Yasir Arafat: The Palestinian Vision of Peace

Palestinians are ready to end the conflict. We are
ready to sit down now with any Israeli leader,
regardless of his history, to negotiate freedom
for the Palestinians, a complete end of the
occupation, security for Israel and creative
solutions to the plight of the refugees while
respecting Israel’s demographic concerns…
The Palestinian people have been denied their
freedom for far too long and are the only people
in the world still living under foreign occupation.

2002.02.03

RAMALLAH – For the past 16 months, Israelis and
Palestinians have been locked in a catastrophic
cycle of violence, a cycle which only promises
more bloodshed and fear. The cycle has led many to
conclude that peace is impossible, a myth borne
out of ignorance of the Palestinian position. Now
is the time for the Palestinians to state clearly,
and for the world to hear clearly, the Palestinian
vision.


But first, let me be very clear. I condemn the
attacks carried out by terrorist groups against
Israeli civilians. These groups do not represent
the Palestinian people or their legitimate
aspirations for freedom. They are terrorist
organizations, and I am determined to put an end
to their activities.


The Palestinian vision of peace is an independent
and viable Palestinian state on the territories
occupied by Israel in 1967, living as an equal
neighbor alongside Israel with peace and security
for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. In
1988, the Palestine National Council adopted a
historic resolution calling for the implementation
of applicable United Nations resolutions,
particularly, Resolutions 242 and 338.


The Palestinians recognized Israel’s right to exist
on 78 percent of historical Palestine with the
understanding that we would be allowed to live in
freedom on the remaining 22 percent, which has
been under Israeli occupation since 1967.


Our commitment to that two-state solution remains
unchanged, but unfortunately, also remains
unreciprocated.


We seek true independence and full sovereignty:
the right to control our own airspace, water
resources and borders; to develop our own economy,
to have normal commercial relations with our
neighbors, and to travel freely.


In short, we seek only what the free world now
enjoys and only what Israel insists on for itself:
the right to control our own destiny and to take
our place among free nations.


In addition, we seek a fair and just solution to
the plight of Palestinian refugees who for 54
years have not been permitted to return to their
homes.


Left unresolved, the refugee issue has the
potential to undermine any permanent peace
agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. How
is a Palestinian refugee to understand that his
or her right of return will not be honored but
those of Kosovar Albanians, Afghans and East
Timorese have been?


There are those who claim that I am not a partner
in peace. In response, I say Israel’s peace
partner is, and always has been, the Palestinian
people. Peace is not a signed agreement between
individuals – it is reconciliation between
peoples.


Two peoples cannot reconcile when one demands
control over the other, when one refuses to treat
the other as a partner in peace, when one uses the
logic of power rather than the power of logic. Israel
has yet to understand that it cannot have peace
while denying justice.


As long as the occupation of Palestinian lands
continues, as long as Palestinians are denied freedom, then the path to the "peace of the brave" that I embarked upon with my late partner Yitzhak Rabin, will be littered with obstacles.


The Palestinian people have been denied their
freedom for far too long and are the only people
in the world still living under foreign occupation. How is it possible that the entire world can tolerate this oppression, discrimination and humiliation?


The 1993 Oslo Accord, signed on the White House lawn, promised the Palestinians freedom by May 1999.


Instead, since 1993, the Palestinian people have
endured a doubling of Israeli settlers, expansion
of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land
and increased restrictions on freedom of movement.


But no degree of oppression and no level of
desperation can ever justify the killing of
innocent civilians. I condemn terrorism.


But condemnations do not stop terrorism. To stop
terrorism, we must understand that terrorism is
simply the symptom, not the disease.


The personal attacks on me currently in vogue may
be highly effective in giving Israelis an excuse
to ignore their own role in creating the current
situation. But these attacks do little to move the
peace process forward and, in fact, are not
designed to.


The Palestinians have a vision of peace: it is a
peace based on the complete end of the occupation
and a return to Israel’s 1967 borders, the sharing
of all Jerusalem as one open city and as the
capital of two states, Palestine and Israel.


Palestinians are ready to end the conflict. We are
ready to sit down now with any Israeli leader,
regardless of his history, to negotiate freedom
for the Palestinians, a complete end of the
occupation, security for Israel and creative
solutions to the plight of the refugees while
respecting Israel’s demographic concerns.


But we will only sit down as equals, not as
supplicants; as partners, not as subjects; as
seekers of a just and peaceful solution, not as a
defeated nation grateful for whatever scraps are
thrown our way.


For despite Israel’s overwhelming military
advantage, we possess something even greater: the
power of justice.


[ Yasir Arafat was elected president of the
Palestinian Authority in 1996 and is also chairman
of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

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Author: Yasir Arafat

News Service: New York Times

URL: http://www.jordantimes.com/Mon/features/features1.htm