Yasser Abed Rabo, member of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and signatory to the controversial Geneva Accord, spoke to newsmen at the Dubai Press Club on Tuesday evening, where he defended the accord as a major step forward and an excellent model for any future peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians.
He brushed aside as uninformed the opinions expressed by several Palestinian factions and political opposition groups who warned that the accord threatens the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homeland.
“UN Resolution 194 is recognised by the accord as the basis of any future solution to the refugee issue, which guarantees the right of refugees to return to a Palestinian state or to receive compensation,” he said.
“There are five choices for refugees to consider, all of which were accepted by us five years ago.”
Refugees can return to Israel within certain terms set by Israel, (among these) Israel will accept a percentage of refugees from among those who apply for immigration to third party countries.
“The accord is the first document that is recognised by both parties concerned which accepts resolution 194 as the basis of a solution to the refugee issue,” Mr Abed Rabo said.
He said the reaction of Arab governments has never been so muted as it is today faced as they are with the criminal acts of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, who continues to attack Palestinian towns and villages, and who is putting up a barrier that will unilaterally determine the shape and size of any future Palestinian state, creating a fait accompli.
“Instead of a strong, independent and sovereign state, Sharon aims to create walled, prison-like ghettoes for Palestinians to live in, which would be administered by the Palestinian Authority... I am for the PA to dissolve itself if such a solution is imposed on it,” Mr Abed Rabo said.
He said there is a lack of awareness of the real danger that the barrier posses, whether in the Arab region or internationally, adding that if Sharon’s objectives are achieved, the situation could prove to be as life altering and as tragic for the Palestinian people and the region as the Nakba of 1948 was.
Mr Abed Rabo said the US position on the barrier turned from one of condemnation to one of muted opposition and now has turned to one of approval and acceptance.
He said the aim of the barrier is to keep Palestinians living in the West Bank, Occupied Jerusalem and Gaza isolated socially and economically thus ruining the Palestinian economy and forcing many to leave in search of better prospects.
“We will not accept living under an apartheid system. Israel is creating a new ground reality (the barrier) with the aim of making it a permanent solution to the conflict. Sharon is giving Palestinians two choices, either accept the barrier and get more walled-in ghettoes, or refuse to accept the imposed solution and get less land.”
“Negotiations, as far as Israel is concerned, would not be over the final solution but over the size of the prison Sharon is building for us,” he said.
He said that Sharon inherited from the Barak administration a lie promoted as truth by the Israeli Government, that in Camp David and Taba the Palestinians were offered very generous terms, as much as 97 per cent of the occupied territories, and they refused.
Mr Abed Rabo said the fierce attacks on the Geneva Accord by the Israeli right wing, proves that it is the Palestinians who are serious about arriving at an equitable solution while Israel is not.
“In reality, in Camp David and Taba, Israel offered to withdraw from no more than 86 per cent of the occupied territories and insisted on leasing an additional 15 per cent of the territories from the PA, asking for more than 25 per cent of the occupied territories, this was their so-called generous offer,” Mr Abed Rabo said.
He said that by offering the Geneva Accord as a model for any future peace agreement, Palestinians show that there is an alternative to Sharon’s barrier and apartheid system, an alternative exemplified by an equitable solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. The only obstacle now is the absence of official Israeli participation.
“We see the accord as a tool for political resistance against Sharon’s apartheid alternative. The earlier Israeli consensus over Sharon’s policy is beginning to cave in and crumble. Left wing elements in Israel are now willing to enter into negotiations.”
“Instead of being fragmented, these Left wing elements are gaining in strength and going on the offensive, spreading the word that Sharon’s policy threatens Israel’s very existence,” Mr Abed Rabo said.
He said that this accord is not for immediate adoption and he has no illusions that it will result in a final agreement any time soon, but it is meant to create an atmosphere that will curtail attacks and the threat of armed conflict, in order to change Israeli public opinion to that which is opposed to Sharon’s policies.
Mr Abed Rabo praised Collin Powell’s position on the Geneva Accord, which he said was positive, but warned that that attitude is not mirrored by other members of the Bush Administration.
He said that the ‘roadmap’ only stipulates that a Palestinian state be set up by 2005 but does not go into specifics; the accord, on the other hand, covers the specifics and is complimentary to Bush’s ‘roadmap’ to peace.
He said some Palestinian factions may feel comfortable leaving certain issues hanging, offering no practical solutions only empty slogans, but the Geneva Accord brings these issues to the forefront and offers hope for their resolution.
“For some Palestinian factions the barrier is not their real enemy, since their objectives are different. The accord is what they oppose because they fear that with a real solution to the problem they will no longer have a role to play,” Mr Abed Rabo said.
An independent Palestinian state upto the 1967 boundaries with Jerusalem as its capital.
Arranges the exchange of land at a ratio of 1:1, between Israel and a future Palestinian state (in exchange for extra Palestinian cities built on the fringes of the occupied territories, Israeli early warning stations will be built within a future Palestinian state), provided the exchange does not exceed 2.3 per cent of the total area of either state.
The future Palestinian state will have complete sovereignty over its lands and borders and any exceptional infringement of this sovereignty by Israel is to be limited to a three-year period; such as the posting of Israeli border guards along the Palestinian border for a limited period until settlers relocate.
On Jerusalem: The Al Aqsa and Haram El Sharif are to be under Palestinian sovereignty, as are other Muslim and Christian Holy sites and the Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, excluding the Jewish neighbourhoods, which are to remain under Israeli sovereignty.
The accord proposes an international peace keeping force to be posted in Jerusalem and to be drawn from the armed forces of the Muslim nations to make sure all parties stick to the agreement and to safeguard Muslim Holy sites.
The accord stipulates that UN Resolution 194 should be the basis of any solution to the refugee issue, refugees are to be given a choice between returning to a future Palestinian state, being paid compensation instead, immigrating to third party countries and out of those a fraction to be considered for immigration to Israel, or getting the nationality of the country they are living in.
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