Two Objectives That Must Be Achieved On The 4th of May 1999

We are rapidly approaching the 4th of May 1999, the date when the 5-year transitional period agreed upon in the Israeli-Palestinian agreements will come to an end. In the meantime, the Palestinian side continues the broad consultations it has been undertaking with many countries all over the world. The Palestinian decision on this matter will be taken by the Central Council of the PLO in a meeting to be convened toward the end of April. This decision is, perhaps, one of the most important decisions to be taken during the contemporary national struggle of the Palestinian people. Given its significance, this topic is being addressed in two successive issues of Palestine & the UN. To summarize the argument we have been making, the following can be stated:

With the end of the transitional period, a legal and political vacuum of unpredictable results will ensue, including, possibly, with regard to the institutions linked to that period. As such, we could face a potentially dangerous situation that may revert back to the status quo ante.

The current Israeli government is apparently unwilling to reach an agreement with the Palestinian side on an extension of the existing agreements for a specified period of time, such as 3 or 6 months, until the upcoming elected Israeli government takes office. As such, the Israeli government bears even greater responsibility for the current situation and its consequences.

While many friends, old and new, advise the Palestinian side "not to declare a state on the 4th of May" and counsel patience for a few months, or even a year, none of those friends have suggested exactly how to tackle the ensuing legal and political issues, exactly what the status of the existing agreements will be after the 4th of May, and exactly what the time frame will be.

We strongly believe that the Palestinian side is required, and even obligated, to take concrete actions of a legal and political nature in order to achieve two primary objectives:

  1. to prevent the development of any legal and political vacuum after the elapse of the transitional period;
  2. to achieve the establishment of a broadly recognized Palestinian State, or at least to ensure such an achievement within a specific time frame.

Some newly adopted positions on the subject of a future Palestinian State by important international players, such as the statement by the Summit of the European Union (EU) on 25 March 1999, obviously try to address the second of the above-mentioned objectives. Indeed, the language of the statement could provide a way to deal with this specific aspect. The dilemma, however, remains - it does not deal with the first objective. Namely, it does not provide a solution that will prevent a legal and political vacuum during the possible limited additional "transitional period."

Generally speaking, the situation appears to require clear-cut intervention by the international community to save the peace process, to prevent any disastrous deterioration and to ensure the realization of Palestinian rights, especially the right to establish a Palestinian State. While some players may not be happy with such intervention, everyone must understand that the Palestinian side cannot, by any means, remain idle on this date, thus risking enormous national losses in an unknown future. All parties must shoulder their part of the responsibility in order for peace and justice in the Middle East to be achieved.