In the meeting of the second Palestinian National Council in 1965, the Fatah representative explained why the movement decided to begin an armed struggle against Israel: “The Palestinian guerilla,” he said, “is not capable of freeing Palestine on its own, but the option of an armed struggle will serve three primary purposes: to unite the dispersed people around one objective, to cause Israeli-Arab wars and to again place the Palestinian question on the agenda of the international community.” The dispersion of Palestinian refugees throughout neighboring Arab countries, he explained, brings them to make pacts with social and political forces in various struggles in accordance with the situation in each and every country. All Palestinian involvement in these struggles only deepens the disintegration of the Palestinian national identity. In contrast, the armed struggle will force every Palestinian, wherever he may be, to turn his attention to the lost homeland.
And indeed, two years later, the June 1967 war broke out. Additional wars came in its wake: the October 1973 war, in which Egypt and Syria attempted to erase the results of 1967; the first invasion of Lebanon in 1978, which ended with Israeli control over the country’s southern strip; the Lebanon War of 1982, with the occupation of Beirut, the Sabra and Shatila massacre and the control over southern Lebanon for 18 years. The two Intifadas further added to these wars. Only the most recent Lebanon war, in the summer of 2006, was not directly caused by a Palestinian action.
The Palestinian question was again placed on the agenda of the international community: in the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, hundreds of decisions were passed concerning the rights of the Palestinian people, even if these decisions were not implemented, and there is even an international quartet for monitoring the solution to the Palestinian question.
So did the strategy work in accordance with the intentions of its creators? Not necessarily. Firstly, because 42 years after this decision, all of the area of mandatory Palestine remains occupied, and strategy must succeed in realizing its goals and not only prove its assumptions. Secondly, because the fundamental assumption concerning wars between Arabs and Israel did not occur as imagined: Israel won significant territorial and political victories, and even garnered two peace agreements, rather cold but still stable, with Egypt and Jordan. So the armed struggle did indeed result in wars, but they did not bring about the desired results.
In hindsight, it also appears that the fundamental assumptions concerning unity of the Palestinian people and a revival of the Palestinian question as an international topic were indeed fulfilled, while those concerning Arab countries and their role in liberating Palestine were generally proven false. Harsh disappointments replaced the lost illusions: the belief that only the will of Arab governments to deal with Israel is lacking, and that if they are finally drawn in, it is possible to force them not only to fight, but also to win.
The June 1967 war altered the region politically and not only territorially. The incorporation of two million Palestinians under the direct rule of Israel within Palestine itself signifies a structural shift of the Palestinian question and its solution: from the problem of a people deported from its homeland and striving to return, to the problem of an occupied people on its land aspiring for independence, i.e. to have its own state. Israel is that which brought about the change, firstly through the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and later through the deportation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from Lebanon, thus closing the option of Palestinians threatening Israel from outside.
The 1967 war further had far ranging implications concerning the system of agreements and connections of the Palestinian movement on the regional and international levels. The Arab defeat, particularly that of Egypt, transformed it overnight into a strategic alternative, and the defeated regimes in Damascus and Cairo had no alternative but to provide the Palestinian movement with political, material and logistical support.
The Soviet Union, which at the time armed both countries, overcame for reasons of the global power balance its reservations concerning the platform of the movement: the dismantling of the state of Israel, which was established twenty years previously due to Soviet military and political support—and established close relations with it. It preferred the factions close to it ideologically, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), but did not give up attempts to influence Fatah itself. On the diplomatic front, the Soviets remained reserved for a long period: the USSR did not recognize the PLO until the end of the 1970’s, after it was deported from Egypt, after it received Arab and international recognition, and particularly after the signing of the first peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1979.
Between the “six days” and the cease fire at the conclusion of the war of attrition, the Palestinian movement flourished and grew. In March 1968, Israeli military forces, which chased after “infiltrators” in the Alkarame refugee camp near the Dead Sea, encountered armed resistance and was forced to retreat while leaving dead soldiers behind. In Israel the incident was downplayed as much as possible, but amongst the Palestinians and the entire Arab world, the Karame “victory” was perceived as a dramatic and exciting turning point. In the weeks following the battle, thousands of volunteers joined the movement, particularly Fatah. Abu Lad wrote in 1979 in his book No Homeland that in these three years, the movement had a strategic choice: it could have chosen to tie itself to revolutionary movements, to bring down the regimes that were defeated and to again pin hopes on a comprehensive Arab war against Israel. However, the Palestinian movement chose not to do so, and in August 1970 the options were closed.
Bearing Down on the Palestinians
The radical factions continued to talk about the Palestinian revolution as a type of precursor to the Arab revolution, but over the years it became apparent that most of the movement, or at least the leadership, aspired to cooperation with the Arab regimes and desired to establish a Palestinian state in the framework of the existing political and social agenda.
Yet the regimes themselves had to be convinced. The Palestinians spread throughout the entire Arab world, both geographically and politically-ideologically, and confrontation with them was inevitable. In the beginning of August 1970, Gamal Abdel Nasser accepted the Rogers Plan, and on the streets of Beirut a million people demonstrated, some of them holding signs on which the Egyptian president was portrayed as a donkey. This was sufficient to collapse a fragile and delicate balance of power. Nasser gave the green light to King Hussein of Jordan, who was under strong American pressure and Israeli threats—to oppress the Palestinians who created a state within a state in his kingdom. The height occurred when members of the PFLP high jacked airplanes, landed them in Jordan and eventually blew them up. Battles broke out in Amman, the Jordanian military bombed Palestinian bases, and the events transformed into total war. This was Black September, which cost thousands of lives.
The Palestinian movement was persecuted as it was, even unwittingly, a destabilizing factor for the status quo, and entered a series of intra-Arab and international battles, as an alliance with one side almost always meant conflict, or even war, with another. The political pluralism, which was pushed onto the Palestinian institutions by regimes that do not tolerate pluralism at home but aspire to influence Palestinian decisions via factions that they themselves created, permits various stances and identities and could therefore cultivate a plurality of enemies. The confrontation with the Jordanian regime lasted until October 1973; this was the period of activity of a “secret” organization, dubbed Black September, which brought together various Palestinian factions, including senior leaders in the Fatah, with the secret services of several Arab countries, and many ostentatious and occasionally deadly actions against Arab diplomats, including the kidnapping of members of the Israeli delegation to the Olympic games in Munich in 1972.
The October War put an end to this period when it opened the option of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied in 1967, in exchange for recognition of Israel and an acceptance of it—i.e., on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 242.
The agreement of the PLO leadership to integrate into the political process as a result of the war surprised those following the political processes and changes in the Palestinian arena: the National Council of 1972, for example, took a decision calling for the establishment of a comprehensive front of “all the forces opposing the occupation of the territories occupied in 1967” —without any obligation for either freeing all of Palestine or the armed struggle, which were mandatory slogans since 1968, and with the positioning of Fatah hegemony over PLO institutions. The lack of reference to long-term goals and the path represented a clear message and historical turning point: an invitation to the Jordanian Communist Party in the occupied territories to join, as it is and without changing a thing, the political front with the various components of the PLO. And indeed, following one year of discussions, the Palestinian National Front was established in August 1973.
In this same period, on the eve of the October War, at a time when the platform of the National Front commenced with a mention of “unity of both sides of the Jordan River,” the leader of the Democratic Front, Nawaf Hawatmeh, published in the Lebanese weekly Alhoriya, affiliated with his organization, a series of three articles defending the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a “transitional platform.”
For numerous reasons, the October War transformed this willingness and the probes into a concrete step. In March 1974 the Fatah, the Democratic Front and the Alsaika (the military wing of the Syrian Baath party) together published a platform with ten points in favor of the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. In 1974 the National Council took a decision saying “we will establish a Palestinian authority on every part of the homeland that the enemy will liberate or leave in the framework of a political agreement.”
Israel and the United States treated these declarations with contempt and heard from them only the desire to abolish Israel in stages. Amongst Palestinians in Arab states, however, the message was understood clearly, and all of those opposed to a political arrangement—the PFLP, the General Command and several other groups supported by the Iraqi regime—met in Baghdad in order to establish the opposition front and to halt this betrayal.
In October of the same year, the Arab League recognized unanimously (i.e., including Jordan) the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and in November 1974 Arafat was already invited to the United Nations where, before the General Assembly, he gave his famous speech in which he held an olive branch in one hand and a pistol in the other. This was the first international step toward a Palestinian state on some (actually, on less than 25 percent) of mandatory Palestine, which would be established not necessarily due to the armed struggle, but through a political process.
In January 1975, the Middle East Peace Conference opened in Geneva without the primary players—Israel and the United States boycotted the event and the PLO was not invited, but the “autonomous majority” in the UN—the alliance between the Soviet bloc and the third world, now fully supported the PLO and its new strategy. Tens of decisions condemning Israel were passed in the UN General Assembly, and in November 1975 there was even a decision defining Zionism as “a form of racism” and decisions calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied in 1967 and the establishment of an international conference in cooperation with the PLO, which would receive a status equal to other partners. Twenty years later, in the shadow of the “peace process,” the United States government would bring for annulment a majority of these decisions.
In the meantime the Lebanese trap closed on the Palestinian movement. Three parallel processes brought the PLO to the situation that resulted in its expulsion from the land of cedars at the end of 1982: first, its involvement in the civil war that broke out in mid-1975; secondly, the competition amongst the various factions—generally encouraged by Syria and the USSR—for the execution of penetrations into Israel, actions against civilians and the taking of hostages, actions which generally ended in blood (Kiryat Shmona, Maalot, Nahariya, Tel Aviv, etc.); and thirdly, the rising confrontation between the Fatah leadership and Damascus, the most prominent expression of which was Syrian support for the siege imposed by the Phalangists on the Tal Azatar refugee camp in Beirut in the summer of 1976. Here the Palestinian movement paid the price for the multiplicity of factions and its susceptibility to pressure and manipulation of various countries. The spreading out of the various factions throughout the entire Lebanese, Arab and international political spectrum under the single roof of the PLO ensured almost universal hatred. American-Soviet contrasts, Syrian-Iraqi contrasts, contrasts between governments and political forces opposing them domestically—all of these found echoes amongst the Palestinian movement, and eventually they all neutralized each other and prevented real progress in any direction.
The sole substantial progress in these years was the connection with Europe and the European Union. From the French Foreign Minister, Jean Sauvagnargues, who first met Arafat for breakfast in Beirut in 1974, to the European Council in Venice in 1980 calling for an international conference in cooperation with the PLO, via tens of official invitations and visits, a new possibility was opened to the Palestinian movement for international maneuverability in the height of the Cold War.
These are also the years in which the Palestinian movement began contact with political officials in Israel. Following the period of random and secret meetings of the previous years came the time for meetings and conferences, and it quickly becomes apparent that the Palestinian side is not only searching for partners, but is attempting to open doors for negotiations. In the first stage, the contacts focused on “non-Zionist” groups, such as Rakach and Matzpen. Soon, and with the mediation of a group of Jewish communists from Egypt which formed in Paris as an international solidarity organization, they moved to Israeli partners who defined themselves as Zionist and Israeli patriots. In June 1976, the former French Prime Minister, Pierre Mendes-France, hosted a meeting in his home between Issam Sartawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, and three Israeli peace activists: Uri Avnery, Matti Peled and Luba Eliav—the first the owner of a newspaper and Member of Knesset, the second a military general, and the third the former general secretary of the Labor Party. Their Palestinian partners were certain that they had opened a line to the heart of the Israeli establishment and that negotiations were around the corner.
From Beirut to Tunis
In the spring of 1978, following the “coastal road action,” Israel invaded southern Lebanon and created a security zone along the border, within the Lebanese territory, and established together with mercenaries and local collaborators the South Lebanese Army. Military action in the area continued and after Israel bombed Beirut in May 1981, a ceasefire agreement was achieved with American mediation, which included an article noting that any attack on an Israeli diplomat anywhere in the world would be considered a violation of the ceasefire.
After a year, on 2 June 1982, the Iranian military overcame Iraqi invaders in a battle and transferred the war to Iraq. The next day the Abu Nidal group, supported by the regime in Baghdad, attempted to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London, Shmuel Argov, a person identified with the peace camp. Israel exploited the opportunity, declared that the ceasefire agreement had been violated and invaded Lebanon. The three commando members who attempted to assassinate Argov were detained by British forces: one was a Palestinian citizen of Jordan, but the other two were not ordinary figures: one, Marwan Albana was the cousin of Abu Nidal himself and the second identified himself to investigators as an officer in the Iraqi intelligence.
After a siege of three months and close to 50,000 dead, 80 percent of whom were civilians, the PLO left Beirut: their Lebanese partners, who stood by the PLO for ninety days in the face of death and destruction, asked that the Palestinians have mercy on the residents of Beirut and leave. Two thousand fighters left by land for Damascus and 7,000 by sea: they scattered in “military” camps, but lacking in all strategic meaning, in Algeria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq. Some of the administrative and political cadre returned to “civilian” life in various countries, but a majority of them came in the wake of the Fatah Central Committee to Tunis, which was controlled by Habib Bourguiba, the sole leader amongst Arab world leaders to preach, already in 1966, for two countries and the retroactive acceptance of the 1947 division plan. This was not merely an academic discussion, but a practical discussion which took place in the biggest refugee camp in Jericho.
The exit from Beirut and establishment in Tunis was conducted with international supervision, by French initiative, with the formal involvement of the United Nations, Arab and American countries to ensure the security of the Palestinian civilian population. The paradoxical assumption was that “a military retreat will result in political progress.” If so, what is a retreat? On the eve of leaving Beirut, thousands of fighters received new, press military uniforms for their trip. This is one meaning of retreat—part of the political process that at the end of a decade would return these fighters to Gaza and Jericho, and finally to all West Bank cities. Another meaning, according to which a retreat resulting from a negative balance of power cannot be expressed in any way other than a political retreat, was common amongst those who did not want or were unable to reach Tunis and preferred to remain under Syrian patronage. The Cold War once again threatened the unity of the Palestinian movement: in the Soviet Union, they dreamt of returning “balance” to the Middle East, a balance upset following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Two weeks after the exit of the leadership and fighters from Beirut, the Israeli military brought the Lebanese Phalangists into the Palestinian refugee camps to do the “dirty work”: the cold-blooded butchering of 3,000 women, elderly people and children who remained in Sabra and Shatila following the “retreat” of the fighters: a crime against humanity and a brutal violation of the American promises. The leadership that relied on these guarantees will pay a heavy price for its “naiveté” in an internal crisis and the Syrian-Palestinian confrontation that would develop throughout 1983, and would end that same year with a Syrian siege on Tripoli in southern Lebanon.
The National Council met in Algiers in February 1983 and approved the optimistic call for the retreat and its resulting “political process.” In April a schism broke out amongst the Fatah forces that remained outside of Beirut, and especially in the Lebanese valley under the leadership of several “radical” officers and with the encouragement of the Syrian regime. The Syrian-Palestinian confrontation that characterized the 1980s began with the siege of Tripoli, continued with the removal of the separatists from the PLO in the 1984 National Council in Amman and ended with the wars between the camps in 1985-1986. The Fatah leadership, for its part, did not remain on the sidelines: connections with the range of enemies and opponents of the Syrian regime in Lebanon, a strengthening of ties with the Iraqi regime, contacts with the opposition within Syria, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the communist faction of Riad a-Turk, support for the Lebanese General Michel Aoun, who called at the time for the expulsion of Syria from Lebanon, and with the ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. This was the battle, as Arafat said, for the independence of the Palestinian decision.
After 1985 the policies of Gorbachev, who attempted to find quiet on all fronts, buried the hopes of the Palestinian factions for a new international crisis. The path for renewed unity of the Palestinian movement was opened. The PFLP and DFLP, which boycotted the previous council in Amman, came to the National Council in Algiers in 1987, and at the end of this year the first Intifada broke out.
Twenty years after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the Intifada, the center of gravity of the Palestinian struggle, which left for outside together with 75 percent of the Palestinian people in 1948, returned to the area of the homeland. The demand for an independent state replaced the return of refugees as the primary national goal, and the path for negotiations with Israel was opened, at least from the Palestinian perspective. In November 1988, together with a declaration of independence on the basis of the 1947 partition plan, the National Council accepted the platform of the Intifada, and as a result the PLO was able to begin discussions with the White House. The pressure on Israel to agree to negotiations with any Palestinian delegation grew, and American and Egyptian initiatives attempted to pave the road for this, but this occurred only following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the United States’ war against Iraq. In the meantime, the Soviet Union broke apart, and with it, the Warsaw Pact. The day following the ceasefire in Iraq, President George Bush (senior) and Gorbachev made a joint call to hold the Madrid Conference, which was indeed held under special rules: the Shamir government conditioned its participation on grounds that the Palestinian delegation would not include PLO representatives or residents of Jerusalem, no one from the diaspora and no refugees from 1948!
For almost two years, from Madrid to the Washington talks, both the American government and Israel knew that the PLO, and Yasser Arafat personally, were managing the negotiations from behind the scenes, but a refusal to recognize this prevented any agreement. In December 1992, after the new Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin deported 400 Palestinian civilians from the Gaza Strip to southern Lebanon and caused a cessation of the Washington talks, a direct line was opened between the government of Israel and the PLO, under complete secrecy and under the auspices of the Norwegians. From this channel, the Oslo Agreement was born: a joint Palestinian-Israeli declaration of principles on interim self-government arrangements and according to another translation—concerning the agreement of self-government for the transitional period. This was preceded by an exchange of letters between Israel, the PLO and the Norwegian Foreign Minister, which expressed the mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO as the “representative of the Palestinian people.”
The agreement formulated in Oslo and signed in Washington on 13 September 1993 determined the rules of the interim period, which was meant to last for five years. For every stage (Gaza and Jericho first, the remaining West Bank cities later) there will be a special negotiation; the self government will lack sovereignty from the perspective of international law, both formally (the Palestinian Authority that would be established will not sign international agreements, but the PLO would do this “in its name”; its government will not have a foreign ministry; etc.) and practically (supervision over borders, the entry of persons and the provision of permits to remain in the area remain with Israel). All of the heavy topics of the conflict—the settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and borders—were postponed until the negotiations on the final status agreement, which were supposed to begin “no later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period” and to be completed prior to its conclusion.
The day after the signing, Rabin placed responsibility for the negotiations with the military in general and with the Chief of Staff of the Israeli military, Ehud Barak, personally. After only a few weeks, it was clear that via negotiations on implementation of the agreement, Israel was attempting to renege on certain articles and that the timetable would not be honored. Rabin himself declared that “there are no holy dates,” and thus the countdown that was supposed to bring an end to the interim period never even began. Only after the massacre in Hebron in February 1994, and under heavy American pressure that included Security Council Resolution 904 calling for the rapid implementation of the Oslo Agreement, progress began in negotiations. On 4 May 1994, the first interim agreement was signed in Cairo concerning the Israeli withdrawal from 80 percent of the Gaza Strip and Jericho and the return of the PLO leadership, senior officials, and several thousand fighters from the army for the liberation of Palestine who returned as police forces, and a few more Palestinian business men.
Precisely two years after signing the Declaration of Principles the interim agreement was signed concerning the West Bank, which included Israeli withdrawal from all cities of the West Bank, division of the territory into three areas (Area A: the big cities, full Palestinian control; Area B: villages and refugee camps, under Palestinian administrative rule but Israeli security control; and Area C: the unpopulated areas, including grazing area of the Bedouins and all areas that possess military bases or settlements, under complete and total Israeli control. Less than two months after this was signed, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. His successor, Shimon Peres, was able to implement most of the agreement, apart from the withdrawal from Hebron, which was partially implemented only in 1997, under the rule of Benjamin Netanyahu. Articles in the agreement concerning the “safe passage” between the West Bank and Gaza were never implemented. Also the freeing of prisoners, which was meant to build wider public support, was never implemented on a scale wide enough to bring about the needed political change.
Under the Netanyahu government, and even more so under Barak, who was opposed to Oslo and one of the biggest impediments to its implementation, the process slowed down, stopped, and eventually went backwards. On 4 May 1999, five years after the signing of the interim agreement in Cairo, the interim agreement ended with no agreement on the permanent status, and essentially with no negotiations. The signed agreements which were intended to determine the rules for the interim period were still not implemented.
From a legal perspective, the Palestinian Authority and the PLO possessed the right to declare unilateral independence, but enemies and friends warned about such a dangerous move. Internal voices noted that 11 years previously, independence without authority was declared over the area. The early elections in Israel, which were held three weeks after the interim period ended, were an additional stress factor. The Europeans warned that a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state would result in war and victory for Netanyahu in the elections. In exchange for giving up a unilateral declaration, the Palestinian leadership in March 1999 received the Berlin Declaration, in which Europe recognized the unconditional right of the Palestinian people to establish a state, and promised that the European Union would recognize it.
In these elections, Ehud Barak indeed won, on the basis of his promise to reach a final agreement with the Palestinians within one year. On 13 September 1999, exactly six years after the declaration of principles, the Sharm al-Sheikh agreement was signed, which obligated the sides to reach a final status agreement within one year. Almost six months passed with no negotiations, while Barak refused to implement the interim agreement and called for the conduct of a three-way Israeli-American-Palestinian summit. This summit was conducted in Camp David, where the Israeli side raised demands that had never been heard before, such as Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount (al-Haram al-Sharif), before it decided after 12 days that there was nothing—and with no one—to speak. On 13 September 2000, the Sharm al-Sheikh memorandum expired, without an agreement, temporary or permanent, without negotiations, and in a political and diplomatic vacuum.
The provocative invasion of Sharon into al-Haram al-Sharif, which was essentially intended to implement Barak’s demand for Israeli sovereignty over the area, occurred in this empty space, and the Palestinian street filled it with what is still referred to as “the second Intifada”: a series of Israeli killings of demonstrating Palestinian youth, which set off sporadic and unfocused armed Palestinian resistance, including acts against civilians within the Green Line (war crimes that served only to strengthen the Israeli propaganda machine). Barak’s determination that “there is no one with whom to speak,” which is serving already seven years as an excuse to postpone any type of negotiations, is the annulment of mutual recognition on which all negotiations are founded. In the first stage, responsibility was attributed to Yasser Arafat. Later a siege was placed on the Mukata, Arafat’s residence in Ramallah and finally, in the words of Israeli leaders, he was “gotten out of the way.”
New Global Conflict
Abu Amar (Arafat) exits, Abu Mazen enters and nothing changes. In January 2006, the Palestinian voter turned the tables and gave a parliamentary majority to the Hamas. For more than one year, Israel succeeded in forcing on the Palestinian people another boycott, in addition to the destruction directly caused by its actions on the ground. How? Because since September 11, 2001, there is a new global war, supposedly against “terror” but actually against Islam and all those attached to it in the political field, and against all who question the legitimacy of the Israeli government terror against the Palestinian people. The philosophy of unilateralism, dear to Barak, Sharon and Olmert, is shared also with the residents of the White House: everyone wants peace in the Middle East, but without talking—to Iran, Syria, the Hizbullah and the Hamas.
The Sharon government successfully integrated the Israeli war to continue its occupation within the wider context of the new global conflict. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Zionist movement succeeded in becoming part of the movement to expand European colonialism. Following World War II, Ben Gurion succeeded in placing Israel’s struggle within the Cold War, and now Israel is integrating into the global war its attempts to avoid negotiations and continue its colonial project. So if in the past the Palestinian question was marginal, both in the overall colonial process and in the Cold War, peace in the Middle East is now in the heart of the global conflict.
This is a source for worry. The Syrian regime, for example, has been begging for months already to hold negotiations with Israel over a permanent peace, and the American government is not permitting it as Syria is categorized with evil that must be eliminated. So even if Yossi Beilin was the Israeli Prime Minister and Yasser Abed Rabbo the leader of the Palestinian Authority, it is uncertain the Americans would allow this. It appears that any progress toward a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves global changes that do not appear on the horizon. Even the gentle probes concerning the peace plan of the Arab League did not bring good news and strengthen the camp of despair.
However, there is no choice but to continue pressing the balance of power, with a focus on areas determined by non-material parameters. The first Intifada proved at the time that the weaker side from a material perspective can win a moral victory and eventually something political. In retrospect, forty years after 1967 and despite the disappointments and setbacks, we progressed toward the goal, and in the words of the Palestinian expression—we must still “complete the path.”
Ilan Halevi is a Jewish Palestinian journalist and politician, one of the few high ranking Jewish members of the PLO. Halevi is the PLO representative in Europe and to the Socialist International, former PLO Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which capacity he participated in the 1991 Madrid Conference. This article originally appeared in Mitsad Sheni, the Hebrew language quarterly of the Alternative Information Center (AIC). Translated to English by the AIC.