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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Understanding the Breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

Filed under: Palestinians, Peace Process
Publication: Jerusalem Viewpoints

No. 486    September – October 2002

The Declared Objectives of the Palestinian Authority

The second Camp David summit (July 2000) was the culmination of nearly ten years of political dialogue between Israel and the representatives of the Palestinian people, and of almost six years of interim agreements since the mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO. Yet Camp David II did not result in the conclusion of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement to end the protracted conflict between the Palestinian national movement and the Jewish national (Zionist) movement. The negotiations between Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat (who also heads the PLO and the Fatah movement), under the auspices of U.S. President Bill Clinton, rather highlighted the wide differences between the two sides on the fundamental issues of the conflict.

In spite of many ideas and suggestions which went a long way toward the Palestinian position (even by their own testimony), the Palestinian stance on basic issues remained uncompromising, namely: compliance with all UN decisions as the source of legitimacy for a solution to the “Palestine problem”; a full Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 including in Jerusalem; the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state; and the settlement of the Palestinian problem on the basis of UN Resolution 194, which requires Israel to assume responsibility for the refugee problem, to allow the refugees and their descendants to return to Israel and repossess their homes and property within its territory, and to compensate them.

Even the Taba summit (January 2001) and the political initiative of President Clinton that took place under the shadow of and concurrently with the Palestinian “War of Independence and Return,” and which represented a last effort by Israel’s government and the U.S. administration to reach a solution on the eve of elections in both countries, did not lead to the moderation of the PA’s fundamental political positions.

The politically unbridgeable gap between the PA and Israel, which was exposed in the negotiations on a permanent solution, is first and foremost the result of the fundamental contrast between the protagonists’ perceptions of the essence of the conflict and the ultimate goal of the negotiations. From Israel’s point of view, the issue was in essence a conflict between two political entities that were now prepared to reach a historic compromise that would in turn lead to a true coexistence between two independent states. The historic compromise was based, in Israel’s perception, on the abandonment of dreams of “the whole land,” namely, that of “the whole of Eretz Israel,” on one side, and that of “the whole of Palestine,” on the other. According to this approach, the goal of the negotiation was to reach a formula that would equitably bridge the differences between the two sides (for example, Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state and a compromise in Jerusalem in return for a Palestinian concession on the refugee issue). In Israel’s view, the ultimate goal of the entire process was the conclusion of a final agreement that meant the end of the conflict and the cessation of further Palestinian demands – particularly such demands as might alter the entire premise of the agreement (such as the return of refugees to Israel, or the return of private and public Palestinian property in Israel).

The Palestinian approach differed fundamentally from that of Israel, both in its basic perception of the essence of the conflict and in the objectives of the negotiations. In the view of the PA (and in the view of Fatah and the PLO as well), the issue at hand is not a political confrontation between Palestinian and Israeli entities over a specific parcel of territory, but a struggle between two civilizations which oppose each other in their basic worldviews and national aspirations. The 100-year-long struggle between Zionism and the Palestinian national movement (Arafat designates the first Zionist Congress in Basle as the historical turning point) inflicted a “disaster” (nakba) upon the Palestinian people. That disaster, which entailed the “forced expulsion of the Palestinian people from its land” in 1948 and 1967, and its subjection since then to “the yoke of occupation,” is “a historic wrong.” According to this tenet, Israelis are “invaders” into a land that does not belong to them, where they have established an entity which is an alien implant within Arab and Muslim living space, and which serves as a bridgehead for “imperialism” and for Western civilization. The struggle, then, is an existential one between the Zionist enterprise and the Palestinian national enterprise.1

Such a perception still serves as the foundation of the “revolutionary” ideological platform of the Fatah movement, headed by Arafat. This platform has not been revised since the last general council meeting in 1989, and this in spite of a turn toward dialogue with Israel. Numerous official PA and Fatah publications indicate that, as far as they are concerned, this position is still valid. Sakher Habash, a member of the central committee of Fatah, one of its founders and its recognized chief of ideology, referred to the essence of the Israeli-Palestinian “cultural confrontation” in a speech made in Arafat’s name:2

Experience teaches us that without establishing a Palestinian state on the entire land,3 peace cannot be achieved. We are undergoing a struggle through which we can compel the Zionist society to get rid of Zionism, because there can be no coexistence between Zionism and the Palestinian national movement. The Jews must get rid of the Zionism that rules them, that forces them into conflict after conflict, and that does not serve their interests. They must become citizens of the state of the future, the democratic Palestinian state.

In a similar vein, an internal memo of the supreme committee of Fatah in the West Bank states:

Oh you Fatah fighters and heroes…there is no turning back, there is no return to the Great Sin,4 to the mistakes and the loss of way. Greater Palestine will not act as the minor lifeguard on the beaches of Tel Aviv. Palestine, which is emerging in blood and the power of the taken decisions, throws away today the cloths of servitude….And now the Zionist myth is retreating from its positions, that myth will surrender, and they will get out of our land, they will abandon Gilo, Ofra and Beitar, they will get out of their false myth, and we shall march toward our intifada to achieve a rebirth….This year we shall find succor against the enemy, while we shall peel away the outer skin of his contrived myth and reshape it according to our will….At this time the borders of Palestine are taking shape: from every house, from every breast, from every cry, from every drop of blood emerge the borders of Palestine….There will be no reconciliation between Dir Yassin5 and the Haganah, nor between Dalal al Maghrabi6 and Barak, nor between our diaspora and what is called the Peace Process and the resettlement of the refugees. This is the intifada of the return to the primacy of the village, the home, and the key.7…The Fatah movement has proclaimed its conditions for peace, which are: The right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes according to UN resolution 194 in addition to their rights for compensation, a total Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, the return of Jerusalem to Arab Palestinian sovereignty, the right to establish self-determination and a state, eviction of the settlements, eviction of all the settlers, and the end of the occupation in all its aspects….If those objectives are not reached, the path that the Fatah will follow is clear – a struggle and fighting by all means and in every manner to realize those rights.8


The Difference Between a Political Solution and a Historic Solution

Regarding the settlement of the Palestinian problem, the PA, Fatah, and the PLO clearly distinguish between a “political solution” and a “historic solution.”9 This distinction draws its inspiration and legitimacy from the decisions of the 12th meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) of 1974, collectively known as the “Doctrine of Stages.” At the time, that doctrine expressed a fundamental change in the strategy of the PLO, transiting from a rigid doctrine of uncompromising armed struggle for the liberation of the whole of Palestine, to the acceptance of a gradual liberation process as allowed by the prevailing political and military conditions, but without surrendering the principles of the “armed struggle” and without conceding one inch of Palestine. Following are some of the decisions of the 12th meeting of the PNC, which paved the way for Arafat’s speech to the UN General Assembly and launched the PLO’s political engagement:

  • Item 2: The PLO will struggle by all means, first and foremost by the armed struggle, to liberate the land of Palestine and to establish the independent rule of the fighting nation on every part of Palestine which will be liberated…this will bring a great change in the balance of power in favor of our nation and its struggle.
  • Item 3: The PLO will struggle against the establishment of any Palestinian entity (that will) concede Palestinian national rights for a return and self-determination on its national territory.
  • Item 4: Each step that leads to liberation must be taken in the framework of the PLO’s (grand) strategy for establishing the democratic Palestinian state, as defined by previous PNC decisions.
  • Item 10: The leadership of the revolution will define the tactics for achieving our goals within the framework of this plan (i.e., this strategy).10


The political solution is thus a tactic that serves a strategy. The Palestinian turn toward a political solution stems from the recognition of the temporary weakness of the Palestinian side in the balance of power against Israel, and is aimed at achieving a gradual improvement in its relative position through political arrangements that will ultimately lead to the historic (and, in the Palestinian view, deterministically inevitable) inversion of the balance of power in favor of the Palestinians. Such political arrangements allow the Palestinians to choose their priorities in achieving interim and strategic goals, yet they do not portend the end of the confrontation with Israel and Zionism.11

There is a broad consensus on the Palestinian side that no Palestinian is authorized to concede one single iota of the basic principles governing the solution of the Palestinian problem.12 The draft Palestinian constitution, submitted for Arafat’s approval in mid-2000, states that “Palestine is the heritage of the Palestinian nation throughout the generations, and its national rights in Palestine are the joint legacy of all Palestinians. It is their duty to safeguard them and to pass them on from one generation to the next.”13 This means that “the gates of confrontation” remain open to the Palestinians throughout their generations, until such time as the “historic solution” is realized.

In Palestinian thought, the “historic solution” will be manifested by the achievement of “justice” for the Palestinians, namely, the correction of the “historic wrong” inflicted upon the Palestinian people by the eruption of Zionism in Palestine. The often-repeated term in Arafat’s speeches (used even during the height of the political negotiations) – “a just and lasting peace” – is a coded reference to his strategic view. This view regards the return of the refugees into Israel’s territory (side by side with unceasing national struggle and an attempt to reunite the Arab world for a military campaign against Israel) as an achievable goal and a step toward creating the conditions (including the demographic conditions) for the establishment of a bi-national state in Palestine, namely, the “Democratic State of Palestine” that will become an inseparable part of the Arab and Muslim homeland.14

The Interim Agreements within the framework of the Oslo “Declaration of Principles” is perceived by the Palestinians as part of the “political solution,” that is, essentially a tactical move. In his 1994 book The Historic Danger and the Borders of National Completeness, Sakher Habash explains that the Palestinians’ agreement to Oslo was made in the context of a long-term, visionary strategy. His words include no apologetics (like “we couldn’t achieve more than was achieved”) and there is no hint of any intent to reach a “historic compromise” with Zionism or the State of Israel. Habash’s analysis refers to the following dimensions:

  1. The source of legitimacy for the Oslo process was, and still is, the decisions of the 12th meeting of the PNC (i.e., the “Doctrine of Stages”).

  2. The departure point for the Palestinian embarkation on a political track is the general political situation and the trend of decline in the Zionist enterprise, which is expressed in the Israeli readiness to give up the dream of the “entire Land of Israel” and to evacuate the territories occupied in 1967.

  3. The Oslo process did not modify the Palestinians’ vision or strategy. A just and permanent solution to the Palestinian problem can be achieved only by the realization of the right of return of the 1948 refugees and their descendants, and by establishing the democratic Palestinian state over the entire land of Palestine.

  4. Implementation of national goals by stages: First, an interim arrangement, through which the PA will establish its rule over the West Bank and Gaza. Only later will the “Final Solution” (sic!) be achieved – the uprooting of the occupation, national independence side by side with the armed struggle and the intifada, in order to move into “the future struggle that will make the democratic unification of the entire territory of Palestine an achievable goal.”

  5. Distinction between tactical and strategic goals: The full retreat of the occupation forces from all the Palestinian lands including Jerusalem is but the first stage of the struggle that will continue through other means to implement the national goals.15

In the winter of 2000, Dr. Kemal el Astal (a senior official in the Palestinian Office of Planning and Cooperation – a de facto ministry of foreign affairs) analyzed the political process between Israel and the PA on the eve of Camp David. In an article published in the magazine el Siasa el Falestinia, he wrote:

The political solution is an expression of a temporary cease fire…the Arab-Zionist conflict is a cultural conflict that will continue even if a peace agreement is achieved….The region will continue to live under the shadow of this equation – an incomplete peace and an endless war….The reconciliation is not historic….The struggle will go on in every ditch….We are in the process of a political arrangement, not a historic reconciliation.16


The Path to Achieve Palestinian Strategic Goals

The PA, Fatah, and the PLO are translating their perception of the “historic struggle” into usable tools in the overall confrontation against Zionism – a confrontation that by its historic nature continues even during a period of negotiations and political arrangements. The Palestinian “tool kit” includes a variety of means whose common denominator is the effort to destabilize the foundations of Israel as a Zionist state and to make the Palestinian side, in time, the stronger side in the equation of power.

The first goal of the confrontation that has already been achieved by the Palestinian national movement was the exploitation of the Oslo process to liberate the first, albeit small, area of Palestine, which in turn allowed the struggle to be transferred into the depth of the Palestinian hinterland. The (expected) establishment of an independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state in the 1967 territories is perceived essentially as the construction of a bridgehead aimed at connecting the Palestinian diaspora to Palestine and deepening the political, social, and economic ties with the “Palestinian hinterland” within Israel (and within the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, too), and threatening regional stability in a manner that would serve Palestinian goals.

The major tool consistently used by the PA to achieve these goals is the application of violence and terror against Israel. The outbreaks of violence that accompanied the period of the interim agreements with Israel (the Temple Mount tunnel,17 the Har Homa violence, the “Nakba Days,” the “Days of Rage”) were far from spontaneous popular outbreaks, as the Palestinians claimed. They were meticulously staged events ordered by the PA which used mainly Fatah (in conjunction with other organizations) to produce them, as a means of leverage on Israel to modify its positions on substantive issues.

By early 2000, the Palestinian decision to launch a “War of Independence and Return” was already maturing. The first indications were evident in the aggressive tone used by Arafat in speeches to his own entourage – in his meetings with the Shabiba, the youth movement of Fatah, in Ramallah and Nablus. In those meetings (April 2000), Arafat dubbed the Fatah youth “the new generals” and threatened to “launch a new intifada” to force upon Israel the “establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”18 Marwan Barghouti, head of the Fatah supreme council in the West Bank, verbally indicated (March 2000) which way the winds blew in Fatah’s top echelons:

Whoever thinks that a decision about the issues of the permanent arrangement – such as the issues of the refugees, Jerusalem, the settlements, and the borders – (could be achieved) through negotiations is daydreaming. In those matters we must fight a campaign in the field side by side with negotiations. I mean a confrontation. We need dozens of campaigns like Al Aqsa (Temple Mount) Tunnel.19…You don’t fight the settlements by pleading, but through the force of arms….It is the right of our people to fight the Israelis in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem by all methods and means.20

Two weeks before Camp David, on June 25, 2000, and once again during a Fatah meeting in Nablus, Arafat openly spoke about the possible return to the armed struggle which was Fatah’s and the PLO’s policy of choice before the entry onto the political track: “We shall sacrifice our souls for Palestine….We are fighting for our land….He who has forgotten, let him remember Karame (an IDF action against Palestinian guerillas within Jordan’s territory, that is celebrated in Palestinian historiography as the first Arab victory against the IDF), the Beirut campaign, and seven years of intifada. We are ready to write off everything and start all over again.”21

The final decision was taken immediately upon the conclusion of the Camp David summit, and what remained was to decide on the timing and the justification. Sakher Habash, in a detailed report on Camp David published in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on September 20, 2000, nine days before the outbreak of the intifada, wrote that “Brother Abu Ammar22 spoke in the language of a true believer, as a man who foresees what he and the sublime Palestinian people are facing – the option of confrontation.”

After the summit, this message was translated into a sort of Order of the Day and distributed to the Palestinian national security forces in Gaza, after which they began preparing for the approaching outbreak of a violent campaign against Israel. In this document, entitled “The Campaign has Started,” it is written:

A call, a call, a call from the negotiation team headed by the Commander, the Emblem Abu Ammar, to our heroic Palestinian nation: Be ready, the campaign for Jerusalem has started, this is the meaning of the return to the motherland of (our) mission from Camp David without conceding any of the declared and fundamental Palestinian positions: no peace without Jerusalem, the eternal capital city of the Palestinian state; there will be no stability or security in the entire region unless Israel complies with the legitimate international demands.23

About three weeks before the outbreak of the intifada, the writing on the wall became apparent. In an article in Al Sabah, the official newspaper of the PA, Yasser Khalil Salah referred to the approaching event and to its theme – Jerusalem, as well as to the launching of the “jihad and intifada campaign” against Israel. In his words: “The defense of Jerusalem demands blood. In blood we shall defend Jerusalem. The time of sacrifice and victory has arrived….The campaign for Jerusalem is the Mother of Wars….We shall proceed and declare a general intifada for Jerusalem. The time of intifada has come, has come, has come, the time of Jerusalem has come, Jerusalem is calling.”24

The application of violence is perceived as a legitimate tool, based as it is in the Palestinian view on the rights of people to resist in order to achieve national liberation and self-determination. In order to keep the sword of violence ready at any time, the PA established the Political Direction Organization, which reports directly to Arafat, and which is responsible for national mobilization and the shaping of Palestinian public opinion on every level, from kindergartens through youth movements to military officers and civil servants. The organization has its representatives planted in every government office and each military unit, and is widely active in the fields of propaganda and “the preparation of hearts” (its officers are a Palestinian version of “Politruks”25). Its activities include the publication of numerous information pamphlets, lectures to military units, organization of summer camps for ten of thousands of students (where emphasis is put on Palestinian rights to “Palestine 1948” and where students are trained in the use of firearms as a legitimate means in the struggle), and the explication of PA policy in the form of Orders of the Day.

The goal of these activities is to educate the present and emerging generations in the fundamental and uncompromising values of the Palestinians (independence, Jerusalem, the return), to contest the right of Israel to exist, to deny the right of the Jews for any share of Palestine, to promote openly anti-Semitic tendencies, and to encourage Istishhad (martyrdom) and the immediate readiness for self-sacrifice for the sake of achieving the Palestinian objectives in their entirety, according to the Fatah slogan “revolution until victory.” The lyrics of the 2001 PA summer camp anthem read: “We the youth…will sacrifice ourselves for Yasser (Arafat)….We train in the use of weapons, we are the youth of vengeance….Revolution, revolution until victory.”26


Steps to Eradicate Zionism

The PA sees the decisive historic action toward the eradication of Zionism as consisting of the following dimensions:


Unite the National and Islamic Forces

Cement national unity in the Palestinian camp based on the consensus over fundamental Palestinian principles. One of the most important achievements of the “War of Independence and Return” has been (and still is) the setting up of an organization for the overall coordination of the political movements within the Palestinian arena, dubbed “the National and Islamic Forces.” This body has assumed the role (and was authorized to do so by the PA) of managing the intifada. It determines policy on the use of terror and is emerging as a center of power, overshadowing even the PLO (which does not represent Islamist bodies) in charting the political objectives of the intifada and that of the “negotiation campaign.”27


The Demographic Time Bomb

Overturn the demographic equation in Palestine through the return of refugees, with the goal of preparing the conditions for the bi-national state. The Palestinian doctrine – which legitimizes the struggle until the achievement of the right of return and keeping open the “gates of confrontation” until the achievement of the “historic solution” – leaves the door open to continued attempts to undermine the foundations of Israel even after a “political solution” is reached.

Several months before his death, and speaking in the name of Arafat, the late Feisal Husseini,28 a senior Fatah leader, expressed the Palestinian confidence in their eventual triumph over Zionism, at least through the demographic factor. In his words: “Their (i.e., the Israelis’) options are more restricted than ours. We have now a bit less than four million Palestinians between the (Jordan) river and the (Mediterranean) sea, as compared to about four million non-Palestinians.29 By the year 2010, the numbers will be equal. By the year 2045, the Palestinians will constitute 75 percent of all the inhabitants of this land. When we reach this point, we shall make an offer to the Israelis and Israeli state, and if they don’t agree, they lose.”30


Alliance with Israeli Palestinians

Encourage the alliance (politically, socially, and economically) between the two constituents of the Palestinian people in Palestine, and encourage separatist tendencies among Israeli Palestinians, in order to weaken the foundations of the state from within. This is why the PA views with favor initiatives by the Israeli Palestinian leadership that strive to obliterate the Jewish character of Israel and to proclaim it as “a state of all it citizens.”

A reflection of the PA’s political agenda regarding Israeli Palestinians can be seen in the speech made by Knesset Member Azmi Bashara before a forum of Arab politicians and intellectuals in early 1999. Bashara adapts the terminology of the PA, PLO, and Fatah, and states that “The permanent solution is only an intermediate stage.” Furthermore,

Israel is the one that should be worried about the future….As long as justice is a touchstone, apartheid (is not an option); rather, (the option is) a bi-national entity, whose only feasible expression today is the strengthening of the ties between the Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and support for the demand of the Arabs in Israel to transform the state into a state of all its citizens. This is the only program existing today whose impact approaches the bi-national state.31

On the other side of the (Israeli Palestinian) political camp, one of the leaders of the Islamic movement in Israel, Raed Salah, is engaged in building an “independent Palestinian society” which is gradually distancing itself from Israeli society and relies on its own economic and social institutions, which entails strengthening ties with the “brethren” in the West Bank.32

Arafat himself, in a phone speech to a meeting of supporters in the Galilee (December 7, 2001), turned to the Palestinians in the “Galilee, the Triangle,33 and the Negev,” and called them part of the heroic Palestinian people, (a part) that does not surrender and adheres to the “Ard-a-Ribat,” a Muslim concept denoting a territory where Muslim armies congregate before battle. Arafat extolled the joint vision of the Palestinian people wherever they live (that is, Israeli Palestinians included) which is based on “international legitimacy,” a coded reference to all the UN decisions that relate to Palestinian issues, first and foremost to the right of return.34


Support from the Arab World

The effort to obtain active Arab support for the Palestinian struggle is part of the doctrine that perceives the armed struggle as well as the threat of a united Arab military front as legitimate even during negotiations, and as essential during the stage of confrontation over the right of return. The head of the political indoctrination apparatus, Othman abu Rarbiya, explained the relevant Palestinian doctrine in an article in A-Rai, an official Palestinian paper (December 2001). He wrote:

The (Arab) nation and the Palestinian nation will continue to prosecute the struggle for the rights of the Palestinians and the rights of the (Arab) nation…until such time as the occupation as well as the spirit of occupation are uprooted. This spirit (i.e., the spirit of occupation) leads us to the options of force and struggle in all their stages and in a historical context. (The options of force and struggle exist) for the realization of the historic strategic front to a sufficient degree and to the degree of necessity. It relies on three foundations: Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. To those one must add a fourth foundation – the depth of Hijaz (i.e., the Gulf States). Those were the foundations that historically achieved the repelling of invasions of Palestine.

A sharper note was sounded by a member of the Fatah central committee, Abbas Zaki, in speeches made in Arafat’s name (April 2001), when he expressed the Palestinian expectation of support by the Arab military front, mainly by Iraq, to finish the historic move toward the liberation of Palestine. He said: “We swear to you, Abu Udai,35 to adhere to the path of struggle, until the Iraqi Army liberates this land from the uncleanliness of the oppression.”36

In another speech memorializing Abu Jihad,37 Zaki lauded the Iraqi government and people for their readiness to mobilize seven million fighters38 to “reach the land of Palestine and liberate it from its occupation.”39


Conclusions and Future Prospects

The PA, PLO, and Fatah have been consistent in their uncompromising policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even while the negotiations and interim arrangement process was at its height. The doctrine of the “historic solution” has been and still remains the leading Palestinian policy, and it is being implemented in a pragmatic manner according to the “Doctrine of Stages,” which is aimed at achieving the destruction of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine.

Israel conducted the political process with the Palestinians from a perspective that regards the essence of the conflict as essentially political, and that the conflict can therefore be resolved by creating the conditions for coexistence, mainly through mutual recognition and economic growth. Yet this perspective ignores the Palestinian perception of the essence of the struggle against Zionism, and ignores the nature of the Palestinians’ historic objectives, the achievement of which seems to the Palestinians to be nearer now than ever before.

The political process was a Trojan horse that allowed the Palestinians to attain improved military and political positions in the “War of Independence and Return” – a war that is destined to affect the stability of Israel. The implication of a war for a Palestinian state is not merely a “low-intensity conflict” (a term frequently used by Israeli intelligence in analyzing the confrontation with the PA), manifested by a “people’s intifada” or by varying degrees of terror. The PA and its two pillars – the PLO and Fatah – embody a danger to Israel’s very existence, a danger that could become more tangible after the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state and its attainment of full control over its borders’ land, sea, and air crossing points.

The threat to Israel as a Zionist and a Jewish state, and to its very existence as an independent state, is embodied in the following factors:

  1. A Palestinian state will never be perceived as the ultimate fulfillment of Palestinian national aspirations; neither will it compel the Palestinians to close the “gates of historic struggle.” The Palestinians, perceiving political compromise as proof of a historic retreat of Zionism before the Palestinian national movement, and proof that the balance of power is changing in their favor, will be in a better position to continue the struggle and to encourage subversive initiatives from their (inviolable) territory (e.g., a “refugee intifada”) or from within Israel’s territory (an Israeli Palestinian intifada).

  2. The return of refugees to the State of Palestine, which will become feasible as soon as the Palestinians assume control of their border crossing points, will entail the absorption of thousands of Palestinian warriors from Fatah, Hamas, and other armed Palestinian militias in Lebanon. This additional manpower will significantly increase the order of battle within Palestinian territory.

  3. The Palestinian aspiration to revive the Arab military front might lead to the deployment of radical regional players in the territory of the Palestinian state – first and foremost, Iraq, Iran, and Hizballah. This could include the uncontrolled transfer of advanced weapons that might threaten the central regions of Israel; improved intelligence gathering capabilities, especially with regard to specific targets; and the deployment of Arab fighting units, including special forces (in the “innocent” guise of students, for example), along the line of contact.

The ongoing educational campaign within the PA that emphasizes the values of the “struggle to the finish” against Zionism and the liberation of “all of Palestine” has created a compulsory legacy that delegitimizes any Palestinian initiative to seek a “historic compromise” involving two separate states in Palestine.

*     *     *



* This Jerusalem Viewpoints originally appeared in Hebrew in Maarakhot, no. 383, May 2002.

1. This point of view is widely and consistently displayed in the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, A-Sabah, and in the journal A-Rai.

2. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, January 30, 2001.

3. The expression “the entire land” denotes the area of the historic British Mandate, which consists of the national territory of the State of Israel within its pre-1967 borders plus the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Golan Heights are not included.

4. The “Great Sin” probably alludes to the negotiation and interim agreements process.

5. A Palestinian village near Jerusalem, where an alleged massacre of the local inhabitants took place in the beginning of the 1948 war. Interestingly, the Jewish militia accused of the alleged massacre was the Irgun, a right-wing militia, and not the Haganah, the official militia of the then left-wing proto-government of the Jewish state.

6. A female Fatah terrorist who led an attack on an Israeli bus in the late 1970s in which tens of Israelis were murdered.

7. Numerous Palestinian refugees are purported to posses the keys to the houses they abandoned in 1948, and display them in parades and demonstrations against Israel.

8. PLO, Ta’amim Harki, Ramallah, the PLO High Commission in the West Bank, January 2001, pp. 1-5.

9. The official journal A-Rai, in nos. 32 and 33 from May-June and July-August 2000, published the contents of lectures given by the head of the political guidance section, Otman Abu Rarbiya, to Palestinian officers and soldiers. The lectures emphasized the difference between a political solution and an historical one: the occupation is still the main enemy of the Palestinian people….We are dedicated to the general aim, which in the current stage is personified in an independent Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem and in the right of return. This goal is not the end of the journey, historically speaking. The stage which is considered the end of the journey is that of geographic, historical, cultural, and human integration of our homeland Palestine into the national Arab and Islamic unity.

10. Sa’id Al-Hasan, ed., Hawla Itifak Gaza Ariha Awwalan (Jordan: Dar A-Srok, 1995), pp. 51-52.

11. In an interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam, no. 59, March 17, 2001, Otman Abu Rarbiya writes that “Resolution 242 is legitimate when it will deal with the outcome of the 1967 aggression” (in other words, going back to the former situation without peace between the peoples). “International legitimization which touches on the Palestinian issue are Resolutions 181 and 194” (read, the solution of the Palestinian problem is found within the sovereign State of Israel).

12. Hawla Itifak Gaza Ariha Awwalan, p. 43.

13. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), July 22, 2000.

14. In his book Al-Tanzim bayna Al-Nazariya wa al-Tatbiq fi Tajribatna (May 1999), which is a kind of basic guide book for the PLO movement, Otman Abu Rarbiya writes that “the basic goal of the PLO movement will remain the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state on all national land, in which there will be equal rights and obligations between all citizens regardless of religion, race, sex, or color. All PLO activity is connected to this goal, flows from it, and strives for it” (p. 475).

15. Sakher Habash, Al-Mojazfa Al-Tarikhiya wa Atwaq A-Salama Al-Wataniya, Office of Contemplation and Research, 1998 (2nd. ed. The book was written in 1994), pp. 45-75. In an interview published after his death (June 24, 2000), Faisal Husseini was quoted in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Arabi as describing the Oslo process as a “Trojan horse,” whose goal is to deceive the Israelis, without the Palestinians giving up their strategic goals.

16. Kamal Al-Astal, “Tabi’a A-Sira’ Al-Arabi A-Sihioni Wamanhijatoho Al-Mostaqbaliya,” A-Siasa Al-filastiniya, Center for Palestinian Research (CPRS), Nablus, no. 25 (winter 2000):21-23.

17. Archeological excavations led to the discovery of a tunnel running along the retaining wall of the Temple Mount. The opening of the tunnel as a tourist attraction in the fall of 1996 led to a week of bloodshed between PA military units and the IDF.

18. Al-Mojahid (Gaza), no. 101, April 3, 2000.

19. Barghouti was referring to the violent clashes initiated by the Palestinian Authority against Israel in September 1996.

20. Akhbar Al-Khalil (Hebron), no. 4, March 4, 2000.

21. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), June 26, 2000.

22. An honorific for Yasser Arafat. Fathering a son is a source of respect in Arab tradition, hence the honorific “Father of (Abu)…(Elder son’s name).” Thus, Abu Ammar means the father of Ammar – however, Arafat stands out in not having any son.

23. Al-Shoohada (PA), no. 28, July 28, 2000.

24. A-Sabah (PA), 11 September 2000. One of Arafat’s advisors, Mamdooh Nofal, described in a number of newspaper interviews and in his memoirs, “The Al-Aksa Intifada” – How the Decision was Taken to Start It:

It (the intifada) is not a mass movement separate from the Authority or which started spontaneously. The opposite is true; it began on the basis of a decision from the highest echelons of the Authority before it turned into a popular movement. It began immediately after Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa. At that time the political bodies met and came to a decision to defend Al-Aqsa. Arafat saw the visit as an explosion point which was enough to ignite not only the Palestinian land, but also to influence the situation outside the borders of Palestine. Decisions were made which dealt with practical preparations, and the various forces in the Authority held meetings in which it was decided to move these forces towards Al-Aqsa on Friday. In addition, the mosque’s security was increased with extra guards and orders were given to the security forces to enter Al-Aqsa and protect it.

Al-Dirasat al-filastiniya, no. 47 (summer 2001):44; also in Nouvelle Observateur (France), March 1, 2001.

25. Political officers attached by the nascent Bolshevik regime to each and every military unit to ensure loyalty to the Party. No military order was valid without the countersignature of the “Politruk.” The early Israel Defense Forces employed educational officers during and shortly after the 1948 war to boost morale. They were dubbed “Politruks” by the wits of the time.

26. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), July 30, 2001.

27. On the policies of the national and Islamic forces, see issues of the newspaper Al-Intifada, which gives a permanent platform to the policy line of that body.

28. Feisal Husseini was one of the most moderate Palestinian leaders, and a scion of an old-lineage Palestinian family. Many Israelis believed that he sincerely searched for reconciliation between the two peoples.

29. The arithmetic is curious. There are now more than 5 million non-Arab citizens in Israel, the overwhelming majority of whom are Jewish. However, most Israeli leaders are concerned by the demographic trends in the Israeli/Palestinian areas.

30. In a lecture in Gaza, Otman Abu Rarabiya defined the word “demography” in detail as being “one of the pivotal points of the basic future battle with the occupation entity for the purpose of achieving national Palestinian rights.” Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 22, 2000.

31. The National Palestinian Council, Al-Dawla Al-filastiniya, Waqi’ Waafaq Moomarsa Al-Istiqlal wal Siyada (Jordan: Dar Al-Karmel, 2000), pp. 36-37.

32. Al-Mojtama (Kuwait), no. 1476, November 10, 2001.

33. The Wadi Ara district of Israel, lying southeast of Haifa, and predominantly Arab.

34. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 8, 2001.

35. Referring to Saddam Hussein. Udai is the name of his eldest son.

36. Sawt Al-Jamahir (Ramallah), special issue, May 2000, p. 23.

37. The honorific of Khalil el Wazir, one of the senior leaders of Fatah, killed by Israeli commandos in his Tunis residence during the first intifada.

38. Again, the arithmetic is curious. The total population of Iraq, including the Kurds, is about 22 million.

39. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), April 22, 2000. Ziad Rajub, a member of the higher committee of the PLO in Judea and Samaria, made clear his hopes for the establishment of a Palestinian state when he said, “The basic strategic solution for the problem of Palestine is the establishment of an Islamic state….The sons of Palestine, and the PLO as part of them, are not authorized to accept Israel as an eternal state on the land of Palestine.” Akh-bar Al-Khalil, January 24, 2000.

[The author is an IDF intelligence officer. This Jerusalem Viewpoints is based on his analysis that first appeared in Maarakhot, the IDF magazine for military affairs (in Hebrew), and received the prize of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz for military affairs writing.]