Monday, October 5 of 1992
PLO precision after the sixth round of dialogue
“Without a total withdrawal from Middle East,peace will not take place” (view)
The Palestinian representative, Suhail Akel, in Buenos Aires, told El Cronista that Labor Yitzhak Rabin’ s triumph became a detail in favour of unbending the conflict, though he stated that “Israel must hold conversations on the basis of UNO resolutions”. “A limited autonomy is a good gesture, but it does not satisfy our claim for an independent State”.
Cecilia Barro Gil
from El Cronista staff
Arabs and Israelis recently concluded the sixth round of negotiations held in Washington, without having achieved important progresses. However, they re-affirmed their commitment to put an end to decades of clashes.
According to the Arab delegations which take part in the dialogue, the recent election of a new Israeli government created a more constructive atmosphere in conversations, even though they criticized that the “new profile” did not go with concrete proposals to negotiate “leading problems”. They refer to the future of the territories that Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967: Cisjordan and Gaza in particular, where around two million Palestinians live.
Suhail Akel was born in Jerusalem, though after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, he arrived in Argentina with his parents. In Rosario, he opened the first Palestinian representation in the country and he has headed the PLO headquarter in Buenos Aires for four years. In conversation with El Cronista, Akel analyzed the last round of negotiations.
- Which is the balance of the recent round of peace negotiations which ended in Washington, taking into account the government change in Israel?
- Effectively, we believe that the Israeli people gave a vote in favour of peace choosing Yitzhak Rabin. That’ s why we were hopeful that the new government gave important advancements in negotiations, just as it had promised it in various opportunities, during the electoral campaign. Unfortunately, a new round of conversations ran out. Practically a year after the opening of the Peace Conference in Madrid on October 30 of 1991, results still continue being negative, then they do not give hope to our people of finding out ways of peace.
- Did not the unavoidable politic change produced in Israel signify any advancement for Palestinians? Is not the decision of stopping settlements in territories or the liberation of hundreds of Palestinians from Israeli prisons an important step after many years of intransigence by the previous administration of Yitzhak Shamir?
- The liberation of prisoners is evidently a good gesture. But it is important to emphasize that there are still 75 thousand Palestinians in the Israeli prisons. On the other hand, Yitzhak Rabin won the Israeli elections stating that he was going to stop Jewish settlers’ settlements in the occupied territories. However, they are finishing the construction of other 11 thousand units in Gaza and Cisjordan. That is, the government has not changed the previous position with regard to the essential aspects. However, we continue having high expectations in the Peace Conference. But in order to achieve a solid agreement, Israel has to maintain conversations on the basis of the UNO resolutions 242 and 338, which urge it to militarily withdraw from the occupied territories and come to an agreement with the Arab countries with regard to a peace which gives security to all people and States in the region.
- Israel carried out negotiations with the proposal of giving Palestinians a-five-year provisional autonomy in order to agree the definite status of Cisjordan and Jerusalem after that period of time. What are the limits of the Palestinians negotiators in respect of accepting the proposal or refusing it?
- Above all, I want to make it clear that we are not an Israeli minority. We are People, a nation. We thank for the generous limited autonomy offered, but this would transform us into another Israeli province. What we propose is an autonomy which allows us to develop our own government, our own laws by means of a transitory legislative assembly consisting of 180 members. This autonomy, without doubts, should conclude –after an agreed period of time- with the creation of the independent Palestine State. Unfortunately, Israel proposes a vague idea of consortium to us. An administrative council consisting of 12 members, where we are able to develop our social and cultural activities. Without doubts, that does not refer to another thing than to a provincial autonomy.
Demands of two people Will there be “Palestinian Jews”?
After the Camp David peace agreements in 1979, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. It had been occupied in the Six-Day War. From 1967, thousands of Jewish families had begun to settle down there in a similar way to the 120 thousand settlers who now live in Cisjordan and Gaza. Consolidating an Israeli sovereignty in those territories was their objective.
Signing peace with the Egyptian president, Anwar el Sadat, in 1979, the Israeli Prime Minister at that time, Menahem Beguin, was able to solve the settlers’ withdrawal with difficulties, but without delay, and to carry out the Sinai return.
But in Gaza and Cisjordan there is a peculiarity: the settlers now living in those territories, who traditionally fielded with the Israeli extreme right-wind sector, have claimed the biblical right to inhabit the region (in Cisjordan – Judea and Samaria according to The Bible – there are graves of Jewish patriarchs) and they have incessantly stated that they would never leave their houses, although the creation of a Palestine State realizes there. It is appropriate to wonder whether this could give place to a new conflict in the region in the future or not. Always putting forward a hypothesis, the Palestinian representative, Suhail Akel, was consulted about the policy applied by the Palestinian leaders in case of solving a critic situation like this.
“We –he said- are not opposed to the fact that Jews live with us and they become an inseparable part of our people, just as they were part of it over centuries. The Palestinian citizenship will be given to all those people who desire to live in peace. What we cannot accept is the fact that the Jewish settlers who settled down in our land use their own laws or carry war weapons, just as they now do, due to a project arising from the Kneset (Israeli Parliament). This project allowed them to use this kind of weapon against any Palestinian suspect carrying weapons or not. We are not opposed to the fact that they live in Palestine; on the contrary, we want them to live in Palestine on an equal footing, but under our laws”.
and West Bank
Other voices are heard in the territories
As the negotiating teams were gathered in Washington, ten Palestinian organizations carried out a strike at the occupied territories, claiming the withdrawal of the delegation representing them.
Consulted about the attitude taken by leaders of the Tunis-based PLO in respect of the internal debates among Palestinians and the increasing protests which were developed in Gaza and Cisjordan against the negotiations with Israel, Akel states that “it is about what we can offer to our people”.
must remember that we are taking part in a Peace Conference in total disparity
with Israel. While the Palestinian negotiators dialogue in Washington, the
territory occupation continues. Besides, he adds, at no time Israelis have
shown a sign of light or possibility for a future independent Palestinian
State since the beginning of the Conference. On the contrary, both the present
administration and the previous one have been constantly opposed to our independence
and have repressed our people. That is why we continue with our popular rebellion,
Intifada against the occupation. The Intifada will reach its fifth anniversary
on December 8. Did not Argentina create its Intifada when Creoles faced the
English occupation with stones and boiling oil? I think that we also have
that right, like all people in the world”.