Non-Compliance with signed agreements and commitments
Palestinian Authority and P.L.O.: A record of bad faith and misconduct.
“White Book” published by the Barak Government’s public affairs coordinator, Nahman Shai,
on 20 November 2000.
The present wave of violence – led by the Fatah “Tanzim” – is essentially an
attempt by Arafat to achieve, through violence, his maximal political goals: and
avoid the choices necessary to bring the negotiations to a successful
Key assumptions have thus been shattered:
- Arafat’s conduct following the Camp David Summit indicates he preferred
not to face up to the tough decisions necessary for a historic compromise.
- Instead of responsibility for the welfare of the governed we see him
willing to use Palestinian suffering, including the death of children on the
frontline (shamelessly exploited).
- Rather than take into account Israeli and Jewish sensitivities (side by side
with their own legitimate rights) the Palestinians now prefer to stoke the fires of
Islamic “Identity Politics” (“al-Quds is in danger”) so as to walk away from the
negotiations and replace them by international intervention.
The dynamics of “the struggle” took precedence over Palestinian commitments.
Breaches of these obligations include:
- Direct use of violence by Palestinian Police (which Arafat regards, in
effect, as the P.A. military forces) in violent clashes. One of the most serious
cases, for which P.A. Policemen bear at least a major part of the responsibility,
was the lynching of two IDF reservists in Ramallah on October 12,2000.
- Ambivalent attitudes towards terrorism, and at times outright complicity.
Tolerance towards the Hamas helped open the floodgates of the terrorist
campaign of February-March 1996; In the current crisis, P.A. Preventive
Security, let alone the “Tanzim” (militia) of Arafat’s Fatah movement, are
actively involved in terrorist attacks and security cooperation has been
abandoned almost entirely.
- Failure to collect illegal weapons – thousands of which were left, from
1994 onwards in the hands of the Tanzim.
Various illegal weapons were sighted in the territories in recent events and
during demonstrations and funerals.
- Incitement to Hatred – a key element in the current crisis has been the
relentless effort to mobilize “the Arab
masses and destabilize the region – asking “where is Saladin”? This comes
against the background of a broader
pattern of education and public messages, which denigrate the Jews, and reject
the possibility of compromise
- The size of the Palestinian Police force- well over 40,000 on the payroll –
remains in breach of the Interim
- Palestinian Security Organs Operate Outside the Agreed Areas particularly
Preventive Security, acting in East Jerusalem in open breach of the agreements.
- In Gaza Airport, there have been repeated cases of misconduct, which
raise questions regarding the illegal use of the Airport.
- On Foreign Relations, the P.A. has been acting in breach of the
agreements as to its interim status.
- Economic and Infrastructure agreements and procedures have been
- Criminal activities on a large scale – from car theft to excise tax fraud –
take place under P.A. auspices.
- In the recent crisis, the P.A. failed to protect Jewish Holy places in
Nablus and Jericho.
It should be recalled that the P.L.O. was not an “unknown quantity” when it
came into the Peace Process: its institutional record – of terrorism, breach of
agreements (with Arab governments – Jordan, Lebanon), and abuse of
the “governed” in areas under its control – meant that extensive formal
commitments were required – beginning with the pledges given to Prime
Minister Rabin prior to the signing of the Declaration
of Principles. These, however were often interpreted in a slippery way, or
honored only when it was expedient for Arafat and the P.A. to do so.
Table of Contents:
1. Why were formal commitments important in the post-1993 peace process?
2. Indications of Essential Bad Faith: Arafat creates a rationale for
3. Specific aspects of non-compliance
- Direct Use of Violence:
- In the recent crisis;
- At all times (abductions of Israeli citizens, etc.).
- Terrorism – ambivalence and complicity
- Failure to Collect Illegal Weapons.
- Incitement and the Perpetuation of Hatred.
- Other Aspects of Palestinian non-compliance:
- The size of the Palestinian Police
- Security Organs Operating Outside Agreed Areas
- Breaches of the Agreed Practice at the Gaza (Dahaniyah) Airport
- No Action to Implement Policy on Visitors Permits
- Foreign Relations
- Economic and Infrastructure Breaches
- Criminal Activity under P.A. Auspices
- Failure to Protect Holy Places
4. The Shattered Assumptions
- An Irreversible Choice for Peace;
- A Stake in the Welfare of the Governed;
- Give and Take at the Bilateral Table.
5. Root Causes
- Arafat’s Strategy of Avoiding Choices;
- Diverting Attention from Domestic Failure;
- Conspiracy Theories and Miscalculations.
Why were formal commitments important in the post-1993 peace
Since September 1993 the P.L.O., as an organization, became a signatory to
the Declaration of Principles and Israel’s negotiating partner. This meant that on
a broad set of issues, formal commitments were needed – to try and
ensure, as much as possible, that the P.L.O. leadership had clearly broken with
past positions, practices and patterns
of bad faith, which had marked its conduct as a coalition of “Fidai” (i.e.
At various points in their history, the P.L.O. and its constituent organizations
were committed to a strategy of
eliminating Israel as a state, (this strategy was embodied, at the time, in the
Palestinian National Covenant). They
were implicated in: –
- Extensive terrorist activity;
- Breach of agreements and understandings reached with host Arab states;
- Abuse and misgovernment in the zones which their “State within a State”
controlled in Lebanon.
It is against this background that Israel felt obliged to demand formal
commitments on some of the most basic and
presumably obvious aspects of the process. Such commitments were indeed
obtained; but more often than not, they
were interpreted in a slippery way, particularly as regards the key issues of
security, the use of violence, and the
prevention of terrorism.
Against the mounting evidence of bad faith, as detailed below, Israel and
other parties engaged in the negotiations
– kept alive the hope for a stable peace, based on the assumption that the
process, and its momentum, would modify
Arafat’s stance on compliance and on the question of violence as an option.
This hope has now been shattered.
Indications of Essential Bad Faith; Arafat creates a rationale for
As early as Arafat’s own speech on the White House lawn, on September 13,
1993, there were indications that for
him, the D.O.P. did not necessarily signify an end to the conflict. He did not, at
any point, relinquish his uniform,
symbolic of his status as a revolutionary commander; moreover, in terms of the
broader historic “narrative”, as
distinct from the official position at the negotiating table, the map of “Palestine”
remained as it has always been for
him, the entire territory of pre-1948 mandatory Palestine (as the attached
photograph, of an August 22 1999 visit to a
school, clearly indicates[photo from Al-Hayat al-Jadida showing Arafat standing
next to such a map].
On various occasions, Arafat continued to use the language of “Jihad”, literally
a “Struggle”, but in the specific
(religiously colored) context of the Palestinian struggle, a clear reference to the
violent option. Thus, in a eulogy
to a Palestinian official – on June 15 1995 (at the height of the Oslo Process)
– he paid homage, among others, to two women terrorists (Dalal al-Mughrabi
and ‘Abir Wahidi); and spoke of the
children throwing stones as “the Palestinian Generals”. He also swore to his
audience (which was clearly
sympathetic with the Hamas) that “the oath is firm to continue this difficult
Jihad, this long Jihad, in the path of
martyrs, the path of sacrifices”.
Of special interest, in this context, are Arafat’s repeated references to the
Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, signed by the
Prophet Muhammad with his Meccan enemies when they were still stronger
than him, and then abandoned (as he
conquered the city) within a much shorter time than the Treaty itself warranted.
The first such reference made public
came shortly after the signing of the Interim agreement, in the “Jihad” speech
he made at the Mosque in
Johannesburg (obtained by the Jewish community, and broadcast in Israel in
What Hudaybiyyah means for him was made even clearer when he spoke, a
few months later, on the occasion of the
anniversary of the fire in al-Aqsa (an event, in 1968, caused by an Australian
madman, but often used in Palestinian
propaganda as proof of Israel’s evil intentions).
“Did the Prophet, Allah’s Messenger, the Last of the Prophets, really accept a
humiliation [as “umar bin al-khattab
blamed him?] No, and no again. He did not accept a humiliation. But every
situation has its own circumstances”
(Palestinian Television, August 21, 1995).
The reference to the Hudaybiyyah treaty re-surfaced in 1998, coupled with the
warning that “all the options are open
to the Palestinian people”. (Orbit television, April 18, 1998). In essence, here
was a rationale for accepting Oslo
and the place at the negotiations, and the various commitments involved, not
as the building blocks of trust and
cooperation but as temporary measures, to be shed off when circumstances
To Muslim audiences, such as the one he had in the Mosque in Johannesburg in
May 1994 (one of the first such
speeches in the post-Oslo phase) Arafat a former Muslim Brother, forced to
leave Nasser’s Egypt for that reason in
the 1950’s – spoke in the familiar idiom of Islamic radicalism.
To more secular audiences he offered a possible argument for the conditional or
.temporary nature of his
commitments by addressing them in the context of the “Strategy of Stages” for
the Liberation of Palestine, as
endorsed by the PNC in 1974.
References to the 1974 decision to establish a “Palestinian Authority” on any
piece of land Israel would withdraw
from were made by Arafat both on the White house lawn in September 1993,
and on the occasion of the first session
of the P.A. Legislative Council in March 1996 (“al-Ayyam”, March 8, 1996).
This instrumental view of the commitment to non-violent means, central as this
commitment may have been to the
entire process, was shared by Arafat’s lieutenants.
In a speech (documented on video) to a forum in Nablus in January 1996 –
again, at a time when the negotiations
were going forward – Nabil Sha’ath described the strategy in terms which then
sounded unrealistic, but now ring
“We decided to liberate our homeland step-by-step… Should Israel continue
no problem. And so, we honor the
peace treaties and non-violence… if and when Israel says “enough”… in that
case it is saying that we will return to
violence. But this time it will be with 30,000 armed Palestinian soldiers and in a
land with elements of freedom… If
we reach a dead end we will go back to our war and struggle like we did forty
Following the change of government in Israel, and three weeks before the
actual outbreak of violence over the
opening of the Western Wall tunnel in Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian Officer –
Muhammad Dahlan, the Head of
“Preventive Security” in Gaza and currently complicit in the license given to
terrorist activity there – warned (“Al-
Hayyat”, September 2 1996) that a return to the armed struggle, with the
active participation of the P.A. forces,
cannot be ruled out in view of the impasse in the process.
In the wake of the “Tunnel” events (referred to by the Palestinians as the
“al-Aqsa Campaign”), Arafat spoke at the
Dhaisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, and again stressed the continuous
nature of the Palestinian Jihad (“we
know only one word…”) and the fact that “All the options are open”.
Others continued to reflect this sentiment. The highest religious functionary in
the Palestinian hierarchy- the Mufti
of “Jerusalem and the Palestinian Lands,”
Shaykh lkrimah Sabri, told the Palestinian newspaper “al-Ayyam” (March 3,
1997) that Jerusalem cannot be
retrieved through negotiations, and hence the only option is war. The Fatah
leader in the West Bank, Marwan
Barghuti – a key operator in the present crisis – warned as early as March 1997
that his men are inclined to resume
the armed struggle, and applauded the Hamas bombing in Tel Aviv, in which
three women were killed (“al-Ayyam”,
“al-Hayyat al-Jadidah”, March 26, 27 1997).
In a rally on November 15, 1998, Arafat again openly threatened that “the
Palestinian Rifle is ready and we will aim
it if they try to prevent us from praying in Jerusalem… the “Generals of the
Stones” are ready”. (al-Ayyam,
(November 16, 1998). In much the same vein, he spoke to Fatah cadres from
the Jerusalem area on the occasion of
31 years after the battle of Karameh, and expressed readiness to face such
battles in the future to defend Palestinian
rights (“Haaretz”, March 21. 1999).
More recently – to some extent, under the influence of what was perceived as
the “victory” of Hizbullah in Lebanon
– references to the violent option proliferated, and indeed the training of children
for the armed struggle was
deliberately used – during the Camp David Summit – as a hint of what was to
come if Palestinian demands were not
As the present crisis unfolded, it was Nabil Sha’ath again who offered an
explanation as to what Arafat had meant
when he said that “All the options are open”: in an interview with ANN
television in London (October 7, 2000) he
reminded his interlocutor that “No one believed him when he used to say it…
[but] The choice is not at all between
options of negotiation and fighting: you can have negotiations and fight at the
same time” (as did the Algerians and
the Vietnamese). Hence, “the Palestinian people fight with weapons, with jihad,
with Intifada and suicide actions…
and it is destined to always fight and negotiate at the same time.”
Specific aspects of non-compliance
The issues listed below are by no means exhaustive. They do, however, prove
that the rationale for non-compliance,
as presented above, actually led to a repeated pattern of abuse, misconduct
and outright violence on the part of the P.A.
In this respect, the current crisis does mark a watershed. It has been preceded
by previous “eruptions”, including the
“Tunnel” Crisis of September 1996, and the short-lived “Nakba” events in May
2000. Nevertheless, nothing in
previous P.A. practice resembles the collapse of all existing commitments, and
the systematic creation – day by day,
week by week – of an atmosphere of raw emotions, fear and hatred, in pursuit
of a general Palestinian and Pan-Arab
All of this is not only in breach of the clearly stated commitments offered at the
beginning of the Oslo process, but
also in obvious, at times blatant, rejection of the understandings reached at the
recent Sharm al-Sheikh Summit.
The overwhelming pattern of disregard for both written and informal
understandings (overt or otherwise), and in
particular the use of an illegally armed militia – answerable to Arafat – in a
Low-Intensity Conflict masked as
“popular protest” or an “Intifada”, all confirm that from a Palestinian point of
view, the new dynamics of the
“struggle” – and of the call for Arab and International intervention – take
precedence over “pacta sunt servanda”.
Beyond the current state of warfare, Palestinian non-compliance encompasses
broad aspects of everyday practice,
from school texts to car theft. Some (not all) of these are discussed here.
Direct Use of Violence
Clearly, the most obvious breach of the Palestinian commitments involves the
direct participation of its armed forces
– the Palestinian “Police” (in effect, Arafat’s regular army) and the various
Security organs – in armed clashes with
the I.D.F. or in attacks on Israeli citizens.
The pattern evident in the current crisis had already been established in 1996,
when Palestinian policemen played a
major role in the extensive clashes that left 15 Israeli soldiers dead; in effect,
they acted as a fighting force – even
in places where only hours earlier some of them participated in the Joint Patrols
with the I.D.F., according to the
In the recent crisis, the role of the regular Palestinian forces has been
somewhat more ambiguous – in line with
Arafat’s interest in keeping his hand half-hidden, and using mainly his militia
forces – the Fatah “Tanzim” or
cadres – in the firefights and attacks on Israeli targets. Still, in the context of
the overall crisis.
Local Police commanders were, in fact, given orders, at times, to re-establish
law and order and restore the calm –
but their actions often indicated that they felt (or rather, realized) that such
instructions do not fit in with Arafat’s
broader support for the struggle (as reflected in the propaganda effort, as
detailed below) and were therefore half-
hearted in carrying them out.
In many cases, Palestinian Policemen took an active part in the fighting, in an
organized fashion or as individuals;
and there is no evidence (now or on previous occasions) of disciplinary action
being taken against those who did
so. There is evidence, moreover, as to the complicity of Preventive Security
operators – particularly in the Gaza Strip
– in armed attacks on the I.D.F. and on Israelis.
Perhaps the most serious event for which the Palestinian police bears a major
share of responsibility in the recent
crisis was the lynching of two Israeli reserve soldiers in Ramallah on October
12, 2000. It was indeed a mob which
killed them and mutilated their bodies: but it had been the Palestinian policemen
who captured them, brought them
into the Police Headquarters at the center of town, and then put up only a
half-hearted effort to prevent the attack. So
far, the P.A. did nothing to punish those responsible.
Everyday Practices: the Palestinian Security Organs – such as Preventive
Security, as well as the General
Intelligence Service and its arm in the West Bank, under Colonel Tawfiq Tirawi,
have been involved in other violent
actions in breach of the agreements, such as the abduction or unlawful arrest
of Israeli citizens (in some cases, Israeli
Arabs suspected as “collaborators”), and the murder of Palestinian real estate
dealers (suspected of selling land to
Another salient case (outside the context of any specific local confrontation – in
which a senior P.A. official acted, in
effect, as a terrorist involved BG (now a Major General) Ghazi Jabali, the
Commander of the Police Force,
issuing orders for an attack – actually carried out by two of his colonels on
settlers in the West bank in July 1997
(“Yediot Aharonot”, July 18 1997).
Moreover, at various “friction points” (e.g. events in Bethlehem, March 1998;
the Gush Katif road in the Gaza Strip,
July 1998; Khan Yunis, February 1999), Palestinian policemen and members of
other organized forces drew
weapons in support of violent demonstrators or in direct confrontations with the
Ambivalence towards, or outright complicity in, acts of terrorism “I want to
make it clear that any arrangement or
active understanding between the P.L.O. and the Hamas on the possibility of
continued terrorism by the Hamas, with
the consent of the P.L.O., would preclude an agreement and prevent its
implementation” (Prime minister Rabin at
the Knesset, April 18 1994).
In terms of its impact on Israeli society, and hence on the prospects for building
the necessary bridges of trust and
cooperation, it was the Palestinian failure to comply with its commitments on
restraining terrorism – and in fact,
the periodic courting of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad as partners in the struggle
– which left the most bitter legacy in
1995-1996, and now seems to be repeating itself.
An important development, in this respect, was the understanding between the
P.A. and the Hamas leadership, in
preparation for the January 1996 Legislative Council elections – in effect,
encompassing the sort of “rules of the
game” for terrorist action that Prime Minister Rabin had warned against, more
than a year earlier. -What the P.A.
sought (in the draft exchanged with the Hamas in October 1995) was “an end
to military operations in or from the
National Authority’s territory, or declaring them in any form”. (JMCC daily Press
Summary, October 12, 1995).
The actual understanding, reached in Cairo between PNC Chairman Salim
al-Za’anun and Hamas leader Khalid
Mash’al on December 21 1995 (“al-Quds”, December 22, 1995), allowed the
Hamas to “hold on to its reservations”
as regards the Palestinian commitments [to restrain terrorism]; but the
movement did undertake “not to aim at
embarrassing the Authority” – i.e., avoid operations which the P.A. could be
In a joint interview (“al-Nahar'”, December 23, 1995), Za’anun went so far as
to explain that in the event of an attack
in Hebron (then still under Israeli rule) it will not be the Palestinians’ duty to do
anything about it; if Israel wants
to avoid such action, it should hurry up and withdraw from the rest of the
This concept was clarified by the PLO representative in the Arab League,
Muhammad Subayh, a few months later:
Hamas, he said, had committed itself not to act from inside Palestinian
controlled areas (MENA in Arabic, March 8
1996, in FBIS-NES-96-048, March II). By the time this revelation was made, the
terrorist campaign within Israel –
which nearly brought down the entire process was already well underway.
This only confirmed a general pattern
of negligence and at times, active complicity, or at least tacit moral support
for the Hamas on the part of the P.A.
and its security organs.
Throughout the early period of consolidation in the areas under its control –
from May 1994 onwards – Arafat
resisted constant pressures by Israel to restrain the Hamas and restrict, if not
destroy, the infrastructure established
by the terrorist organization. The failure to do so put in question the basic
underpinnings of the Oslo accords; and its
most evident outcome was a sharp rise in the number of Israelis who fell prey
to terrorist attacks during this
Arafat, throughout this period, continued to embrace the Hamas, in political
terms; when the “Engineer” Yahia
‘Ayyash – the man behind many of the worst Hamas attacks – was killed, he
came to pay his condolences to the
Hamas leader Mahmud al-Zahhar (“al-Quds’ January 6, 1996). Meanwhile, the
Preventive Security Chief in Gaza,
Dahlan, apparently kept his contacts with the leader of the “‘Izz al-Din
al-Qassam” forces – the Hamas military arm –
Muhammad Dheif (a childhood friend) and broke them off only after the second
bombing in Jerusalem. (“Haaretz”,
March 10 1996).
It was the political fallout (including intense international pressure) following the
suicide bombings of February-
March 1996 which finally led to a break in this pattern, as the P.A. belatedly
awoke to the consequences of its
conduct on this issue.
Still, in March 1997 there was once again more than a hint of a “Green Light ”
from Arafat to the Hamas, prior to
the bombing in Tel Aviv (later applauded by Barghuti, as mentioned above): this
is implicit in the statement made
by a Hamas-affiliated member of Arafat’s Cabinet, Imad Faluji, to an American
paper (“Miami Herald”, April 5,
The next few years, in which the question of “reciprocity” took center stage in
the negotiations (culminating in the
Wye River memorandum and the attached security understandings), were
marked by mixed results – the pressure for
security cooperation did lead to partial compliance, but no real steps were taken
against terrorist infrastructures; and
the “revolving door” practice – i.e., the release of active terrorists and
Hamas/Palestinian Islamic Jihad operators,
long before they had served their terms – became (and remained) a constant
The P.A., since its establishment, has in fact taken a consistently lax attitude
towards terror activists. It did act, in
periodic bursts, to arrest some of them, and to respond (until the recent crisis
broke; very rarely since) to specific
information from Israel or other (mostly U.S.) sources on actual attacks being
planned; but most of the time: –
- Its policy was to incorporate ex-Fatah “Hawks” (terrorists), members,
the various security organs. In May
1994, as it entered Gaza, the P.A. commissioned as policemen, among others,
two brothers – Rajih and ‘Arnru Abu
Sittah – wanted for the murder of an Israeli in March 1993 (“Yediot Aharonot”
May 27 1994). More than 90
“hawks” – some of them murderers of suspected Palestinian “collaborators”-
were recruited in September 1994
(“Haaretz”, September 10, 1994).
- A similar practice applied to non-Fatah operators – on the assumption
deadly wrong) that this would “buy
them off’. At one point, Ghazi Jabali admitted that more than 150 members of
the “opposition” movements serve in
his Police force (Palestinian television, June 24, 1997).
- It systematically refused, often in blatant disregard of the signed
to do so, to extradite even a single
terrorist from the list (over thirty, at one time) demanded by Israel.
- In cases where the perpetrators of murders and other serious terrorist
were in fact apprehended by the P.A.
– at times, claiming that this was little more than “protective custody” against
Israeli retaliation – they were put on
trial overnight and given bogus sentences, so as to render them unavailable for
One such event – the mock trial of two brothers in Jericho, for the murder of
two Israeli hikers in Wadi Qelt, in
September 1995 – gave rise to a sharp reaction in Israel: the Minister of
Education at the time, Prof. Amnon
Rubenstein – a strong supporter of the process – made official note of the fact
that the P.A. was doing nothing to
educate Palestinian youth for peace, that its statements were destroying the
effort to build trust, and that a “bad joke”
such as the Jericho trial rubs Israeli opinion up the wrong way. (Education
Ministry statement, September 18, 1995).
Failure to collect Illegal Weapons
Within days of the signing of the Interim Agreement, in Cairo, May 1995, The
Preventive Security Chief in the
West Bank, Jibril Rajub, made it clear that the Agreement – while expedient for
the Palestinians, given the damage
done to their cause by the fall of the Soviet Union and Saddam’s defeat in the
Gulf war – would not oblige them to
act as “Lahad’s Army” (the SLA, Israel’s allies in South Lebanon at the time) in
restraining those who seek to carry
out armed actions against Israel.
“As to the question of weapons” reported “al-Nahar” on May 25 1994 – “Rajub
divided it into three parts: the first,
those under national control, i.e. the weapons in the hands of national factions
[such as Fatah] which are directed
against the occupation – those we shall sanction and tolerate out of national
responsibility. The second – those
carried, now and in the future, for social or personal reasons, and we shall
study how to deal with them. The third –
weapons in the hands of suspected characters, bandits and spies, which will be
collected at all costs”.
This clearly meant that no serious effort would be made to implement the
unambiguous commitment to collect all
illegal weapons. Fatah members continued to carry arms openly, and in recent
events have displayed items strictly
forbidden to be held in P.A. territories, such as various automatic weapons and
hand-grenades. There are indications
that heavier weapons – bought, stolen or smuggled – are in the hands of
Palestinian forces or militias. In one case,
a cache of weapons from a stolen I.D.F. vehicle (see illustration) was
commissioned by a Palestinian commander,
and retrieved only after intense pressure on the P.A.
The requirement to collect illegal weapons was therefore re-incorporated in the
Wye River memorandum, and again
in the February 2000 Sharm el Sheikh summit.
The Palestinians agreed to design and implement – step by step – a detailed plan
for that purpose, but in fact: –
- The “Law of Arms and Ammunition” passed hastily by the P.A.
Council in the wake of the Wye
memorandum falls well short of the requirements outlined in the Interim
- On the ground, Palestinian action has been very limited, as no plan was
submitted; on some occasions, visible
raids were made against specific arms merchants in the West bank and Gaza
(for local/personal reasons).
- No further reporting was made to the monitoring commission.
The use of illegally held weapons – particularly in the hands of the “Tanzim” –
thus became a key problem in the
present crisis. It is also a problem for Palestinian society at large: regular
reports on the extensive use of such
weapons at wedding parties, etc., has given rise to sharp debate. The answer,
as propagated by the nationalist media
– “turn all your gun barrels towards the enemy”.
Incitement and the Perpetuation of Hatred Since the Palestinian leadership
continued to look upon the current
situation as transitory, no systematic effort was made to re-educate Palestinian
youth, or the public at large, as to the
need to accept Israel as a neighbor and peace as a value. Most of the work
done in this respect was carried out by
external NGO’s, such as Seeds of Peace.
It took a long and sustained effort to introduce some change and remove
explicit anti-Jewish texts from Palestinian
school books, and even so, they do not include any map showing Israel or even
Tel Aviv as a city. As indicated
above, there is only one map of Palestine in use – and displayed in huge format
everywhere. Schools and institutions
of higher education are used to perpetuate this historic narrative. The question
of education and incitement was
raised at the Wye River talks, and a joint committee was established to discuss
it: but not much action was taken – it
was impossible to bridge the basic conceptual gap – and the committee soon
became defunct. The extent of
Palestinian efforts to perpetuate hatred and rejection of Zionism and Israel (and
all too often, in more popular usage,
“the Jews”) is too broad to cover, beyond certain glaring visual examples.
In the run-up to the present crisis, two key officials played a salient role in
stressing to the Palestinian public the
impossibility of any compromise and the need to prepare for a confrontation:
- Hasan al-Kashif, the Director-General of the P.A. Ministry of Information,
a daily commentator in both the
electronic media and “al-Ayyam”, has been arguing that since the Palestinians
cannot possibly accept the Camp
David offers (or any other departure from the Arab interpretation of 242), they
should prepare for a prolonged
struggle (and hoard food);
- Shaikh lkrimah Sabri, Mufti of Jerusalem, kept up – in the context of the
discussion on the future of the Temple
Mount, during and after Camp David a steady flow of incitement and hatred,
raising fears (despite 33 years of
Israeli rule) that the Jews plan to destroy al-Aqsa and rebuild their temple, and
the struggle for Jerusalem has begun.
Once the actual violence erupted, incitement took an unprecedented form,
designed to instill hatred and to mobilize
“the Arab Masses”. It was marked, above all, by the incessant exploitation of
the terrible visions of Muhammad
al-Durra’s death (captioned as an “execution”) – as well as visual and highly
detailed displays of the dead and
injured, including guided televised tours to the morgue, and close-ups of the
wounds. Woven in with nationalist
songs – “where are the millions” [of Arabs], where are ‘Umar and Saladin.
(armed conquerors of Jerusalem) – this
mix is broadcast without respite for days on end, broken only by the news and
by political talk-shows (where
participants, and even more so the callers, vie with each other in the intensity
of their anger, hatred and plans of
action against Israel).
In the final statement read by President Clinton at the recent Sharm el-Sheikh
summit, both sides were clearly
expected to have committed themselves to put an end to incitement as well as
to violence. That did not happen. For a
few hours there was some” toning down in Palestinian television coverage of
what was described as “a peaceful
intifada”: but as night fell and the Tanzim kept shooting, the propaganda
machinery took its cue and the constant
parade of suffering and death resumed.
The suffering is real enough: so is the use made of it. It is increasingly obvious –
even to Palestinians? – that the mix
of violence, and the political exploitation of suffering, requires children to be
pushed forward into harm’s way.
Other Aspects of Palestinian non-compliance
The key issues discussed above are by no means exhaustive. On a broad range
of other questions, the Palestinians
either knowingly ignored or at least failed to implement the commitments it has
undertook; and its conduct further
undermined the very bridges of trust and cooperation which the interim period
was supposed to build.
The Size of the Palestinian Police
The number of Palestinian Policemen (in effect, soldiers) is in constant breach
of the Interim Agreements: when the
overall situation was last reviewed, in March 2000, it continued to exceed the
agreed number – 30,000 – by more
than 10,000; and only 20,000 among them have had their names submitted for
Israeli vetting and approval as
The Wye River memorandum, followed by the (first) Sharm el-Sheikh
commitments, included a mechanism
designed to put an end to this situation; the Palestinians undertook to transfer a
list of all policemen. In February
2000 they indeed submitted two lists – one for active service Policemen
(26,000)and the other for unemployed men
registered as Policemen (16,000). In any case, the Palestinian side did not act
to resolve this case of non-compliance.
Palestinian Security Organs Operating Outside the Agreed Areas
Another persistent breach of the agreements is the activity by Palestinian
policemen/ soldiers (regularly, in “B” areas
– which should remain under Israeli security authority; occasionally in “C” areas
– designed to remain fully in
Israeli hands). Members of the various security organs, particularly Preventive
Security, (at all times and in all areas,
including East Jerusalem and Hebron), appear in zones where they may not
operate without prior coordination with
the Israeli side.
Breaches of the Agreed Practice at the Gaza(Dahaniyyah) Airport
Since the Airport Protocol was signed, a pattern of systematic breaches and
disruptions has emerged: ambulances
being used to circumvent inspection (and in one case, on December 18, 1999,
to run-in a wanted terrorist); workers
crowding around the aircraft, disrupting the agreed procedures; ignoring the
protocol provisions for the vetting of
workers: and contracting a cargo facility without notification.
No Action to Implement Agreed Policy on Visitors Permits
As part of a broader pattern of manipulating or violating the rules on
immigration and registration, more than 40,000
people are estimated to have overstayed their visitors permits in the P.A. areas,
and in fact, to have settled as
residents, in breach of the agreements; in some cases, such visitors are known
to be in the employ of P.A.
Much of the P.A.’s network of foreign relations, either bilateral or in terms of
Palestinian participation in
international organizations – including the trade agreement signed with the
European, is in contravention of the
Interim Agreement, which defined the limits of its authority (any document,
agreement or treaty signed with a
foreign entity by a P.A. “Minister”, as distinct from a P.L.O. function, is in
breach of the P.A.’s status.
The PA systematically blames Israel for mismanagement of PA funds. To its
public it claims that Israel has not
transferred 800 million NIS to the PA and that is the reason for lack of payment
to teachers and other public
workers. That, in spite of the fact that Israel had transferred its dues (even
during the current crisis) and signed an
agreement with the PA in June 2000 to include purchase tax in the transfers.
The PA refused to acknowledge or pay the debts, which have grown to
considerable amounts, of the municipalities
to the Israeli utility companies. Whenever the utility companies tried to cut their
services because of non-payment of
debts – the Palestinians blamed Israel for hurting the population. Another
example is the chop-shops which have
thrived in the Palestinian controlled areas.
The P.A. regularly ignores agreed planning and zoning, as well as the
Building roads and public projects in area “C”, where it has no legal
agreements on economic cooperation: –
Invading state lands in area “C” and unassigned areas (“white” on the
some 180 such invasions in the Gaza
Strip, and 210 in the West Bank, were counted in February 2000;
Carrying out unlawful or uncoordinated water and electricity projects;
Operating broadcasts on uncoordinated frequencies;
Criminal Activity under P.A. Auspices The Interim Agreement of 1994
committed both sides to cooperate in
preventing crime and to exchange information; the Wye River memorandum in
1998 added a specific Ad Hoc
Committee to discuss their economic relationship, including “Cooperation in
combating car theft”.
In fact, however, car theft and other forms of criminal activity continue to
thrive, often on such a scale that it is no
longer possible to argue that it could go on unless sanctioned to some extent
by the Palestinian Police and Security
organs. There are indications that they take their cut on this “industry” (most of
the 45,000 vehicles stolen in Israel
in 1997 are assumed to have ended up in the P.A. areas, stripped for parts or
even “appropriated” by P.A.
functionaries – “Haaretz”, August 21, 1998) – and that a well placed call to
senior Palestinian officers can in fact
retrieve a stolen vehicle.
Other forms of criminal activity that the P.A. regularly ignored or even
sanctioned involve financial fraud, large-
scale excise tax schemes (one of which involved the Preventive Security Chief
in the West Bank, Jibril Rajub – his
Israeli accomplices were arrested and convicted); intellectual property crimes,
and marketing sub-standard products.
Failure to Protect Holy Places
On two major occasions, during the recent crisis, P.A. forces failed to uphold
their Interim Agreement obligations –
and in the case of Joseph’s Tomb, a promise just given to Israeli commanders
in the Nablus area – to protect holy
Following Israel’s decision to evacuate Joseph’s Tomb – so as to avoid further
bloodshed – it was looted, torched and
in parts dismantled. Local Palestinian commanders openly stated that no Israeli
would set foot there again; and
indeed, one man who apparently wanted to visit the site was brutally murdered,
and a group of hikers (including
women and children) “suspected” of coming too near to the Tomb, were shot
at, wounded and one was killed.
Moreover, in October 12, 2000, Palestinian Police failed to prevent the
desecration of the ancient “Shalom al
Yisrael” synagogue in the Jericho area, which was looted and partly torched.
Belated attempts to undo the damage seem to have been made largely because
of the severe international reaction to
these failures to uphold Palestinian commitments (let alone recognize Jewish
religious sensitivities: an atmosphere
made worse by the crude arguments, used by Arafat and others to dismiss any
Jewish claim to the Temple Mount) .
The Shattered Assumptions
What does this all add up to?
The very nature of the Oslo Process assumed that over time, if not overnight, a
new reality of bilateral relations
would be created on the ground, with an open prospect to Palestinian
Sovereignty in sight. This would lead Arafat
away from the option of violence and “struggle” (which he and others in the
P.A. continued to articulate). This has
An Irreversible Choice for Peace?
In a recent article, written as a letter to Arafat (“Time to Choose, Yasir”,
October 6 2000) the American columnist
Thomas Friedman called upon him to choose who he is: a peacemaker or an
The evidence presented in this document – along with his conduct in recent
weeks – strongly suggests that this choice
has not yet been made; or else that the P.A. leadership has opted for violence,
in response to the call for “hard
decisions” placed upon it after the Camp David Summit. Arafat had let it be
known to the Fatah movement, his key
political and paramilitary instrument, that he expects them to act (and take up
arms); and this action was supported
and sustained by the heated intensity of the incitement dished out by
Palestinian media organs – papers, radio
stations, and above all by Palestinian Television.
The option of an armed “intifadha” has been long in preparation, both in terms
of planning (as overall evidence,
including the indications from intelligence sources, has been showing well
before the actual outbreak of violence),
and in the manner in which Palestinian and Arab public opinion was worked up
against the possibility of
compromise on the key issues.
A Stake in the Welfare of the Governed?
Another assumption which sustained the process was the hope that as the P.A.
became an established “government”,
its choices in the future would be colored by the need to provide for the best
interests of the governed – even if the
evolution of democratic politics in the P.A. was far from complete.
This assumption, too, has been brought into question over time, and shattered
by recent events. In addition to
broader problems arising from the P.A.’s mismanagement of public and
economic affairs, specific aspects of its
policy towards Israel – above all, the failure to deliver on the restraint of
terrorism and terrorist infrastructure –
obliged Israel to apply restrictions on the freedom of movement and
employment of Palestinians. It is particularly
young people who are easily mobilized by the Hamas and its likes, within Israel.
It was easy enough for the P.A. to blame Israel for the consequences of these
restrictions; but at their root was
Arafat’s persistent ambiguity on his security commitments (and indeed, when
these were more strictly adhered to –
under pressure from outside – economic life in the Palestinian governed areas
improved significantly, as in 1998-
The Palestinian leadership’s disregard for the welfare of the governed has now
risen to a new level. The thrust of
Palestinian propaganda in recent weeks is unmistakable: suffering, particularly
the death of children, has become
instrumental as its rallying cry to its own people and the Arab world. Thus, it
has systematically exploited the tragic
death of the child Muhammad al-Durra at Netzarim junction – where he was
caught in the crossfire of a gun battle,
the P.A. deliberately misrepresenting his death as a “cold-blooded execution”,
often several times an hour
throughout its television broadcasts.
In effect, this strategy feeds upon further suffering and disruption – including
self-induced economic hardships,
while Israel actually seeks to ensure supplies to the P.A. areas. The tactics of
the Fatah “Tanzim” (militia) are also
apparently designed to bring about further suffering upon civilian populations –
as made evident by their use of Beit
Jala – a Christian community – to fire on Gilo in Jerusalem, with the full
knowledge of the consequences for the
Give and Take at the Bilateral Table?
At the core of the present strategy, as clearly stated in Arafat’s speech at the
Emergency Arab summit in Cairo
(October 21), is the threat that there will be no regional nor international
stability unless Palestinian demands are
met; and the call upon the international community to replace the current
structure of the process (the U.S.,
according to Arafat, having failed to impose “International Legitimacy” in its
Arab interpretation) with a mechanism
Palestinian suffering is thus made the focus of an ‘appeal to the U.N. – including
an abuse of the “Uniting for Peace”
procedure (which enables the UN General Assembly to overrule the Security
Council), and a spurious call for the
Security Council to send forces, Kosovo-style, to “protect the Palestinian
Territories” – all in an obvious effort to
walk away from the negotiating table and avoid the tough choices involved.
Evidence for such concepts of “Internationalization” being worked on by Nabil
Sha’ath, the P.A. Minister of
Planning and International Cooperation, has been available for well over a year
(e.g. his statement to al-Ayyam, an
official P.A. organ, on May 9, 1999); the current drive for an international
commission of inquiry is part and parcel
of this design.
The Root Causes
What has led Arafat and the P.A. leadership to opt for violence and incitement
as an instrument of policy? A
consistent pattern of behavior over several weeks, with a clearly defined set of
goals (“Internationalization” of the
conflict) and with the means (televised Palestinian sacrifice and suffering)
apparently well-tailored to achieve them,
cannot be simply dismissed as a passing aberration or a “caprice”. Within the
limits of what modern political science
calls “bounded rationality”, Arafat’s gamble is risky, but not irrational.
Still, to understand the root causes for this choice – or rather, the Palestinian
refusal to choose, once and for all, the
path of peace – it is necessary to point out, albeit briefly, some of the recurrent
themes in Arafat’s political conduct
over the years.
Arafat’s Strategy of Avoiding Choices
Throughout his tenure as a leader of Fatah movement and the P.L.O., Arafat
attached particular importance to the
principle of maintaining “Istiqlal al-Qarrar”, i.e. his ability to avoid becoming
anyone’s “agent” (and there were
many in the Palestinian arena identified as working for some Arab or foreign
A key element in his ability to do so, at least until a major crisis forced a choice
or a decision on him, was the
constant manoeuver between the poles of any regional or international system
in which he worked – Egypt and her
rivals in the Arab world; the Cold War protagonists; the Syrians and their
enemies in Lebanon.
In recent years, this pattern of “fence-sitting” and indecision evolved around
Playing the U.S. (with which he established a dialogue in December 1988)
Iraq (which he came to see as a
heroic Arab counter-balance to U.S. power). To some extent, this lactic is still
at work. While speaking favorably of
Clinton (as distinct from the U.S. Congress…) at the Emergency Arab Summit in
Cairo, Arafat also endorsed the call
for the lifting of sanctions on the Suffering Iraqi People. Pro-Iraqi sentiments,
including the fervent call of
demonstrators for Saddam Hussein to “hit, hit Tel Aviv” (with chemical
warheads) are indeed rife among
Palestinians even now, despite the lessons learned from the disastrous choice in
Playing the dialogue with Israel (and the formal obligations detailed above) –
vs. an ambivalent attitude towards
the Hamas, terrorism, and the use of violence: the consequences of this way of
keeping his options open, and
avoiding any implication that he now “belongs” to Israel (like the former S.L.A.
in Lebanon…) have become
manifest in the recent crisis.
Diverting Attention from Domestic Failure
In recent months – well before the Camp David Summit, and not necessarily in
connection with Arafat’s positions in
the negotiations – a broad body of evidence (albeit vague and circumstantial,
given the lack of reliable tools to
analyze Palestinian public sentiment under an authoritarian power structure)
indicated that much of the P.A.’s initial
credit with its own “constituency” has been spent: Khalil Shikaki’s surveys of
Palestinian opinion found that
Arafat’s approval rates have been falling steadily – well bellow 40% – and that a
vast majority of respondents thought
of the P.A. institutions as venal, corrupt and incompetent.
At the core of the problem is the system of centralized economic monopolies,
dominated by Muhammad Rashid
(Khalid Salam) and his PCSC – with a monopoly Of several basic commodities
(“Guardian”, April 27, 1997); the al-
Masri family and their holding company, PADICO; and the varied economic
interests of the Security “bosses”,
Dahlan and Rajoub.
The results are clear to see: in a climate hostile to real competition and to
transparent free market practices, blatant
disregard for personal property, bribery, corruption and mismanagement of
domestic and aid funds, as well as the
lack of compliance with commitments to refrain from those customs have been
well documented by the PA’S own
public monitoring department, the “Donor countries” and numerous NGO’s.
The most striking proof of the PA’S mishandling of its population can be found
in the lack of care for its most needy
population – the refugees. Not only does the PA insist on not using any portion
of its budget towards improving their
living standards, it is demanding ‘that the international community increases its
support for them.
Calls upon Arafat, by some of his best friends – such as the Council of Foreign
Relations (CFR) team, which
examined Palestinian governance – – went unheeded, and calls for change from
within were roughly repressed.
Given this bleak prospect (which reportedly led even Jerusalem’s Palestinian
residents, let alone Israeli Arabs, to
resist the notion of being transferred to P.A. governance…)
It is not surprising that Arafat may have felt more comfortable igniting a
nationalist struggle – and pinning the blame
for future deprivations on Israel – than focusing on the urgent need to reform
the Palestinian system.
Conspiracy Theories and Miscalculations
Another recurrent pattern which does color Arafat’s judgement, at times – and
was certainly evident in the manner in
which he “explained” the current crisis to the Emergency Session of the Arab
Summit – is his tendency to weave
conspiracy theories (Mu’amarat) and use them, with a thin line separating fact
Thus – as an example – in a series of interviews in March and April 1995,
including a fascinating meeting with a
sympathetic Israeli and American audience, Arafat raised the argument that a
secret Israeli organization – an
“O.A.S.” within the GSS… – working through the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic
Jihad, was in fact responsible for a
series of terrorist attacks such as the bombing in Beit Lid (in which 22 Israelis
died). It should be noted that this
fantastic argument came (already then) in conjunction with a warning: any
attempt by Israel to stall on the peace
process – because of the security “excuse”, as he saw it – would have a terrible
affect on Israel’s standing in
“King Hussein will not go on with you, the Egyptians will not, Senegal will not,
Mandela will not, if the process
with us fails …not with the whole of Africa, and the five Muslim states in
Central Asia, not with all of them, not
even with China. You know how strong our links are with all of these states…”
(Gid’on Levi in “Haaretz”, April 28,
1995; see also “al-Hayyat l-Jadidah”, March 22, 1995).
This mixture of wild conspiracy theory, and the threat that Israel, the region
and the world will know no stability –
unless his demands are met – was central, more recently, to his speech in
Cairo, where he blamed Israel and the
I.D.F. for having conspired for more than a year to prepare the “butchery” of
the Palestinian people: hence the urgent
need for international protection to be introduced into all “Palestinian
The danger implicit in such manipulative assertions and “claims on reality” is
that they can easily develop into a
major misreading of the situation and a harmful miscalculation – as was the case
in 1995, when Arafat absolved
himself in this manner from any serious effort to curb terrorism; and might be
the case now.
Appendix A; The key commitments undertaken by the P.L.O./ P.A.
“In light of the new era marked by the signing of the Declaration of Principles,
the PLO encourages and calls upon
the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to take part in the steps
leading to the normalization of life,
rejecting violence and terrorism, contributing to peace and stability and
participating actively in shaping
reconstruction, economic development and cooperation”. (Arafat to the then
Foreign Minister of Norway, Johan
Jorgen Hoist, September 9, 1993 – in a letter which preceded and enabled the
This letter to Hoist, and many other formal commitments made since, -were in
fact kept at times’, but in a haphazard
fashion, and only when it was expedient to do so. All of this contradicts key
commitments asked for – and obtained –
from the Palestinian negotiating partner over the years:
Combating Terror and Violence
Implementation Of The Sharm E-Sheikh Understandings (17-29 October) 29
Public statements unequivocally calling for an end of violence Israeli side:
Unequivocal Palestinian side: Vague
Opening of international passages Israeli side: Completed
Opening of the Gaza Airport Israeli side: Open and operational
Opening of internal closure Israeli side: Completed
Ensure an end to violence and maintain the calm
Palestinian side: Continuation of live-fire from automatic weapons and use of
explosive devices (~24 incidents per
Renewal of security cooperation
Israel initialed 3 meetings which were convened at the RSC level
Renewal of cooperation towards the prevention of terrorism
Palestinian refusal to participate in Israeli initiated meetings; very low level ad
Eliminating points of friction
Palestinian side: No reduction
Reimprisonment of released terrorists and security fugitives
Palestinian side: Hardly any activity – 30 from over 100; almost all of the 30
were arrested before the Summit; 5
have since been released after their arrest
End of incitement
Palestinian side: Continuation of incitement on official Palestinian broadcasts