This presentation of the current situation in Palestine was organized by the Center for Palestine Studies with the support of the Middle East Institute on October 18, 2010. The Center for Palestine Studies is the first such center in North America established with the goal to “open space” in order to promote Palestine studies through academic research.
This event was great in that it offered a distinct perspective on one side of a complex conflict in the Middle East. The views offered at this event in favor of the Palestinian people are useful because they illustrate the continued suffering of the Palestinian people as they continue their struggle to achieve a national homeland in Palestine. The event highlighted that the people who have benefited the least from the peace process are the Palestinian people, many of whom are refugees who continue to live in poverty without their own sovereign state. However, I would recommend that students who wish to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict attend events like this one as well as ones that offer completely different suggestions for peace-making. The event offered an interesting and passionate point of view that ought to be explored and considered.
Everything stated below is a summary of what Ambassador Areikat stated at the event and does not necessarily represent the views of CMW.
The Palestine’s Historic Compromise (from the 1980s to present)
In 1988, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist, according to UN Security Council Resolutions. As of 1947, approximately 80,000 Israelis inhabited West Bank. Today, the total population of 1,700,000 people comprises 33% Jewish and 33% Palestinians. Today, approximately 6,500,000 Palestinians are officially registered refugees.
Lessons from Past Agreements
1991: the Gulf War. The United States made a promise to install the Partition.
September 1993: Oslo Accords – this agreement has always been viewed as ambiguous, as it left room for each party to interpret its clauses in their own way. The agreement did not make provision for the 3rd Party role of arbitration. The “most important” questions – the status of refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, water supply – were deterred to later stages of negotiations; instead, Israelis continued to occupy West Bank by building new settlements. Oslo Accords provided no monitoring or verification mechanism. Negotiations were carried out as an “open-ended process”, without specific deadline to resolve issues. As a result, Israel failed to implement the terms of the agreement.
1. The “effectiveness” of Camp David talks
In July 2000, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright approached the Palestinians with an offer to set a meeting with President W. Clinton in an attempt to resolve ongoing tensions. M. Albright officially ensured the PLO that no blame would be put on either side in case of failure to conclude the negotiations. Indeed, chances for failure were deemed much higher than for success. Substantial pressure was imposed upon the PLO to come to agreement with Israel. Palestinians, initially skeptical about successful outcome, stepped back. Despite the earlier promises, President Clinton blamed Palestinians for failing to carry out negotiations with Israel. No real offer had been made by Israel to correct the situation. The PLO was a “State without sovereignty”.
2. The Meeting between PLO President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, 2007-2008
By 2007, PLO’s infrastructure had been severely destroyed; Israeli occupation continued. Nearly 1-year long negotiations took place in 2007-2008, during which all major issues were discussed. The negotiations, however, failed to conclude as Premier Olmert became involved in corruption scandals and left. The major myth behind these talks: Olmert made a written “generous offer” to Palestine. Facts: Olmert briefly showed a map (without actually handing it over to the PLO for more serious consideration), on which the Israelis outlined a proposed partition of the area. No official follow-up response has even been received from Israel.
The Palestinian Position
Again, the presentation reflects the position of the PLO only. The Palestinian position rests upon two major cornerstones:
1. “End the Game”
The PLO has not signed any agreement with Israel on any specifically important issue.
The Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are integral parts of the PLO.
Insist on 1967 border
2. “The Arab Peace Initiative”
Highly significant; a cornerstone of PLO diplomatic efforts. Iran agreed to build diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange of withdrawing its armed forces from the occupied areas of Palestine.
Currently, 28.5% of Palestine is controlled by Israel. Palestinians possess full control of 18% of the West Bank territory only, 60% – by Israel.
Ambassador Areikat stated that Israel must recognize its responsibility for refugees, and allow Palestinian refugees’ right to return home. He highlighted the two “hot” issues remaining today: refugees and security arrangements.
He concluded by stating that the PLO shall never recognize Israel as a “Jewish” state. 1.2 million people of Israel are not Jews, most of them Palestinians (large Arab minority). As of today, there is no equal footing for negotiations: Israel remains more powerful than the PLO. Additionally, the PLO is not committed to violence as a tool to negotiate; the PLO seeks other approaches, all peaceful in their nature.