Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

As Palestinians Present Their Plan, Baker Speaks Frankly about Israel

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

As Palestinians Present Their Plan, Baker Speaks Frankly about Israel

Article excerpt

As Palestinians Present Their Plan, Baker Speaks Frankly About Israel

The Palestinians laid a full-scale plan for an autonomous and interim self-government on the table at the mid-January bilateral peace talks, just before they left Washington. The only written Israeli response was a draft agenda for the next meetings, tentatively scheduled for Washington on Feb. 24.

The refusal to allow the participation at the Moscow Middle East regional talks of an expanded Palestinian delegation that included representatives from outside the occupied territories is unlikely to affect the continuation of the bilaterals. But any U.S. agreement to offer substantial new loan guarantees without an Israeli agreement to freeze further building in the territories would end in freezing further talks, according to all sources on the West Bank. All signs indicate, however, that President Bush is determined to stick with the "Green Line" policy of not just describing further settlements as "obstacles to peace," but making sure that no U.S. government resources are used, directly or indirectly, to expand the present Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, should be given credit for putting the first interim accord on the table, although, to date, no U.S. newspaper has printed the text. A New York Times reporter dismissed the historic Palestinian proposal as a "maximalist" position, saying America's "newspaper of record" had no reason to publish it in the absence of an Israeli response. A Jerusalem Arab newspaper published the full text, but it has not been published inside Israel.

Dubbed "Outline of Model of the Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority (PISGA)," the plan seems designed to deal with the near paranoia of mainstream public opinion in Israel. It concedes a demilitarized West Bank, with U.N. peacekeepers. The plan asserts, of course, the Palestinian claim to all of the territory seized by Israel from across the "armistice Green Line" in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

"Total cessation of all settlement activities" is a pre-condition, based on "universally accepted democratic principles." The purpose of PISGA, the document goes on, is to "ensure the peaceful and orderly transfer of authority from Israel to PISGA and to create the proper conditions for sustainable negotiations on the final status of the occupied Palestinian territory."

The plan calls for the establishment of a legislature of 180, an Executive Council of 20 and a chairperson of that Council elected by the full Assembly. The Assembly would be elected by occupants of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, as well as persons "displaced since 1967 and deportees." This would limit the electorate to some 1.8 million inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza, plus another 120,000 to 150,000 who fled during or after 1967. Deportees would add another few hundred.

The plan seems designed to deal with the near paranoia of mainstream public opinion in Israel.

Omitted are more than two million members of the Palestinian diaspora living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and around the world, including the PLO leaders in Tunis!

Since some key PLO leaders were in Washington at the time the plan was handed over to Secretary of State James Baker, it is reasonable to assume that they approved of this formula. It is a concession to Israelis, who are in mortal fear that the Palestinians will eventually imitate Israel's worldwide drive to bring home all Jews: a Palestinian aliya might bring more than 4.5 million persons to the West Bank and Gaza. …

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