If Sec. Kerry wants to reignite the peace process, here is where he should start.
Recently, US Secretary of State Kerry passionately called for the renewal of talks with the PLO. Former President Bill Clinton, who hosted the PLO-Israel ceremonies on the White House lawn twenty years ago, is en route to Jerusalem for high profile lectures where he will call also call for for renewal of negotiations. And Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, who served as Israel’s foreign minister at the outset of negotiations with the PLO two decades ago, is about to convene thousands of dignitaries at a conference at the President’s mansion that will call for jump starting negotiations with the PLO.
Veteran observers of Middle East politics may ask: what is there to negotiate about?
Indeed, there is an item on the table that is hardly a minor detail: The Palestinian Liberation Organization did not ratify the Oslo Accords after Arafat and Abbas signed the agreement on the White House lawn.
On September 13, 1993, at the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Simon Peres signed the "Declaration of Principles" (the DOP) between Israel and the PLO together with Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas of the PLO. The agreement, which had been hammered out in Oslo, stipulated mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO. It required the PLO to cease and desist from terrorism, and for the PLO to nullify its covenant, which calls for Israel's destruction.
The Israeli Knesset ratified the accord by a vote of 61 to 50, with 9 abstentions, a week later. However, what received hardly any attention was the fact that on October 6, 1993, the PLO executive did not ratify the Oslo accord, for lack of a quorum.
Very few people know or remember that Pinchas Inbari, the only Israeli correspondent covering the PLO in Tunis at the time, writing for the Israeli left-wing Hebrew newspaper Al HaMishmar, broke the story that Arafat announced in Tunis that he could not get a quorum of the executive council of the PLO to ratify the Declaration of Principles of the Oslo Accords. Al HaMishmar then ran a headline on October 7, 1993 that reported that the PLO did not ratify the peace accord that Arafat and Abbas had signed together with Peres and Rabin only a few weeks before, with US and Russia as co-signers.
Carrying Al HaMishmar in my hand, I walked into the office of the Israel Government Press Office director at the time, Mr. Ori Dromi, and showed him the headline of PLO non-ratification of the Oslo Accords. Dromi, an appointee of Prime Minister Rabin, made it clear that from the point of view of the Israeli government, this meant that Arafat signed the accord on his own, without the sanction of the PLO.
The rest of the Israeli media, however, did not report that the PLO never ratified the accord, but the Israeli government acted as if the PLO had done so.
Inbari was scheduled to appear on the popular morning KOL YISRAEL radio show when he got back from Tunis.
However, the Prime Minister's office asked Kol Yisrael to cancel that appearance.
Instead, the Israeli government dispatched then deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Yossi Beilin, to fly to Tunis to thank Arafat for facilitating the ratification of the Oslo Accords, which the PLO never did.
Why is this important? According to the Israeli law, since the PLO did not ratify the Oslo Accords, which renounce terrorism, the PLO and Fatah were not stricken from Israeli law books as “a terrorist entity,” a status that the PLO received on March 1, 1980. And if you check the law books today, you will find that the PLO is still defined in Israeli law as a terror entity, because the PLO never ratified the Oslo Accords.
The same goes for American law. In March 2002, the US government designated the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah as a terror organization. That terror designation was never changed. Under US law, any government that aids and abets an organization defined as a terror organization will forfeit US foreign aid assistance. This should include the de facto Palestinian government, the Palestinian Authority.
The other concrete commitment made by the PLO on the White House lawn was that it would officially cancel the PLO Covenant, which calls for Israel's destruction.
On two occasions, the Palestinian National Council gathered to discuss the PLO Covenant - on April 24, 1996 and on December 14, 1998. On neither occasion did the PNC cancel the PLO Covenant.
In other words, there is a real reason to renew negotiations with the PLO:
The first items on the agenda would be to ask that the PLO to finally ratify the Declaration of Principles of non-violence and mutual recognition, which constituted the essence of the Oslo Accords. The other request would be to cancel the PLO Covenant, which calls for Israel's destruction.
Reasonable requests, no?
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