(Translated to French and Published in Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2000)
BY: FAISAL HUSSEINI
Until today and despite the popular uprising in the Palestinian occupied territories, Israel continues to attempt to persuade the world community that it went the extra distance in providing concessions to the Palestinians at the Camp David Summit. The fact is that the Israeli porposal presented at Camp David still did not provide the minimal conditions for a viable Palestinian state, nor did it satisfy our rights to East Jerusalem, nor did it adequatly address the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees.
In light of the current popular uprising and the immense suffering that it is causing the Palestinians, the Israeli belief that they could walk away without recognizing Palesitnian international rights was tragically short sighted. In the negotiations at Camp David II, the Israeli side presented no maps but rather depended on negotiating with the logic of power, arguing that illegal settlements and other installations granted them the ability to bend the borders of June the 4th 1967 consecrated in UN Resolution 242 and 338. This miscalculation turned out to be the undoing of the peace process forged in the 1993 Oslo Agreement.
The truth of the matter is that in real terms, Palestinians did not experience the benefits of the Oslo process, but instead saw more of their land consumed by settlement construction and their economy decimated by a permanent military closure. Looking at the maps of the projected Israeli offer at Camp David, neither these hardships nor the right to an economically and politically viable Palestinian state would have been realized.
As evidenced in the maps, the current reality shows Palestinian control (Area A) as a collage of discontiguous islands, with no control over occupied East Jerusalem, no check over the continued expansion of Israeli settlement and no control over access to the rest of the Arab world. Unfortunately, rather than addressing these concerns at Camp David, Israel prefferred to solidify its control. The map shows the West Bank divided into three cantons with no removal of settlements and an incomprehesible jigsaw puzzle of Palestinian controlled areas in East Jerusalem. Such an arrangement ensures neither economic viability nor does it satisfy the most basic necessities for a politically independent state.
It is worth remembering here the true roots of the most recent effort to resolve the conflict and reconcile our differences: In 1988, the democratically elected Palestinian National Council (PNC), then meeting in exile, voted to accept a two-state solution based on U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, which call on Israel to return all the lands it occupied in the 1967 war. This historic decision not only recognized Israel’s right to exist, but its right to exist on 78 percent of historic Palestine. The PNC agreed that an independent Palestinian state would be established in the Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, representing only 22 percent of the land west of the Jordan River. With this act, the Palestinians as the indigenous people of Palestine acknowledged a peaceful and secure Israel within the borders that existed until the 4th of June 1967.
The decision by the PNC paved the way for the Madrid Talks, in which Israel also accepted U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, and for the talks that led to the Oslo Agreement in 1993. Both parties now had agreed to the implementation of the U.N. resolutions and to the principal of "land for peace." Finally – or so we thought at the time -- Israelis and Palestinians had the opportunity to change the face of the region and transform hatred and bloodshed into peace and cooperation.
Now fast-forward to the beginning of 2000, nearly seven years after Olso: Palestinians partially control only 40 per cent of the West Bank and 70 per cent of Gaza and this under restricted conditions while Israel is still haggling over the terms of the third incremental withdrawal. In the meantime, Israel, particularly under the Barak Administration, is establishing more facts on the ground by accelerating settlement construction and land confiscation (over 50,000 new Jewish settlers have moved in to the West Bank since Oslo); the holy city of Jerusalem remains closed to most Palestinians; and Palestinians are severely restricted in their ability to travel between Palestinian towns and between Gaza and the West Bank.
Clearly, while Oslo was intended to better the lives of both the Palestinian and Israeli people, it actually allowed Israel time to literally cement its occupation of the territories that were supposed to become the Palestinian state.
The Camp David summit was ill timed and the porposals that were presented there only confirmed our suspicions. The Palestinian leadership faced a much stronger partner in Israel, and we found that the United States, instead of being a disinterested mediator, teamed with the Israelis in pressuring us to make concessions of such magnitude that they would not be acceptable to the Palestinian people. And in the case of Jerusalem, the deal we were offered at Camp David would also have been unacceptable to the wider Arab and Islamic wordls. Thus, the the summit failed and within hours, despite Mrs. Albright's promise, the Clinton Administration was publicly blaming the Palestinians.
Nevertheless, Camp David was a great leap forward for both parties and many former barriers were crossed. Unfortunately, Barak was so consumed by domestic Israeli politics upon his return that he began to implement a series of short sighted decisions aimed at saving his government. The most tragic of these was the decision to permit Ariel Sharon -- a war criminal with whom Barak was hoping to create a coaltion government -- to visit the Haram Al-Sharif, Islam's third most holy site.
We as Palestinians have learned to live with many injustices over the past 52 years, and we have made many compromises in our pursuit of peace. But our human dignity is non-negotiable. When Ariel Sharon carried out his provocative march on the Al-Aqsa Mosque accompanied by some 3,000 armed Israeli soldiers, the Palestinian people, both Christian and Muslim, felt utterly betrayed by Barak and Israel. Our limit had been reached.
The protests that followed Sharon's visit quickly turned into a popular uprising fueled by years of frustration and humiliation. This is an uprising composed of people from all walks of life, both old and young. Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories is the last military occupation in the world, and the occupied are merely demanding their right to freedom, self-determination and democracy. In Yugoslavia last month, people rose up to overthrow their own government to obtain their rights, and were embraced by the world. Palestinians are rising up against a foreign military occupation, and yet we are being condemned for our actions.
The United States and Israel demand that the Palestinian leadership put an end to the violence and stop the uprising, as if there is a magic button we can press to convince people to go home and placidly continue their lives under military occupation. It is time the world recognized the roots of the Palestinian uprising.
Palestinians and Israelis will get back to the negotiation table at some point but not to the same process as existed under Oslo. Israel's use of excessive and brutal force against the Palestinian people has proven that Palestinian's need the security of an international force and Israel's failure to implement agreements necessitates that an international monitoring mechanism be established to assure full implementation of agreements. The world must recognize that negotiating with the Israelis is not out of context with the popular Palestinian uprising - if Israel can build settlements while they negotiate, then the Palestinians have the right to protest while we negotiate.
Most importantly, the new framework must recall the spirit of trust that began in the Madrid Talks of 1991 and find its base in the implementation of international resolutions. If such a new approach is felt clearly by the Palestinians, then this will give us hope that there is a chance to proceed forward. The peace process must once again replace the war process and the logic of reason replace the logic of power. The sooner that wisdom prevails, the sooner we can begin to renew the path towards obtaining a durable peace.
Faisal Husseini is the Executive Member of the PLO in Charge of Jerusalem Affairs