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November 18, 1988 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-11-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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PLO Peace Offensive

Continued from Page 1

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16

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1988

failure to define the par-
ticular patch of territory on
which his new state would
stand — a definition that
would also have defined the
limits of the PLO's accep-
tance of Israel.
Like so much else in the
world of Palestinian politics,
the move was essentially illu-
sory: The independent state
of Palestine state does not ex-
ist — except in the minds of
those who support it -- and
all the declarations in the
world will not cause it to
materialize.
If Arafat had indeed been
serious about his intentions,
his remarks would have been
directed at winning a mea-
sure of support among main-
tream Israelis, the real
masters of the territory he
claims — and his real
negotiating partners.
In fact, however, his decla-
ration is unlikely to change
the terms of the debate
among Israelis, who are no
closer to talking to the PLO
or permitting the emergence
of an independent Palestinian
state in their midst.
"If Arafat had clearly
stated that he wanted a Pal-
estinian state in the West
Bank and Gaza, and accom-
panied it with an unambigu-
ous statement of Israel's right
to exist, he might have made
an impact on Israelis," accord-
ing to Dr. Asher Susser, a
specialist on Palestinian af-
fairs at Tel Aviv University's
Center for Strategic Studies.
"There has been a change,"
he said, "but it is not a
breakthrough. Most Israelis
remain unconvinced about
the long-term intentions of
the PLO."
While the Algiers declara-
tion holds out the promise of
enhancing the PLO's diplo-
matic position in some inter-
national capitals, its imme-
diate practical effects are
limited. Nevertheless, it could
have potentially important
implications for Israel:
First, it could heighten the
expectations of Palestinians
in the territories, strengthen-
ing their resolve to continue
their sacrifices, while simul-
taneously radicalizing Israeli
Arab villages, where Palesti-
nian flags and grafitti are in-
creasingly evident.
Second, it could serve as a
focus for international opin-
ion, which has swung sharply
behind the Palestinian cause
over the past year (as many as
65 governments are expected
to offer formal recognition to
the new, albeit non-existent,
state).
It could also provide the
new Bush administration
with a stick to beat Israel.
According to one senior

observer, while the Algiers
declaration represents a move
toward recognition of Israel, it
is unlikely to be accepted by
the United States: "It is not
in a form that can lead to im-
mediate negotiations," he
said, "but it is obviously in-
tended to prepare the climate
of public opinion, both in the
United States and Israel, for
eventual negotiations."
For all that, however, the
new administration is still a
largely unknown quantity
and it might not feel bound by
the old constraints that
governed U.S. relations with
the PLO in the past.
According to the observer,
President Bush will be under

Yassir Arafat: A state of the mind

pressure to score a quick
foreign policy success and, at
the same time, to take a more
activist role in Middle East
diplomacy.
The new White House in-
cumbent, he said, could well
decide it is necessary to re-
spond to these pressures —
and to use the Middle East as
a testing ground for super-
power cooperation.
According to analysts in
Israel, Arafat does indeed
believe that there is a very
real prospect of an interna-
tional peace conference. To
that extent, they say, the
elaborate exercise in Algiers
was designed to shift the
focus away from Israel's need
for security and fix it firmly
on the question of Palestinian
national rights and. self-
determination.
"It is a very important shift
in emphasis," says Palesti-
nian expert Susser, "and I
believe it is the essence of
what Arafat is trying to do.
"If he succeeds in winning
recognition from Washington,
it will mark a historical
change in the peace process
and set it on a totally dif-
ferent course."
Even so, the creation of a
Palestinian state is far from

IJ

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