The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), founded in 1964, is touted — by the UN and a number of nations — as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” As such, it is officially the organization responsible for negotiating on behalf of Palestinian Arabs: It was the PLO that negotiated with Israel with regard to the Oslo Accords.
While 10 groups (e.g., Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – PFLP) are members, it has long been heavily dominated by Fatah: Major figures in Fatah — notably Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas — have played key roles in the running of the PLO.
That situation may be changing shortly, and I see considerable significance in this possibility.
On Thursday Palestinian Arab leaders representing several groups announced an “historic” agreement to “activate and reconstruct” the PLO so that organizations that do not currently belong might join. Most significantly, this would open the door to membership by Hamas, as well as the “up-and-coming” Islamic Jihad.
As I have watched a continually shifting situation with regard to Fatah-Hamas relations and the possibility of a “reunification” agreement, it has seemed to me that one of the major prizes that Hamas was seeking was membership in the PLO. More important than a joint government and all the rest — most of which probably will never materialize.
This is a shift from its earlier position, which was one of shunning PLO membership — a shift from having no part of this “official” organization to seeking to play from within. And make no mistake about it: The ultimate goal of Hamas is not to belong to the PLO, but to dominate and control it. Hamas speaking for and acting on behalf of the Palestinian Arab people.
The meeting on Thursday took place in Cairo, with Abbas, Palestinian National Council speaker Salim Zanoun (also Fatah) and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in attendance. It was agreed that a committee, headed by Zanoun, would meet — in Amman, starting January 15 — to discuss ways to incorporate groups such as Hamas into the PLO.
According to Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon, writing in Friday’s JPost, this will pave the way for a new provisional PLO leadership that would include Hamas and other radical groups for the first time. Ultimately, this would lead to incorporation into various PLO institutions — most significantly, the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s parliament in exile.
The Council elects the Executive Committee, the PLO’s main decision-making body. So we can see where this may be going.
With statements by Hamas leaders over the weekend, we can see this even more clearly:
Osama Hamdan — referred to as Hamas’s “foreign minister” — in response to claims that Hamas was moderating, felt the need to clarify what is happening. He was quoted by the Quds Press news agency:
“Anyone who thinks Hamas has changed its positions and now accepts the PLO’s defeating political program is living in an illusion. Hamas cannot make the mistake of joining a process that has proved to be a failed one…”
By moving towards “reconciliation,” Hamas is aimed at “reconstructing the organization and reconsidering its political program.”
Hamas’s goal is “first and foremost the liberation of our lands from the sea to the river and achieving the right of return.”
Another Hamas leader, Khalil Abu Leila, cited by Abu Toameh, said that Hamas would not join the PLO’s current political program. Rather, a major task of the provisional leadership will be to “bring the PLO back to its correct path and the goal for which it was established, namely the liberation of Palestine.”
And it’s here that I want to stop for a moment and provide important background and context.
The PLO was founded in 1964 at a summit of the Arab League, which committed to being more active in “liberating” Palestine. A pivotal role was played by Egypt’s president Gamal Abdul Nasser, and indeed the first chair of the PLO was a Nasser protégé, Ahmad Shuqeiri. The first meeting was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in eastern Jerusalem (then under Jordanian control) and meetings continued to be held in eastern Jerusalem until 1967.
The overriding factor of significance here is that the founding of the PLO took place BEFORE 1967, before Israel controlled Judea, Samaria and Gaza. What it sought to “liberate” was Israel INSIDE the Green Line. This puts the lie to all the hoopla regarding Oslo, a “two-state solution,” a Palestinian state with the ’67 line as border, etc. etc.
The original Palestinian National Charter clearly specified that there were no designs on the areas within “Palestine” that were controlled by Egypt (Gaza) and Jordan (Judea and Samaria). All that was to be “liberated” was what Israel then controlled. This Charter was amended once, in 1968, after Israel acquired control of the land from the river to the sea. That is, what the PLO sought to “liberate” was adjusted according to what Israel controlled — the ultimate goal being the eradication of Israel.
The complications arose with Oslo, in 1993. As part of understandings at that time, Arafat was committed to amending the PLO Charter, removing or changing those sections that called for Israel’s destruction. But all Arafat did was declare the intention of making required changes. Those changes were never actually made. A committee to explore the matter was appointed, following a vote by the PLO National Council, but the committee never met.
What followed was what I have dubbed “as if” diplomacy: nations conducting themselves “as if” something has happened, when it fact it has not. Among those celebrating the changes was then-President Bill Clinton.
The sense of the Charter, and the need for elimination or amendment of certain clauses, becomes clear from the following examples:
“Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.” (Article 2)
“The Palestinian Arab people possess the legal right to their homeland and have the right to determine their destiny after achieving the liberation of their country.” (Article 3)
“…[The Palestinian] must be prepared for the armed struggle and ready to sacrifice his wealth and his life in order to win back his homeland and bring about its liberation.” (Article 7)
“Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it…” (Article 9)
“The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland…” (Article 19):
“The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood…” (Article 20)
“The demand of security and peace, as well as the demand of right and justice, require all states to consider Zionism an illegitimate movement, to outlaw its existence, and to ban its operations..” (Article 23)
But these clauses stand to this day. What they represent is not significantly different from what Hamas espouses.
The entire charter can be seen at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/plocov.asp
One would have to ask how it was that the Western world, over a period of almost two decades, could have anticipated a “peace process” resulting in a “two-state solution” if one of the parties to that process embraced the above principles so thoroughly inimical to true peace.
The answer, of course, is that the Western leaders (including many Israeli leaders) were imitating the three monkeys who hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.
They allowed themselves to be convinced that these were not the PLO principles any longer and that its leaders were prepared to seek peace.
But since, indeed, the PLO has retained these principles, while feigning the embrace of peace in English for Western consumption, only disaster has ensued.
Now along comes a more forthright Hamas, determined to call the PLO back to honestly embracing what it was supposed to stand for in the first place. No more subterfuge or mixed messages.
Of course, when it comes to interactions between Fatah and Hamas, everything is tentative. And so it remains to be seen what role Hamas does ultimately play in the PLO. But I’m not at all certain that this transition would be a bad thing: it would eliminate a very pernicious pretense and push Western leaders towards having to face the reality of the situation.
Then — as Minister of Security Affairs Moshe Ya’alon said this evening, when I queried him about this at a meeting — it would be important to make certain that Western nations continued to recognize the Quartet requirements.
(Ya’alon, it must be added, is quite certain that there will be no full Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. And I’ll have a great deal more to say tomorrow about a briefing he provided tonight.)
A “good news” piece regarding significant medical innovation here in Israel:
Professors Yona Keisari and Itzhak Kelson of Tel Aviv University have developed a technique for attacking cancerous tumors from within, instead of bombarding them from without with radiation therapy with gamma rays.
In this treatment, a wire implant inserted into the tumor by hypodermic emits alpha rays for a period of ten days, after which only non-toxic substances remain. The innovators are describing this process as like a cancer “cluster bomb,” since the alpha particles “diffuse inside the tumor, spreading further and further before disintegrating…Not only are cancerous cells more reliably destroyed, but in the majority of cases the body develops immunity against the return of the tumor.”
It is expected that this treatment will be successful against a number of different kinds of cancer.
Those of us of a certain age who grew up in America will recall Tom Lehrer. For a bit of frivolous fun on the sixth night of Chanukah I share a link to one of his songs:
(With thanks to Wallace B.)
And for a different generation, and a very different sound, Matisyahu singing about Chanukah miracles:
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.