A Palestinian Critique of Rabin's Peace Plan

THE plan revealed to Israeli journalists recently by Israel's defense minister, Yitzhak Rabin, has been roundly rejected by Palestinians in the occupied territories, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership, and leaders of the Arab countries that surround Israel, including Egypt and Jordan. For Palestinians, the past few years have witnessed a change in attitude from simply rejecting various proposals to taking a more positive stand on political developments. The 14-month-old Palestinian uprising can be seen in this spirit. Instead of reacting to peace proposals by others, Palestinians decided to take their fate in their own hands. Similarly, the decisions of the Algiers session of the Palestine National Council, Yasser Arafat's speech at the United Nations, and his statements in Stockholm and Geneva can be seen in this context.

But this approach doesn't mean that Palestinians are obliged to accept any political crumbs simply because they are taking a more positive approach to political initiatives. For Palestinians and Arabs, the Rabin plan doesn't fulfill the minimum. As seen by Palestinians, it has five major problems:

1.No reciprocation from the Israeli side. Mr. Rabin's plan calls on Palestinians to stop the Palestinian uprising for a period of three to six months, without offering any moves on Israel's part. The underground leadership of the uprising has repeatedly called on Israel to release political prisoners, stop deportation orders, withdraw the Army from the populated areas, open schools and universities, and cancel all the new taxes. Since Rabin's orders call for the shooting of people while running away, and destroying homes of Palestinian stone-throwers, it is impossible to ask Palestinians to stop while the Army is asked to be more repressive.

It is like an employer asking striking workers to return to work and then he will look into working conditions. Workers know that their conditions will be forgotten the moment they return to work. Except we are not talking about workers' rights here but national rights of 5 million people.

Rabin can't expect Palestinians to view elections as a gift. Municipal elections have been due for eight years. Israel violated international law by not allowing them back in 1980. And given current levels of distrust, elections would require international supervision.

2.Continued rejection of Palestinian nationalism. The essence of Rabin's plan circumvents Palestinian nationalism. The refusal to talk to the PLO, the rejection of the creation of a Palestinian entity, and the insistence on having the occupied territories be incorporated with Jordan or Israel are all manifestations of this. Elections, as proposed by Rabin, are aimed at creating representatives of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and not representatives of the Palestinian people. By federating with Jordan or Israel, Rabin's plan aims at liquidating everything uniquely Palestinian.

3.Ignoring the rights of Palestinian refugees. By speaking with the ``representatives of the West Bank and Gaza,'' Rabin tries to avoid dealing with the thorny question of the rights of Palestinian refugees. Many UN resolutions clearly demand that their situation be resolved equitably.

4.The quest for a separate peace. Palestinians and other Arabs have a problem with the Camp David accords because of the separate nature of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Palestinians not only want all facets of their problem to be dealt with, but also insist that the Palestinian-Israeli dispute be solved within Arab-Israeli negotiations rather than through separate Palestinian-Israeli or Syrian-Israeli or Jordanian-Israeli talks.

5.Avoiding an international framework. Palestinians in particular and Arabs in general feel strongly that the international community has played a major role in the creation, establishment, and prosperity of the state of Israel. The establishment of Israel came at the expense of the Palestinian people and a Palestinian state. This is why Arabs are calling for an international framework for peace negotiations, so that the international community can fulfill the second half of its partition plan and award Palestinians the state that was granted them by the UN in 1947.

If Rabin or any other Israeli leader genuinely wants an end to the violence, he can start by removing the reasons for the uprising. Namely, the occupation. Remove the Army from populated areas, release detainees, apply the Geneva Conventions, which forbid deportations or the imposition of new taxes. Then sign cease-fire agreement with the PLO, thus ending violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

If the Israeli government is serious about a solution to the conflict, it has to deal with the representative of the Palestinian people. The past 14 months should have taught Rabin this simple lesson. But to continue to ignore Palestinian nationalism and attempt to bribe Palestinians with political crumbs will not work, and will only prolong the tragedy.

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