As the efforts to bridge the gaps between Palestinians and Israelis over a framework agreement approach a critical juncture, we Palestinians want to say that we greatly appreciate the efforts extended by Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. administration.
The United States has not yet submitted anything in writing, so it would be premature to jump to conclusions. But as we have repeatedly said, no one stands to gain more from the success of these efforts than the Palestinians who have been suffering under Israeli military occupation for the last 47 years.
It’s important for people to know how far the Palestinians have come to put an end to the conflict with Israel. In 1988, the Palestine National Council took the historic step of recognizing U.N. resolutions 242 and 338, presenting our historic compromise to resolve the conflict by explicitly accepting the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — 22 percent of what used to be the historic land of Palestine.
In 1993, and upon the signing of the Oslo Accords, the PLO and Israel exchanged mutual letters of recognition. We remain committed to the strategic objective of having an independent, sovereign, viable, and contiguous Palestinian state that can live side by side with Israel in peace and security.
The Palestinian leadership has shown serious and sincere willingness to deal with all the complex issues separating Palestinians from Israelis. .
• Borders: Any future Palestinian state will be based on the 1967 borders with agreed minor and reciprocal (in quantity and quality) land swaps. This is not only a Palestinian position but rather a U.S. and an international position.
• Security: The Palestinians have indicated that they will accept a state with limited military capabilities that will ensure security for Palestinians and control of its borders. We are also willing to accept the presence of third parties, such as NATO, to provide support and to guarantee security for Palestinians and Israelis. The idea of an open-ended Israeli military presence, other than during the phased Israeli withdrawal, is not acceptable.
• Jerusalem: Palestinians have been very creative in finding a solution to the issue of a shared and opened Jerusalem that will include East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The old city of Jerusalem will be under a joint Palestinian-Israeli supervision that will guarantee the religious rights of all followers of the three major faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
• Settlements: By definition of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, settlements are illegal. The United States and the entire world oppose illegal settlement activities. Any solution to the issue of settlements must take into account the above facts.
• Refugees: To Palestinians, the refugee problem is the core component of the Palestinian historical narrative regarding our conflict with Israel. The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which was supported by the Palestinians, and 57 Arab and Muslim countries, affirmed the need to arrive at “a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.” It is our responsibility to end their plight and provide them with a dignified future away from their life in exile.
• Water: Everybody agrees that water is an existential problem in a region with scarce resources. The current unjust distribution of water between Israelis and Palestinians, which stands at 70 liters per capita per day for Palestinians compared to 300 for the average Israeli, cannot be sustained. There must be an agreement on fair distribution of water shares according to existing international water conventions and treaties.
The Palestinian people aspire to a future of dignity and freedom and peaceful coexistence with all their neighbors. The continued Israeli military occupation breeds violence and turmoil in a region that is witnessing a major transformation for a long period to come. Any chance to influence this transformation by both Israelis and Palestinians will be hindered by the absence of peace between them.
A future Palestinian state plans to be a constructive and important regional player with the focus of safeguarding the whole region from all the winds of instability. We want to be partners with our neighbors and not a threat to any of them.
However, in order to do that, we have to defuse all the root causes that have created tension and confrontation in the first place. I am sure that the day will come when our region will be once again an oasis of tolerance, peace, prosperity, and cooperation for the good of all of its peoples.
Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat is the chief representative of the PLO Delegation to the United States.