest condemnations of Palestinian terror, which are proper and have been for over 30 years, leave these basic facts unchanged. 

In scrupulously evading the central immediate issues, the Friday Resolution is similar to the Security Council Resolution of March 12, which elicited much surprise and favorable notice because it not only was not vetoed by the US, in the usual pattern, but was actually initiated by Washington. The Resolution called for a "vision" of a Palestinian state. It therefore did not rise to the level of South Africa 40 years ago when the Apartheid regime did not merely announce a "vision" but actually established Black-run states that were at least as viable and legitimate as what the US and Israel had been planning for the occupied territories. 

Z: What is the U.S. up to now? What U.S. interests are at stake at this juncture? 

The US is a global power. What happens in Israel- Palestine is a sidelight. There are many factors entering into US policies. Chief among them in this region of the world is control over the world's major energy resources. The US-Israel alliance took shape in that context. By 1958, the National Security Council concluded that a "logical corollary" of opposition to growing Arab nationalism "would be to support Israel as the only strong pro-Western power left in the Middle East." That is an exaggeration, but an affirmation of the general strategic analysis, which identified indigenous nationalism as the primary threat (as elsewhere in the Third World); typically called "Communist," though it is commonly recognized in the internal record that this is a term of propaganda and that Cold War issues were often marginal, as in the crucial year of 1958. 

The alliance became firm in 1967, when Israel performed an important service for US power by destroying the main forces of secular Arab nationalism, considered a very serious threat to US domination of the Gulf region. So matters continued, after the collapse of the USSR as well. By now the US-Israel-Turkey alliance is a centerpiece of US strategy, and Israel is virtually a US military base, also closely integrated with the militarized US high- -tech economy. Within that persistent framework, the US naturally supports Israeli repression of the Palestinians and integration of the occupied territories, including the neocolonial project outlined by Ben-Ami, though specific policy choices have to be made depending on circumstances. 

Right now, Bush planners continue to block steps towards diplomatic settlement, or even reduction of violence; that is the meaning, for example, of their veto of the Dec. 15 2001 Security Council Resolution calling for steps towards implementing the US Mitchell plan and introduction of international monitors to supervise the reduction of violence. 

For similar reasons, the US boycotted the Dec. 5 international meetings in Geneva (including the EU, even Britain) which reaffirmed that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the occupied territories, so that critically important US-Israeli actions there are "grave breaches" of the Convention - war crimes, in simple terms - as the Geneva declaration elaborated. That merely reaffirmed the Security Council Resolution of October 2000 (US abstaining), which held once again that the Convention applied to the occupied territories. That had been the official US position as well, stated formally, for example, by George Bush I when he was UN Ambassador. 

The US regularly abstains or boycotts in such cases, not wanting to take a public stand in opposition to core principles of international law, particularly in the light of the circumstances under which the Conventions were enacted: to criminalize formally the atrocities of the Nazis, including their actions in the territories they occupied. The media and intellectual culture generally cooperate by their own "boycott" of these unwelcome facts: in particular, the fact that as a High Contracting Party, the US government is legally obligated by solemn treaty to punish violators of the Conventions, including its own political leadership. That's only a small sample. Meanwhile the flow of arms and economic support for maintaining the occupation by force and terror and extending settlements continues without any pause. 

Z: What's your opinion of the Arab summit? 

The Arab summit led to general acceptance of the Saudi Arabian plan, which reiterated the basic principles of the long-standing international consensus: Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories in the context of a general peace agreement that would guarantee the right of every state in the region, including Israel and a new Palestinian State, to peace and security within recognized borders (the basic wording of UN 242, amplified to include a Palestinian state). 

There is nothing new about this. These are the basic terms of the Security Council resolution of January 1976 backed by virtually the entire world, including the leading Arab states, the PLO, Europe, the Soviet bloc, the non-aligned countries -- in fact, everyone who mattered. It was opposed by Israel and vetoed by the US, thereby vetoed from history. Subsequent and similar initiatives from the Arab states, the PLO, and Western Europe were blocked by the US, continuing to the present. That includes the 1981 Fahd plan. That record too has been effectively vetoed from history, for the usual reasons. 

US rejectionism in fact goes back 5 years earlier, to February 1971, when President Sadat of Egypt offered Israel a full peace treaty in return for Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory, not even bringing up Palestinian national rights or the fate of the other occupied territories. Israel's Labor government recognized this as a genuine peace offer, but decided to reject it, intending to extend its settlements to northeastern Sinai; that it soon did, with extreme brutality, the immediate cause for the 1973 war. 

The plan for the Palestinians under military occupation was described frankly to his Cabinet colleagues by Moshe Dayan, one of the Labor leaders more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Israel should make it clear that "we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads." 

Following that recommendation, the guiding principle of the occupation has been incessant and degrading humiliation, along with torture, terror, destruction of property, displacement and settlement, and takeover of basic resources, crucially water. Sadat's 1971 offer conformed to official US policy, but Kissinger succeeded in instituting his preference for what he called "stalemate": no negotiations, only force. Jordanian peace offers were also dismissed. 

Since that time, official US policy has kept to the international consensus on withdrawal (until Clinton, who effectively rescinded UN resolutions and considerations of international law); but in practice, policy has followed the Kissinger guidelines, accepting negotiations only when compelled to do so, as Kissinger was after the near-debacle of the 1973 war for which he shares major responsibility, and under the conditions that Ben-Ami articulated. 

Official doctrine instructs us to focus attention on the Arab summit, as if the Arab states and the PLO are the problem, in particular, their intention to drive Israel into the sea. Coverage presents the basic problem as vacillation, reservations, and qualifications in the Arab world. There is little that one can say in favor of the Arab states and the PLO, but these claims are simply untrue, as a look at the record quickly reveals. 

The more serious press recognized that the Saudi plan largely reiterated the Saudi Fahd Plan of 1981, claiming that that initiative was undermined by Arab refusal to accept the existence of Israel. The facts are again quite different. The 1981 plan was undermined by an Israeli reaction that even its mainstream press condemned as "hysterical," backed by the US. That includes Shimon Peres and other alleged doves, who warned that acceptance of the Fahd plan would "threaten Israel's very existence." 

An indication of the hysteria is the reaction of Israel's President Haim Herzog, also considered a dove. He charged that the "real author" of the Fahd plan was the PLO, and that it was even more extreme than the January 1976 Security Council resolution that was "prepared by" the PLO, at the time when he was Israel's UN Ambassador. These claims can hardly be true, but they are an indication of the desperate fear of a political settlement on the part of Israeli doves, backed throughout by the US. 

The basic problem then, as now, traces back to Washington, which has persistently backed Israel's rejection of a political settlement in terms of the broad international consensus, reiterated in essentials in the current Saudi proposals. Until such elementary facts as these are permitted to enter into discussion, displacing the standard misrepresentation and deceit, discussion is mostly beside the point. And we should not be drawn into it -- for example, by implicitly accepting the assumption that developments at the Arab summit are a critical problem. They have significance, of course, but it is secondary. The primary problems are right here, and it is our responsibility to face them and deal with them, not to displace them to others. 

 


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