Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Madrid Glow Fades for Palestinians People in the Territories and Elsewhere Are Asking Their Delegates Tough Questions on Goals

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Madrid Glow Fades for Palestinians People in the Territories and Elsewhere Are Asking Their Delegates Tough Questions on Goals

Article excerpt

THE question was asked in a rural Palestinian dialect, not the political and diplomatic terminology of press conferences and negotiations. But merely its asking drew sympathetic applause from 4,000 people packed into Amman's Palace of Culture last weekend for a panel discussion with members of the Palestinian delegation to Madrid.

"Just tell us what are you exactly doing," demanded an elderly Palestinian woman dressed in a traditional, embroidered dress. "Are you negotiating over the Palestinian land of 1948 ... or just over the territories {occupied} in 1967? Are we refugees {of 1948} condemned to ... suffering?"

The woman echoed the concerns of more than 1 million Palestinians, displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948 and now scattered in a number of countries, who fear that their desire to return to their homes in what is now the state of Israel will be sacrificed in the peace process.

Two weeks after the conclusion of the first round of peace talks, the euphoria that gripped Palestinians over what people here call their "media and moral victory" in Madrid is being replaced by a somber concern about the price of peace. The delegation is not only facing tough questions from Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories, where the delegates were drawn from, but also from the Palestinian diaspora. Jordan's 1.7 million Palestinians, for instance, are an important constituency.

So even though the Palestinian woman is a familiar figure here - journalists call her "the Fatah lady" for her support of the mainstream element of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) - she didn't get a quick answer. An ambiguous answer

Delegates tried to explain, in diplomatic jargon that the woman appeared not to appreciate, that the Palestinians have to cope with reality by working within United Nations resolutions that call for a land-for-peace trade focusing on the occupied territories.

Then delegate and poet Sami Kilani, also speaking in the rural dialect, responded. "Dear Hajeh," he said, using the respectful term for an older woman, the Palestine of 1948 "is on top of the ladder. We are still on the bottom and trying to climb up."

It was an ambiguous answer. …

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