Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Will The New Israeli Government Adopt New Policies Toward The PLO?

by David Bedein

Questions remain.

Last month’s Israeli elections witnessed a solid defeat of the Israeli left wing.

As recently as the 1992 elections, the left-leaning Labor and Meretz parties controlled 56 seats of the Israeli Knesset’s 120 seats; however, in the 2009 elections both parties together garnered only 19 seats.

The 1992 election of Labor and Meretz to the helm of the Israeli government ushered in the Oslo PLO negotiation process of 1993. This caused the the Israeli government to launch a new information policy toward the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which promoted the PLO as a potential partner for peace.

From the outset of the Oslo process, the Israeli government deleted virtually all prior documentation from its information services that had always previously defined the defined the PLO as a terrorist entity.

It remains to be seen if the new Israeli government will reverse the policies toward the PLO that Israeli governments have adopted over the past 16 years.

The new Israeli government must now wrestle with at least eight major policy areas.

Late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and his protégé, Mahmoud Abbas, agreed to the Declaration Of Principles in Oslo, in what became known as the Oslo Accords. They signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993, together with late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and then-Israeli Foreign Minister, now President, Shimon Peres.

The accord committed the PLO to abandon violence and to cancel the PLO Covenant that calls for Israel’s destruction, in exchange for Israeli recognition.

The Israeli Knesset adopted the Oslo accord within a week of its signing. However, the PLO Executive Committee met on Oct. 6, 1993 to consider ratification of the Oslo accord, but it failed to ratify the agreement.

The head of the Israel Government Press Office at the time noted that Arafat and Mr. Abbas had signed the Oslo accord with the hope that the PLO would eventually ratify the Oslo accord.

However, successive Israeli governments have not asked the PLO to ratify the Oslo accord and have instead acted as if the PLO had already ratified the Oslo accord with Israel and as if the PLO canceled its covenant calling for Israel’s destruction.

This remains to be seen.

The PLO introduced new Palestinian Authority textbooks that were supposed to promote peace and reconciliation and integrated these school books into the curriculum in all PA schools - under Fatah, Hamas, UNRWA and even in Arab schools in Jerusalem.

However, this curriculum inculcates the next generation of Palestinians to make war on the Jewish state. While special subcommittees of the Israeli government have discussed the PA curriculum, the Israeli government has never made it a policy to even ask the PA abandon its was curriculum.

The Israeli government has gone so far as to ask that Israel advocacy organizations not discuss the new curriculum. The Israeli government has also asked research institutions to refrain from critiquing the anti-Semitism in the PA school curriculum. The Israeli government has also discouraged news investigations of the anti-Semitism in the PA school curriculum.

Arafat was elected in January 1996, and Mr. Abbas was elected in January 2005 on the same clear platform which advocates the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to take back the villages that they or their ancestors left in 1948. This means uprooting most of the Israeli population now living on the sites of the former Arab villages.

The Israeli government has never demanded that the PLO and the PA stop advocating the “right of return.”

In May 1994, the Israeli government provided Israeli-owned TV and radio frequencies for the Palestinian Authority to establish TV and radio networks with the idea that these networks would promote peace and reconciliation between the two peoples.

However, for the past 15 years, the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), has used these Israeli-government-owned TV and radio frequencies with a daily drum roll of incitement to overthrow what it calls “the Zionist entity” (Israel). At no time has the government of Israel ever annulled its agreement to allow the PBC to use Israeli government frequencies that have been used to encourage hostilities against the people and the State of Israel.

The PLO has never disbanded the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorist organization, which continues to operate under the aegis of the PLO, despite the fact that this group continues to be designated by both the U.S. and Israel as a terrorist organization. Again, it remains to be seen what line the new Netanyahu government will take in this regard.

The draft of the proposed constitution of the Palestinian state, prepared by Nabil Sha’ath, creates a Palestinian State based on a strict Shariah Law that recognizes Islam as the only religion with juridical status. In that context, the PA has instituted policies that make it very difficult for Palestinian Christians to practice their religion.

With the demise of Arafat, Israeli intelligence played down public reports that documented hostilities and incitement promulgated by Mr. Abbas and the PA. The Israeli government also played down the March 2007 Mecca agreement between the Fatah and the Hamas, which instituted obligatory revenue sharing between the Fatah and the Hamas. Consequently, funds accrued by the Palestinian Authority are automatically be divided between both factions.

This agreement contradicts Israeli-government-signed tax revenue rebate agreements with the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah, that held an understanding that no tax revenue rebates would reach terrorist organizations such as Hamas or the al-Aqsa Brigades.

David Bedein can be reached at bedein@thebulletin.us

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