The actions and rhetoric of PLO leaders demonstrate without a shred of doubt that they have not fulfilled any of the promises made by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat when he signed the Oslo Accord in 1993. PLO leaders still do not recognize Israel's right to exist, and they continue to engage in terrorism, glorify terrorists and pay regular financial tributes to their families. Pictured: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left), U.S. President Bill Clinton (center) and Arafat at the signing of the Oslo Accord at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 13, 1993. (Vince Musi/The White House/Wikimedia Commons)
Palestinian officials are again threatening to revoke their recognition of Israel's right to exist -- this time if the Israeli government extends Israeli sovereignty to any part of the West Bank. These officials, in short, are saying that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), an organization founded in 1964 with the purpose of the "liberation of Palestine" through armed struggle, will no longer honor the letter former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat sent to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on September 9, 1993. In that letter, Arafat wrote:
"The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security... accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338... commits itself... to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides... the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence... the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist... are now inoperative and no longer valid."
Has the PLO ever abided by Arafat's letter in the first place?
The actions and rhetoric of PLO leaders demonstrate without a shred of doubt that they have not fulfilled any of the promises Arafat made. PLO leaders still do not recognize Israel's right to exist, and they continue to engage in terrorism, glorify terrorists and pay regular financial tributes to their families.
Moreover, the PLO's claim that it had cancelled articles of the Palestinian Covenant that call for Israel's destruction was also proven to be a sham.
The continued existence of the PLO to this day is an indication that the Palestinian leadership has not given up its desire to eliminate Israel.
The Oslo Accords led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an interim self-government body designated to have exclusive control over security-related and civilian affairs of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The PA has a president, Mahmoud Abbas, and a government that continues to manage the affairs of the Palestinians.
While the PA cabinet has authority over the civilian and security affairs of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the PLO is responsible for Palestinians worldwide and has an "executive committee," which serves as a second Palestinian cabinet. This committee's functions include: representing the Palestinian people, supervising the various PLO institutions, executing the policies and decisions of the PLO leadership, and handling the PLO's financial issues.
In addition, the PA and PLO each has its own parliament.
Why do the Palestinians need two separate governing bodies, particularly at a time when they continue to complain about economic hardship and a decline in financial aid from donor countries?
More significantly, why do the Palestinians still need an organization called the Palestine Liberation Organization whose declared goal is the "liberation of Palestine" through armed struggle? The presence of the PLO bluntly contradicts Arafat's letter in which he claims that the PLO "recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security" and "renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence."
It is worth pointing out that the emblem of the PLO features a map of "Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River" that totally covers present-day Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Despite Arafat's claim that the organization "recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security," the PLO continues to use this message.
PLO leaders who are now threatening to revoke recognition of Israel need look no further than at their own emblem to see that their organization is continuing to deceive the world. If the PLO was sincere about honoring Arafat's pledge, it could at least have replaced a map that denies Israel's existence. If the PLO was sincere about implementing Arafat's letter, it could have should have dismantled itself back in 1993, immediately after its former leader claimed that the organization recognized the right of the State of Israel "to exist in peace and security."
If the PLO did recognize Israel's right to exist, why does its largest faction, Fatah, continue to refer to areas inside Israel as "occupied" territory? Just last week, Fatah posted on its Facebook page a photo of Muslims praying in the "occupied city of Jaffa" near Tel Aviv. If a city inside Israel is "occupied," this implies that the PLO and Fatah do not believe in Israel's right to exist: they openly say and show that they consider all of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as "occupied" territories that need to be "liberated." This wording lays bare the straightforward lies of the PLO and Arafat about their ostensible support for the two-state solution. At least they should get credit for being honest about what they want.
Recognizing Israel, however, is not the only promise the PLO has failed to fulfill after the signing of the Oslo Accords. Arafat's claim that the organization would renounce terrorism and other acts of violence is yet another example of how PLO leaders continue to engage in deception.
Several PLO groups, including Abbas's ruling Fatah faction, have carried out scores of terrorist attacks against Israel since Arafat wrote his letter to Rabin. Many of these attacks were carried out during what is called the Second Intifada (2000-2005).
Last week, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the PA must pay $150 million to Israeli families who were the victims of Palestinian terrorism. The case was filed by the Israel Law Center ("Shurat HaDin"), an Israeli organization representing 17 complaints covering 34 fatalities and seven injuries all of which date back to that time. Last year, the court ruled that the PA was responsible for terrorist attacks committed during that period.
The head of the Israel Law Center, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, said the ruling proved that the Second Intifada "was not a popular uprising, but a planned and deliberate war against the civilian population of Israel." She added: "What Arafat did not achieve through the Oslo Accords, he tried to achieve through suicide bombings and shootings. The Palestinian cause was genocide against Jews in Israel."
Despite warnings by Israel, the PA and its leaders have pledged to continue paying regular financial tributes and allowances to the families of Palestinian terrorists. "The salaries of our martyrs, prisoners, and wounded are a red line," Abbas said in an interview with Palestine TV in October 2018.
"They [Israelis] try by all means, and exert pressure by all means, and they continue to exert. The martyrs and their families are sacred, and so are the wounded and the prisoners. We must pay all of them. If one penny remains in our hands it is for them and not for the living."
So much for Arafat's pledge to renounce terrorism and all acts of violence against Israel.
Finally, the false claim that the PLO had removed from its charter the clauses that describe the establishment of Israel as "entirely illegal" and that strongly urge the "liberation of Palestine" is contradicted by none other than PLO leaders themselves.
Shortly after the claim was made in 1998, a number of PLO officials were quick to clarify that the covenant had not been altered.
Ziad Abu Zayyad, a senior PLO official, explained: "Israel must not demand that the PLO alter its covenant, just as the PLO does not demand that the Jewish nation cancel the Bible." (Speech to the American Jewish Federation, October 23, 1993).
Tayseer Qaba, deputy chairman of the PLO's National Council, said: "We have no intention of changing or nullifying the Covenant; rather, we will adhere to it until our last breath since it embodies the essence of our demands." (A-Nahar, September 19, 1995).
Secretary-General of the PLO's Arab Liberation Front Abu Abbas also denied that the covenant had been changed:
"The [Palestinian] National Council did not vote to annul the Covenant, but rather announced its readiness to change the Covenant under certain terms. If the terms are met, it will be amended. Otherwise, the Covenant will remain as is. The Covenant has yet to be changed, and this is better understood by the [Israeli] enemy than by our own people." (Al-Bilad, June 11, 1998).
If and when the PLO announces its decision to revoke its recognition of Israel, the leaders of the organization need to be exposed for their program of unremitting lies over the past three decades. Since 1993, the PLO leadership has done everything in its power to prove that Arafat's letter to Rabin was not worth the paper it was written on.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.