Deal Hammered Out by Palestinian Prisoners

By Ori Nir

Published June 02, 2006, issue of June 02, 2006.
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WASHINGTON — The recent platform embraced by the president of the Palestinian Authority and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Mahmoud Abbas, was carefully crafted behind bars earlier this month by representatives of all the major Palestinian factions. The goal: to put an end to the daily battles on the streets of Gaza between Fatah and Hamas members, as well to end other expressions of lawlessness and chaos.

The six-page document prescribes a series of measures to be taken collectively by all Palestinian factions and by all components of the Palestinian governing bodies. It sets a platform for “national unity” and only marginally deals with issues that are not domestic and intra-Palestinian in nature. It scantly talks about the relationship that the Palestinian entity should have with Israel or its Arab neighbors. The document has been characterized erroneously in the media as “advocating a two-state solution,” “recognizing Israel” or even as a “peace plan.”

On issues concerning the relationship with Israel, the document is worded in a way that “anyone could see in it what they want. It can satisfy Hamas, and it can satisfy Fatah. It’s everything for everyone,” the Re’ut Institute’s Gidi Greenstein said.

The document talks about the Palestinian right to establish “an independent state with holy Jerusalem as its capital, on all the territories occupied in 1967”; it does not say that such borders would close the book on claims to territories in Israel proper. That leaves the door open for Hamas to argue that endorsing the platform does not mean giving up on its claim over all of Israel.

The document doesn’t call for an end to anti-Israeli terrorism. While stating that “the national interest requires re-evaluation of the methods and the best means of struggle against the occupation,” it advocates “concentrating resistance in the territories occupied in 1967.” It also calls for the creation of a “National Resistance Front” to “unify resistance acts and create a unified political authority for the resistance,” and is peppered with references to “resistance” and “struggle.”

On the issue of Palestinian refugees, the document talks about “the right of the refugees to return” but does not specify whether it is the right to return to their homes in Israel proper or to the future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. It recommends the creation of a follow-up body “to affirm and adhere to the right of return and call on the international community to implement resolution 194, which stipulates the refugees’ right to return and be compensated.” The December 1948 United Nations resolution talks about the right of Palestinian refugees to return “to their homes.”

The prisoners’ document urges expediting the process of absorbing Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the PLO and updating the Palestinian umbrella group’s institutions to reflect the new makeup of the organization.

The document also has an article on negotiations (although it neglects to specify that talks would be held with Israel). “Running the negotiations is the responsibility of the PLO and the National Authority president,” the document states. “Any new agreement should be presented to the new Palestine National Council [the PLO’s broad assembly] to be ratified or to hold a referendum on it whenever possible.” Islamic Jihad “expressed reservations” about this section, the document notes. Hamas did not.

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