Palestine Central Council Reaffirms Determination for Palestinian State

 

Trilateral Summit in Camp David

 

The Palestine Central Council, the highest decision-making body in the absence of the Palestine National Council (PNC), affirmed its determination to actualize the Declaration of Independence adopted by the PNC in 1988 - with the establishment of the independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital and the achievement of its sovereignty on Palestinian land within the 4 June 1967 borders with the conclusion of the agreed-upon transitional period on 13 September 2000. The Council, which met from 2-3 July 2000 in Gaza, indicated that this step is being taken on the basis of the natural and historic right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state, the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy, especially resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), and 181 (II) (1947), and the Declaration of Independence of 1988.

 

The 5-year transitional period defined by the Israeli-Palestinian agreements ended in May of 1999. At that time, an international consensus emerged calling for an extension of one year, which was thought to be sufficient for the conclusion of a final agreement between the two sides. Several important players adhered to this position and urged the Palestinian side to accept an extension, including the U.S., as expressed in a letter from President Clinton to President Arafat, and the European Union, as expressed in the Berlin Summit Statement. The Palestinian side accepted the one-year extension and at a later stage the two sides agreed that the final settlement should be concluded by 13 September 2000.

 

With the extension approaching its end, it was imperative for the Central Council to shoulder its responsibilities and to indicate the above-mentioned determination in fulfillment of the national rights of the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, the Israeli side responded by issuing several threats against the Palestinian people, including threatening the use of force and other illegal actions such as the annexation of parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

 

While the Palestinian side remains committed to the peace process and the efforts for concluding a final settlement through negotiations, it nevertheless cannot accept a perpetual transitional period or subjugation of the establishment of the Palestinian State to the whims of the Israeli side. At the same time, any such Palestinian step is peacefully intended and will be coupled with a call upon Israel to withdraw its forces from the territory of the Palestinian State and to continue negotiations between the two states with the aim of solving all pending problems towards conclusion of a peace treaty. We are confident that the international community will fully understand such Palestinian positions, will offer its support for them and will condemn and reject any illegal Israeli response, hopefully undertaking all necessary measures to reverse it and ensure respect for international law and legitimacy.

 

The Central Council also adopted clear positions regarding final settlement issues, including affirmation of the rights of the Palestine refugees to return to their homes and properties, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948 and affirmation that Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem), which was occupied in 1967, is the capital of the independent Palestinian State. At the same time, the Council affirmed the need for implementation of all pending issues related to the transitional period, including the 3rd redeployment, the return of displaced persons, and the release of prisoners.

 

Two days after the Central Council meeting, President Clinton, after consultations with the parties, called for a trilateral Summit to be convened at Camp David, Maryland on 11 July 2000. Both President Arafat and Prime Minister Barak accepted the U.S. invitation to the Summit, which was preceded by meetings in Washington between the two sides at a lower level.

 

At this stage, it seems that the Summit will require a process that will ensure achievement of a final settlement before the decisive date of 13 September. There is, of course, no guarantee for the success of the Summit, particularly in light of the positions publicized recently by Israel, which are incompatible with Security Council resolution 242 (1967), international legitimacy, and the requirements for even minimal justice to be attained.

 

Despite the existing difficulties, however, the Summit certainly represents an important opportunity that deserves to be approached with the utmost seriousness and efforts by the parties, with the aim of achieving a historic settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. This is the preferred route. Nevertheless, it is clear that, in one way or another, the Palestinian State is coming within the next few months.