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 May 2000 - Return to Complete Index    MiddleEast.Org         5/25/00
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 "In a struggle on the verge of the abyss, any misstep
 could cause both sides to go over the edge."

 "One of the conditions necessary for a state to exist
 is freedom from foreign rule. Israel clearly maintains
 control in the West Bank and Gaza - full control in
 Area C, partial control in Area B (exceeding that of
 Palestinian jurisdiction - as mentioned in Section 13
 of the interim agreement).  According to certain
 clauses contained in the interim agreement, even in
 Area A, Palestinian autonomy is subject to the higher
 jurisdiction of Israeli military rule."

   Main Israeli author of "Oslo Accords"

MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 5/25/2000:

The historic stage is being set.  The Americans are going to have an election in November.  The Israelis have cleared the decks with their rapid departure from occupied Lebanon.  Everywhere there is a race to position oneselve for what is to come, to arm, and to get prepared.  And the grand Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has chosen a time just two months before the U.S. elections -- a time of maximum political leverage for the Israelis -- to once more "declare" the State he has actually declared quite a few times already but over which he is at best more of a Chief of tribal areas, now armed and paid by the Israelis and Americans in fact, than an independent President.

In this context, the propaganda machines are gearing up as well as the Generals.
Here is what Israel's top legal adviser at Oslo, and in fact the man who primarily drafted the Oslo Accords, has to say about the basic framework that the Arafat regime agreed to back in 1993.  Sadly, he's pretty much on the mark, at least when it comes to what is actually written and signed.  As Edward Said has repeatedly pointed out, Arafat's people had no legal advisers; many of his people don't even speak English very well, including himself; and it appears from those who should know that the Arafat team didn't really even read and understand all the agreements they put to pen. No wonder the Americans and Israelis were so extra eager to rush them to the White House to sign everything in front of the whole world!

Oh yes, this time around, the Israelis are more crafty then ever and have their legal advisers working overtime too.  They actually now want a Palestinian "State", for their legal advisers are now busy drafting agreements for Arafat to sign that will in reality sign away even more Palestinian rights, legitimize the great majority of their settlements, immunize them from legal challenges in the future, accept Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, and "end" the conflict at this point in history with them way on top and the Palestinians way on the bottom.  It won't be a real State of course, for in reality the Israeli army will still surround them everywhere and who comes and goes will still be decided by Israel -- but Arafat is the big pretender and they know it!

And that's just the point.  While posturing otherwise for Arab public opinion, most of all now the Israelis are desperate to have all this done while Arafat is still alive to do the dirty deed, something no one else could or would be able to do.  What Arafat has been legitimizing ever since Oslo is the old Israelis "autonomy" plans that go back to Yigal Allon in the 1970s and Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon in the 80s.  The "State" that is coming, and which the Israelis really do want at this point, is actually a group of "connected" Reservations, with Israeli settlements, by-pass roads, informers, and Army checkpoints everywhere, no matter how visually camouflaged and rhetorically obscured.  "Separate" at this time in history and in the way it is being done is in reality the formula for "legalized" Palestinian dispossession, agreed to by their own leaders!

So now the real big push is on.  Lebanon was a sideshow, which is why Barak took care of it quickly as he did, paying the price that he did.  Now things are moving toward center stage, and its Arafat they intend to bring on one more time before its too late.

And so in this overall context, the legalisms completed in recent years need to be remembered and understood as a foretaste of what is still to come.  This article originally appeared in Israel's leading newspaper Ha'aretz about a year and a half ago:


     by JOEL SINGER*

....Contrary to Palestinian claims, the Oslo accords do not expire on May 4,
1999. These accords have a date on which they go into effect, but no
expiration date. The Oslo accords comprise two levels of arrangements that
have different degrees of normative force. The basic dates are set in the
1993 agreement on mutual recognition and the Declaration of Principles
(DOP), the intention of both sides was that these accords would remain in
force permanently. On a lower normative level are the implementation
agreements (such as the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement and the 1995 interim
agreement), each of which was to be carried out within a fixed period of
time. The fact that the implementation period for one of the agreements in
the latter category has run out does not abrogate the validity of the
primary Oslo accords. One of the most basic commitments made by the PLO
appears in the third clause of the mutual recognition accord: "The PLO
commits itself to the Middle East peace process and to settling the peaceful means, and declares that all outstanding, unresolved
issues pertaining to permanent status be resolved through negotiation."

Indeed, the DOP stipulated that the two sides must complete negotiations by
the end of the five-year interim period, but if no agreement were reached by
this date, it would be appropriate to extend the negotiating period, and not
take unilateral steps. Both sides are obligated to conduct the negotiations
in good faith. So far, the Palestinians have refused to enter into final
status negotiations despite Israel's repeated declarations of its
willingness to do so. Under these circumstances, the Palestinians can be
accused of bad faith if, after declining to embark on final status talks,
they argue that they have the right to take unilateral steps, since no final
agreement has been signed.

Moreover, Article 31(4) of the interim agreement explicitly spells out the
Palestinian commitment not to undertake any unilateral measures that would
change the status of the territories, even after the end of the interim
period, until such time as a final status agreement is obtained: "Neither
side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West
Band and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status
negotiations." Unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state would certainly
change the status of the territories; such a declaration would be a clear
violation of the Oslo accords.

Alternatively, Arafat can argue that he abhors the Oslo accords and is
therefore renouncing them. Would Arafat be authorized to declare a
Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza under these circumstances? One
of the condition necessary for a state to exist is freedom from foreign
rule. Israel clearly maintains control in the West Bank and Gaza - full
control in Area C, partial control in Area B (exceeding that of Palestinian
jurisdiction - as mentioned in Section 13 of the interim agreement).
According to certain clauses contained in the interim agreement, even in
Area A, Palestinian autonomy is subject to the higher jurisdiction of
Israeli military rule.

The Palestinian negotiators forcefully objected to these clauses during the
negotiations. "The articles enable you to insert the IDF into Area A
whenever you please, to do whatever you please," they argued. "Exactly,"
replied the Israelis. "This is autonomy, not a state, and autonomy is
subject to military jurisdiction. Normally, the IDF will not enter Area A,
but if there should be a threat to our security, the IDF reserves the right
to full freedom of action in Area A." In the end, the Palestinian side
acceded to the Israeli position.

Thus, Israel continues to be the source of authority for the autonomous
areas, including Area A. If there is no final status agreement at the end of
the autonomy period, the powers that Israel transferred to the Palestinian
must revert to the Israeli military authority, since Israel agreed in the
Oslo accords to transfer these powers to the Palestinians for a five-year
period only.

This is not to suggest that the IDF should go into the area to
dismantle the autonomous Palestinian institutions and reinstate military
control if no final status agreement has been reached by the end of the
interim period. But Israel will have a strong legal argument to fall back on
if Arafat claims that all Israeli authority in the West Bank and Gaza will
be annulled on May 4, 1999. The truth is, if any powers should be annulled
at the end of the autonomy period, it is those of the Palestinians and not
of the Israelis.

As someone who has spent countless hours around Arafat and is well
acquainted with his manner of thinking, I'm often asked if I think Arafat
will make good on his threat and declare a Palestinian state in May 1999
(now in September 2000). I do not believe he will. Arafat knows that such
a step would likely invite disaster, but he wants to use this card to
extract concessions form Israel. His fear of falling into the trap of
permanent autonomy is no less strong than his fear of the Israeli reaction
should he declare a state. Israel must aggressively confront Arafat's
threat while also remaining sensitive to his real fears.

In a struggle on the verge of the abyss, any misstep could cause
both sides to go over the edge. At midnight on May 3, 1999, an agreement
must be signed that will prevent a unilateral Palestinian move by extending
the negotiating period and assuring Arafat that autonomy will not become a
permanent trap for him.   "Ha'aretz" - 11/20/98.

*Joel Singer was head of the legal department of the Foreign Ministry and
drafted the Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles (DOP)

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