May 11 1999
It was considered big news when Yasser Arafat and the PLO decided against
unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state on May 4, the date by which the
architects of the Oslo Accords had hoped negotiations on the “final status”
of the Palestinian Authority might be concluded. But almost nobody seemed
to notice that, not long before, Mr. Arafat unilaterally decided to scrap
the Oslo agreement itself.
In Moscow on April 6, Mr. Arafat declared that:
“The right for a Palestinian state to exist is based on Resolution
181 and not on the Oslo agreements.”
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, it should be
remembered, was the original partition plan for Palestine agreed upon in 1947
toward the end of the British mandate, which would have left independent
Jewish and Palestinian Arab states in the area of present-day Israel and the
The Arab states rejected Resolution 181 and attacked the newly declared
state of Israel in 1948. The cease-fire lines agreed upon at the end of the
war left Israel with substantially more land than the original U.N.
partition plan, including the western part of Jerusalem.
Resolution 181, which as a General Assembly resolution never had
binding force, was presumed by everyone involved to be a dead letter. In 1967,
defending itself against attack from Jordan, Israel captured eastern Jerusalem
and the entire West Bank.
The international community never recognized Israel’s right to the West
Bank, but even Israel’s worst enemies seemed to have no greater ambition
than to roll Israel back to its pre-1967 borders. But it now appears that
Mr. Arafat’s territorial ambitions have expanded.
In a classic bait-and-switch, he lured Israel into negotiations on
Palestinian self-rule and then upped the price. His current demand would not
only require the surrender of all Jerusalem, but much of what has been
accepted for 50 years as Israel.
Indeed, Palestinian Authority maps show a “Palestine” that encompasses
all of present-day Israel.
Despite the lack of good faith thus demonstrated, as Mr. Arafat tours the
world talking up Palestinian statehood, he is getting a surprising amount
of support for the idea. Citing 181, the European Union informed Israel
recently that it does not regard Jerusalem as part of Israel.
Late last month, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, with
Europe’s full blessing, decreed that Palestinian statehood should be based on
181. Mr. Arafat even claims to have secured U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan’s support, although Mr. Annan himself has not confirmed this.
Meanwhile Mr. Arafat makes it clear that any peace accord is not a
commitment but a ‘strategic option.’ As he stated on May 4th,
“I say to our valiant martyrs . . . that the oath and pledge remain
unchanged until one of our young girls or boys hoists the Palestinian flag over
the walls of Jerusalem.”