Abu Mazen's speech
at the meeting of the PLO's Palestinian Central Council,
9 September 2000
We went to Camp David carrying our well-known positions, positions that were adopted by several of our legislative bodies. The positions we adopted are, in our point of view, the minimum that we can accept. They are positions that are based on United Nations Resolutions 242, 338 and 194. They are based on agreements signed between the Israelis and us, they are based on Israeli documents concerning the 1948 nakba (catastrophe) and the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, and they are based on UN Security Council resolutions dealing with Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.
We stressed to the Americans that for a summit at such a level to succeed it must be prepared for and prepared for well. We cautioned that because of the lack of preparation the prospect of its failure is high. The Americans agreed that a summit that this level needed preparation and they agreed with us that time must be given for preparations. We agreed with Secretary Albright that would have two weeks to prepare. We were later surprised by a telephone call from President Clinton inviting us to a summit that was to be held within a week.
We were faced with two choices, to go knowing very well that the summit will fail and that the Americans may blame us for its failure, or to refuse to attend and be accused of sabotaging the peace process. So we took the first choice.
We went to Camp David not to say NO to the Americans and the world Zionists. We went to say YES to a lasting and just peace. To say YES to international legitimacy and when we failed to reach that, we said NO. Again, we did not go to Camp David to not reach an agreement or to reject points for the sake of rejection so that it would be said that we stood strong. We went to reach an agreement; we dealt with every issue with a strong desire to reach an agreement that would end this conflict that has lasted the entire century.
To assist us in this effort we brought to Camp David eight young, bright legal advisors and maps experts who, on request were ready to present documentation and advise which they had been preparing for such occasions. We feel very proud of these fine, energetic lawyers in who we have great trust and are very happy to have on our side.
Through the Americans the Israelis presented their vision on Jerusalem. They envisioned a Jerusalem where some villages around the city would come under Palestinian sovereignty. Neighborhoods outsides the walled the Old City would remain under Israeli sovereignty with the Palestinians having some type of sefl-rule. The quarters inside the Old City would be divided. The Jewish and Armenian Quarters will be sliced away from the Muslim and Christian Quarters, which will be ruled under a special system. In their attempt to sell this to the Palestinians, they threw in sovereign headquarters for the Palestinian President inside the Old City.
Israel refused to accept moral and legal responsibility for the plight of the refugees. Israel only showed willingness to allow several hundreds to return every year on humanitarian causes. As for compensation, Israel said any fund that will be established would also compensate Jews who left Arab countries.
On borders, Israel demanded control over the Palestinian borders with Jordan and Egypt. Israel also asked to control 15-20 percent of the Jordan River and a sector of the Jordan Valley. Israel also wants to annex 10.5 percent of the West Bank to absorb the settlements. But all West Bank settlements do not sit on more than 1.8 percent.
Israel says it needs 3-5 army bases for monitoring and intervention purposes. Israel also demands that the air space be completely under its control. It asked for a presence at all international entry points to monitor persons, products and weapons. As for the state of Palestine, it must be a demilitarized state.
If we were to summarize the positions of both, the Palestinians and Israel it would be as follows:
The Israelis want control over a part of the Jordan Valley for a maximum 12-year period. That would keep the current military bases and settlements there untouched. The Israelis asked for six bases in the West Bank and three military monitoring areas. Israel demanded it have a presence at the international crossings (to monitor those entering and leaving the area. Israel also demanded the entire air space and electro-magnetic space to be under its control. The Palestinians said they would accept an international force or a multi-national force on the borders. What we won't accept is an Israeli presence, in any form on Palestinian territory.
Israel wants to crave out 15-20 percent of the Jordan River and Dead Sea border and to annex 10.5 percent of West Bank Land. The Palestinians rejected any carving of borders. Light border amendments and an exchange of lands equal in quantity and quality that does not exceed 2 percent is acceptable.
The Israelis agree to contribute to an international fund to be established for the compensation of Palestinian refugees. However, Israel wants the fund to compensate Jews who came to the country from Arab states. Israel agrees to the return of hundreds of refugees under a family reunification plan or on humanitarian cases. The Palestinians want Israel to take moral and legal responsibility for the refugee crisis. UN Resolution 194 must be accepted so that all refuges are guaranteed the right of return, and by return we mean to Israel. Refugees who chose to return and those who do not must be compensated. The Absentee Treasurer created in Israel in 1949 to administer refugee money is responsible for the compensation. Host countries should also be compensated. An international fund could be established but that fund would only be responsible for part of the compensation. We refuse to mix the issue of Palestinian refugees with Jews immigrants.
Jerusalem, occupied in 1967, is the city within the walls that includes the Haram al-Sharif, the Holy Sepulcher, and the Muslim, Christian, and Armenian quarters. It is also the city outside the walls, with neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah. Musrara, Damascus Gate, Saleh Eldin Street and others.
The Israeli position divides Jerusalem into several sections and gave each section a different legal status.
1-The walled city:
The Haram al-Sharif: Israel to have sovereignty and the Palestinians will be given guardianship The Muslim, Christian, and Armenian Quarters: to remain under Israeli sovereignty A Palestinian presidential complex inside the Muslim Quarter that will be given sovereign power.
2- Outside the walled city: sovereignty remains with Israel with municipal functions over these neighborhoods to be carried out by the municipality of Abu Dis. With the exception of two villages, villages surrounding Jerusalem, most of which are area B, will come under Palestinian sovereignty. Israel will have a road that runs through the villages linking them to areas under their sovereignty. The Palestinians will only have one road linking them to the Haram.
The Palestinian position:
All of east Jerusalem should be returned to Palestinian sovereignty. The Jewish Quarter and Western Wall should be placed under Israeli authority not Israeli sovereignty. An open city and cooperation on municipal services
This is our summary of the results of the Camp David negotiations. But the Israelis had a different understanding that was revealed in subsequent local meetings. Israel wants 10.5 percent of the West Bank and rejects the idea of a land exchange. Israel wants 5 monitoring posts with three roads leading to them. Three Israeli administered early warning systems with a Palestinian liaison officer present at the stations. Israeli control over 8 percent of the Jordan Valley for a 12-15 year period. No right of return to Israel. Israel may accept the return of 10,000 Palestinians over a 15-year period under a family reunification plan. Air space to come under Palestinian sovereignty but will be controlled by Israel through guiding systems. An end to the conflict A demilitarized Palestinian state Jerusalem: The same position as in Camp David.
This is the Israeli position as told to us ten days ago. It shows that there are fundamental differences in the positions and that the gaps between the two sides remain very wide.
A declaration of an independent state is a right our people can execute at any time. In 1988, when we declared our state in exile, more than 100 countries recognized that declaration. But recognition of a state on the ground is different that that of a state in exile. And though many nations have said they are in favor of an independent state many hinted of the necessity to declare once prepared on the ground and or after an agreement between the sides is reached. And so we must now stop and think.
Committing to a date has its positive side, it shows that dates and promise are respected and kept, but such a commitment must be based on good preparations not emotional reactions.
We need to carefully study the Israeli response to the declaration. If Israel were to respond negatively, we need to study what measures she will take and how will we respond to these measures.