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Palestinian views on the peace process

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Palestinian views on the peace process refer to the views of Palestinians in the ongoing peace talks with Israel.


Palestinians have held diverse views and perceptions of the peace process. A key starting point for understanding these views is an awareness of the differing objectives sought by advocates of the Palestinian cause. 'New Historian' Israeli academic Ilan Pappe says the cause of the conflict from a Palestinian point of view dates back to 1948 with the creation of Israel (rather than Israel’s views of 1967 being the crucial point and the return of occupied territories being central to peace negotiations), and that the conflict has been a fight to bring home refugees to a Palestinian state.[1] Therefore, this for some was the ultimate aim of the peace process, and for groups such as Hamas still is. However Slater says that this ‘maximalist’ view of a destruction of Israel in order to regain Palestinian lands, a view held by Arafat and the PLO initially, has steadily moderated from the late 1960s onwards to a preparedness to negotiate and instead seek a two-state solution.[2] The Oslo Accords demonstrated the recognition of this acceptance by the then Palestinian leadership of the state of Israel’s right to exist in return for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and West Bank.[3] However, there are recurrent themes prevalent throughout peace process negotiations including a feeling that Israel offers too little and a mistrust of its actions and motives.[1][4] Yet, the demand for the "Right of Return" (ROR) by descendants of Palestinian refugees to Israel has remained a cornerstone of the Palestinian view and has been repeatedly enunciated by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas who is leading the Palestinian peace effort.

Yasser Arafat and the PLO

Yasser Arafat

The PLO has complex, often contradictory attitudes toward the peace process. Officially, the PLO acceptance of Israel's right to exist in peace was the first of the PLO's obligations in the Oslo Accords. In Yasser Arafat's September 9, 1993 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as part of the first Oslo accord, Arafat stated that "The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security."[6] Remarks from Arafat a shift away from one of the PLO's primary aims—the destruction of Israel.[7]

However, evidence throughout history and even during the 1990s and 2000s have shown that the PLO leadership considered any peace made with Israel to be temporary until the dream of Israel's destruction could be realized.[8][9][better source needed] Arafat often spoke of the peace process in terms of "justice" for the Palestinians; terms historian Efraim Karsh described as "euphemisms rooted in Islamic and Arabic history for the liberation of the whole of Palestine from 'foreign occupiers.'"[8] When describing his views of the peace process among Arab leaders and in the media of the Arab world, Arafat's rhetoric became noticeably more bellicose than it was when among Western leaders and media outside of the Arab world.[8] The period saw a disconnect between what the PLO's second in command Abu Iyad referred to as "the language of peace" and support of Palestinian terrorism.[10]

Since the 1990s, there has been a debate within the PLO as to whether to halt terrorist activities completely or to continue attacking Israel as well as negotiate diplomatically with Israel.[11] In practice, terrorism was never fully banned. Furthermore, assassination attempts by radical Palestinian factions within the PLO since the early years of the peace process kept Arafat from expressing full, public support of the peace process or condemnation of terrorism without risking further danger to his own life.[12]

In 2000, after Yasser Arafat rejected the offer made to him by Ehud Barak based on the two-state solution and declined to negotiate for a more favorable offer, it became clear that Arafat would not make a deal with Israel unless it included the full Palestinian right of return, which would demographically destroy[citation needed] the Jewish character[when defined as?] of the State of Israel.[13][14] For this reason, critics of Arafat claim that he put his desire to destroy the Jewish state above his dream of building an autonomous Palestinian state.[15]

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad

A flag, with the Shahadah, frequently used by Hamas supporters

The stated goal of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is to conquer Israel and replace it with an Islamist state.[16] Both groups reject the Oslo Accords and other plans for peace with Israel. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the two groups worked together to derail the peace process by attacking Israeli civilians.[17] Hamas undertook a ceasefire with Israel in August 2004. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad was unhappy with the ceasefire.[18][19] In September 2005, Hamas was criticized by Islamic Jihad for calling off rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.

In 2008, Hamas publicly offered a long-term hudna (truce) with Israel if Israel agreed to return to its 1967 borders and to grant the "right of return" to all Palestinian refugees. In 2010, Ismail Haniyeh announced that Hamas would accept the outcome of a Palestinian referendum on a peace treaty with Israel even if the results were not in line with their ideology. This represented a departure from their earlier insistence that they would not be bound by any such result.[20] In 2012, Mousa Abu Marzook, a high-ranking Hamas official in competition with Haniyeh for Hamas' top leadership post, gave an interview in which he expressed a range of opinions, some of which differed from the organisation's actual stance. He said that Hamas will not recognize Israel and will not feel bound to understand a peace treaty negotiated by Fatah as a recognition of Israel, calling instead for a hudna (temporary truce). Abu Marzook echoed Haniyeh's demand that Palestinians should be given the unconditional right to return into what is now Israel proper.[21]

Prominent Palestinians

Rashid Abu Shbak, a senior PA security official declared, "The light which has shone over Gaza and Jericho [when the PA assumed control over those areas] will also reach the Negev and the Galilee [which constitute a large portion of pre-1967 Israel]."[22]

The PA's Voice of Palestine radio station broadcast a Friday prayer sermon by Yusuf Abu Sneineh, official preacher at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, over the radio. In it, he asserted, "The struggle we are waging is an ideological struggle and the question is: where has the Islamic land of Palestine gone? Where [are] Haifa and Jaffa, Lod and Ramle, Acre, Safed and Tiberias? Where is Hebron and Jerusalem?"[23][24]

PA cabinet minister Abdul Aziz Shaheen told the official PA newspaper, Al-Havat Al-Jadida, on January 4, 1998, "The Oslo accord was a preface for the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Authority will be a preface for the Palestinian state which, in its turn, will be a preface for the liberation of the entire Palestinian land."[citation needed]

Faisal Husseini, former Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem, compared the al-Aqsa intifada following the Oslo peace process to the tactic of coming out of the Trojan Horse used by the Greeks in the myth of the Trojan War.[25]

See also


  1. ^ a b Pappe, I., 2004, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
  2. ^ Slater, J., 2001, What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, Political Science, Volume 116, Issue 2, Pages 171-199, page 176
  3. ^ Slater, J., 2001, What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, Political Science, Volume 116, Issue 2, Pages 171-199
  4. ^ Bregman, A. & El-Tahri, J., 1998, The Sixty Year War: Israel and the Arabs, London, Penguin Books
  5. ^ Gilbert, Martin, Israel: a history. Doubleday. 1998. ISBN 978-0-385-40401-3.(p418, August 1970)
  6. ^ Arafat, Yasser; Yitzhak Rabin (1993-09-09). "Israel-PLO Recognition: Exchange of Letters Between PM Rabin and Chairman Arafat". US Department of State. Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  7. ^ Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 201–228. ISBN 1-58234-049-8. 
  8. ^ a b c Karsh, Efraim. Arafat's War: The Man and His Battle for Israeli Conquest. New York: Grove Press, 2003. pp. 57-59, 62.
  9. ^ Gold, Dore. The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City. Washington: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2007. p. 196.
  10. ^ Abu Iyad interview with al-Fiqr al-Dimuqrati (Nicosia), vol. 7, Summer 1989. qtd. in Karsh, 2003, 108.
  11. ^ Sela, Avraham. "Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 689-696.
  12. ^ Eran, Oded. "Arab-Israel Peacemaking." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia. Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 121-147.
  13. ^ Sharp, Heather. "Right of return: Palestinian dream." BBC News. 15 April 2004. 25 April 2012.
  14. ^ Karsh, Arafat's War, 72.
  15. ^ Dershowitz, Alan. The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can Be Resolved. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005
  16. ^ "Hamas Covenant". The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. 1988-08-18. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  17. ^ Ruddock, Philip. "AUSTRAC Information Circular No. 38." Australian Government. 3 May 2004. 27 April 2012.
  18. ^ Benhorin, Yitzhak. "Hamas: Ceasefire for return to 1967 border". Yedioth Group. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  19. ^ Toameh, Khaled (2005-09-26). "Jihad 'unhappy' with Hamas ceasefire". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  20. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/hamas-vows-to-honor-palestinian-referendum-on-peace-with-israel-1.328234
  21. ^ Cohler-Esses, Larry. "Hamas Wouldn’t Honor a Treaty, Top Leader Says." The Jewish Daily Forward. 19 April 2012. 26 April 2012. "
  22. ^ Yediot Ahronot, May 29, 1994
  23. ^ Voice of Palestine, May 23, 1997
  24. ^ "SENIOR PALESTINIAN OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO INCITE AGAINST ISRAEL." Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 29 May 1997. 1 July 2009.
  25. ^ Yaalon, Moshe (2007-01-22). The Changing Paradigm of Israeli-Palestinian Relations in the Shadow of Iran and the War against Hizballah. Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 

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