Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Beleaguered Clinton Knuckles under to Netanyahu Position on Amendment of Palestine National Charter

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Beleaguered Clinton Knuckles under to Netanyahu Position on Amendment of Palestine National Charter

Article excerpt

BELEAGUERED CLINTON KNUCKLES UNDER TO NETANYAHU POSITION ON AMENDMENT OF PALESTINE NATIONAL CHARTER

Nothing demonstrates the erosion of U.S. strength and involvement in the peace process more than the Department of State backing away from certifying that the Palestine National Charter has been amended in accordance with the Oslo agreements.

No longer does the Department of State agree with the Palestinian Authority that in May 1996 the Palestine National Council had indeed excised all possible points in the 30-year-old Charter that might be interpreted to mean that the Palestinians claim Israel should not exist.

The Charter was amended a few months after the 1996 Palestinian elections, but the PNC also called for a committee to further revise the Charter and make it, in effect, the constitution for the Palestinian National Authority.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's new government did not accept the revision as valid and continued to use the issue as an excuse for not carrying out Israel's obligations under the Oslo accords despite the fact that the preceding Israeli government had expressed its satisfaction and the U.S. State Department had testified in Capitol Hill heatings that the Charter had been modified essentially to its satisfaction. Congressional supporters of Israel continued to point up the difference between the new Israeli position and that of the Department of State. but the State Department stood its ground, at least initially.

By January of this year, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was so tired of hearing Prime Minister Netanyahu continue to harp on the need for writing a new Palestinian Charter (even though Israel has never offered even a draft constitution of its own) that he sent a letter to President Bill Clinton detailing exactly the parts of the Charter that had been eliminated. …

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