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Sunday, February 3, 2002
YASIR ARAFAT: The Palestinian Vision of Peace [annotated]

YASIR ARAFAT: The Palestinian Vision of Peace [annotated]

February 3, 2002 - The New York Times

RAMALLAH - 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 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.

[IMRA: The overwhelming majority of recent terrorist actions have been
carried out by Yasser Arafat's own illegal Fatah Tanzim militia. Arafat has
not only declined to condemn the attackers - he and the rest of the PA
continue to praise the "martyrs" and martyrdom. He said just recently that
he himself hopes to be a martyr. Arafat has also declined to take any
action of substance against the various groups and organizations carrying
out these activities. Arafat's own appointed Mufti of Jerusalem continues to
call for the complete and total destruction of Israel.]

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
historical Palestine with the understanding that we would
be allowed to live in freedom on the remaining 22 percent,
which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. Our
commitment to that two-state solution remains unchanged,
but unfortunately, also remains unreciprocated.

We seek true independence and full sovereignty: the right
to control our own airspace, water resources and borders;
to develop our own economy, to have normal commercial
relations with our neighbors, and to travel freely. In
short, we seek only what the free world now enjoys and only
what Israel insists on for itself: the right to control our
own destiny and to take our place among free nations.

[IMRA: Note no indication of a willingness to place any limitations on the
military capability of this state.]

In addition, we seek a fair and just solution to the plight
of Palestinian refugees who for 54 years have not been
permitted to return to their homes. We understand Israel's
demographic concerns and understand that the right of
return of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under
international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must
be implemented in a way that takes into account such
concerns. However, just as we Palestinians must be
realistic with respect to Israel's demographic desires,
Israelis too must be realistic in understanding that there
can be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if
the legitimate rights of these innocent civilians continue
to be ignored. Left unresolved, the refugee issue has the
potential to undermine any permanent peace agreement
between Palestinians and Israelis. How is a Palestinian
refugee to understand that his or her right of return will
not be honored but those of Kosovar Albanians, Afghans and
East Timorese have been?

[IMRA: Note the careful sentence construction. "Take into account" does not
mean making Israel's demographic survival as a Jewish state a necessary
condition. Compare this to the July 25th, 2001 Joint Israeli-Palestinian
Declaration that declared "Solutions can be found to all outstanding issues
that should be fair and just to both sides and should not undermine the
sovereignty of the Palestinian and Israeli states as determined by their
respective citizens, and embodying the aspirations to
statehood of both peoples, Jewish and Palestinian." The July declaration
was far from perfect but it indicates that Arafat's attempt to skirt the
right of return without even going that far. This morning [3 February]
Israeli-Arab MK Ahmed Tibi told Israel Radio that he knew about the Op-Ed
piece in advance and that it was designed to overcome the one accomplishment
of the Barak Administration: leaving the impression that negotiations failed
because of unacceptable Palestinian demands with regards to the right of
return. In response to questions from the Israel Radio news program host,
Tibi declined to say how many refugees he saw returning to within the Green
Line "I won't say and I won't tell. This has to be resolved in negotiations
based on international resolutions." It should be note that the official
Palestinian media and educational system reinforces the "no compromise"
stand regarding the right of return. ]

There are those who claim that I am not a partner in peace.
In response, I say Israel's peace partner is, and always
has been, the Palestinian people. Peace is not a signed
agreement between individuals - it is reconciliation
between peoples. Two peoples cannot reconcile when one
demands control over the other, when one refuses to treat
the other as a partner in peace, when one uses the logic of
power rather than the power of logic. Israel has yet to
understand that it cannot have peace while denying justice.
As long as the occupation of Palestinian lands continues,
as long as Palestinians are denied freedom, then the path
to the "peace of the brave" that I embarked upon with my
late partner Yitzhak Rabin, will be littered with
obstacles.

The Palestinian people have been denied their freedom for
far too long and are the only people in the world still
living under foreign occupation. How is it possible that
the entire world can tolerate this oppression,
discrimination and humiliation? The 1993 Oslo Accord,
signed on the White House lawn, promised the Palestinians
freedom by May 1999. Instead, since 1993, the Palestinian
people have endured a doubling of Israeli settlers,
expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian
land and increased restrictions on freedom of movement. How
do I convince my people that Israel is serious about peace
while over the past decade Israel intensified the
colonization of Palestinian land from which it was
ostensibly negotiating a withdrawal?

[IMRA: While Palestinian military and incitement activities are explicitly
outlawed by Oslo, settlements are in no way restricted in the Oslo
documents. Oslo only prevents annexation. At most one falls into the fuzzy
"spirit of Oslo". So Arafat complains about "spirit" while Israel suffers
from actual violations. It should also be noted that the restriction on
freedom of movement are the result of illegal Palestinian violence. If not
for the Palestinian violence there would be no need for the restrictions
that cost Israel's economy and strain Israel's security manpower.]

But no degree of oppression and no level of desperation can
ever justify the killing of innocent civilians. I condemn
terrorism. I condemn the killing of innocent civilians,
whether they are Israeli, American or Palestinian; whether
they are killed by Palestinian extremists, Israeli
settlers, or by the Israeli government. But condemnations
do not stop terrorism. To stop terrorism, we must
understand that terrorism is simply the symptom, not the
disease.

The personal attacks on me currently in vogue may be highly
effective in giving Israelis an excuse to ignore their own
role in creating the current situation. But these attacks
do little to move the peace process forward and, in fact,
are not designed to. Many believe that Ariel Sharon,
Israel's prime minister, given his opposition to every
peace treaty Israel has ever signed, is fanning the flames
of unrest in an effort to delay indefinitely a return to
negotiations. Regrettably, he has done little to prove them
wrong. Israeli government practices of settlement
construction, home demolitions, political assassinations,
closures and shameful silence in the face of Israeli
settler violence and other daily humiliations are clearly
not aimed at calming the situation.

[IMRA: The wanted terrorists killed by Israel were supposed to be arrested
by the PA. They are dead because the PA did not honor their obligations and
hold them. The houses demolished because they provided cover for illegal
Palestinian attacks and the smuggling of illegal weapons would be standing
today if the PA honored its end of the deal and used it tens of thousands of
security forces to keep the peace.]

The Palestinians have a vision of peace: it is a peace
based on the complete end of the occupation and a return to
Israel's 1967 borders, the sharing of all Jerusalem as one
open city and as the capital of two states, Palestine and
Israel. It is a warm peace between two equals enjoying
mutually beneficial economic and social cooperation.
Despite the brutal repression of Palestinians over the last
four decades, I believe when Israel sees Palestinians as
equals, and not as a subjugated people upon whom it can
impose its will, such a vision can come true. Indeed it
must.

[IMRA: Arafat has referred to the pre-State arrangements as a model for
Jerusalem. At most Jews can visit the "Wailing Wall" but not even blow a
ram's horn there on New Years or leave chairs or other items.]

Palestinians are ready to end the conflict. We are ready to
sit down now with any Israeli leader, regardless of his
history, to negotiate freedom for the Palestinians, a
complete end of the occupation, security for Israel and
creative solutions to the plight of the refugees while
respecting Israel's demographic concerns. But we will only
sit down as equals, not as supplicants; as partners, not as
subjects; as seekers of a just and peaceful solution, not
as a defeated nation grateful for whatever scraps are
thrown our way. For despite Israel's overwhelming military
advantage, we possess something even greater: the power of
justice.

[IMRA: The critical error of Oslo from day one was the decision to give
weight to "talk" and photo-ops instead of to action. At each step the PA
signed commitments regarding security measures (illegal weapons, illegal
militias, etc.) and incitement. Each time they were "paid" for renewing the
commitments and never actually delivered on their promises. Instead of
spending his time on an Op Ed in the New York Times Arafat could make a real
contribution towards peace and reconciliation by sending his tens of
thousands of security men out to collect weapons. A pile of thousands of
illegal assault rifles being loaded into trucks on their way to destruction
by American observers would be a step in the right direction.]

Yasir Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian
Authority in 1996 and is also chairman of the Palestine
Liberation Organization.

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