The Middle East problem - Let Them Speak For Themselves

by Joseph Hunting


The following are excerpts from an interview with the P.L.O. Chairman Yasser Arafat, published in the Kuwaiti weekly, ALYAKZA, on April 11, 1977:

"I am not a man for settlements or concessions. I will carry on the struggle until every inch of Palestinian soil will be retrieved . . .

"Our struggle in the occupied land will witness a violent and steady escalation, which will begin with a resurgence of our suicide strikes against the Zionist foe. The coming weeks will see many forms of the Palestinian struggle within the occupied homeland. I will leave it to the fedayeen (self-sacrifice) activity to speak for itself and to translate these words into extraordinary deeds.

"I foresee a new, fifth, war in the Middle East, a war that may break out at any moment . . .

"Our revolution is a revolution of liberation, not a revolution of concessions. We will not give up on one inch of our lands, nor will we relinquish a single one of our rights."


"Palestine destiny is hardly the exclusive plaything of Yasser Arafat and the militant groups of the P.L.O., largely representative of the 1947-1948 refugees and their descendants. Perhaps a majority of all Palestinians live at peace under other flags, Jordanian or Egyptian or Lebanese, or under Israeli occupation, and no doubt have their own ideas about Palestinian irredentism. They may be quite as nationalist as Mr Arafat; but they do not necessarily subscribe to the uncompromising aims or methodology of the P.L.O. No formula for the future of the Palestinians can merely presume Mr Arafat's self-serving claim to be their titular representative. For that matter, even the disarming phrase, 'Palestine Homeland' seems simpler than it really is, involving as it does the welfare of many millions other than the refugees and complex considerations of national authority and consent as well."


"Sadat is perfectly candid in defining what he means by peace. The peace he envisions does not allow for any relations whatsoever between Israel and the Arabs; no commerce, no communications, no open frontiers, no exchange of information -- no human contact at all. And because there are to be no relations between the parties, there will, obviously, be no common solution of problems. Lastly, for the same reason, it will not be an open-ended relationship. What will remain open-ended will be the conflict."


"The Israeli concept of peace has always been dual: a vision of reconciliation between Arab and Jew . . . combined with improvised arrangements leading ultimately to Arab acceptance of Israel as part of the Middle East.

"During the years preceding and immediately following the establishment of Israel in 1948, Zionist leaders tended to predicate peace on political and economic change in the Arab world. When the Arabs became democratic and prosperous, it was argued, they would accept Israel's presence in their midst. By now, Arab oil wealth is seen as a prime political weapon against Israel and Israelis are sceptical about the emergence of Arab democracy."


Mr Begin's first political act after the elections was to propose a peace conference between the parties directly involved, that is, Israel and the Arab countries which have a common boundary with it . . . the Likud's programme seeks to conduct direct negotiations between the belligerents which would lead to a process of real peace and cooperation."

Extract from . . . LA DERNIERE HEURE May 1977

EGYPT (Supplement February 1978 VINEYARD)

Due to staff holidays and closing down of industry over Christmas and New Year it was necessary for us to have the February issue of THE VINEYARD printed ahead of schedule. Little did we realize that in the interim President Sadat would electrify the world by his visit to Jerusalem.

For almost thirty years Egypt has been Israel's implacable enemy. In one courageous lightning-swift decision President Sadat changed the situation and left the world gasping.

His decision to visit Israel was arrived at during a flight from Rumania to Iran during the latter part of 1977. These are his own words: "It came to me like some divine inspiration. There is no way of explaining it; suddenly I was left without any doubt that this was the only way in which the problem could be solved." (Quote from NEWSWEEK, November 28th, 1977.)

There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity between heads of State in the Middle East and many problems are unresolved as yet. However, it is interesting to note that Ezekiel does not include Egypt in a confederacy of nations headed by Russia that invade Israel in the latter days. Time alone will tell.

PLO vs THE PALESTINIANS by Walter Eytan Courtesy: Israel Digest

Prime Minister Begin, once suspected of every form of intransigence and extremism, is now widely respected for speaking his mind. The voice that comes from Israel these days may not fall softly on everyone's ears, but it is loud and clear -- and, most important of all, universally understood. Mr Begin is listened to with respect, even if not always with agreement.

Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan was on firm ground when he made it clear to President Carter and Secretary Vance on September 19th that Israel would refuse to negotiate with the PLO under any circumstances. The President would still like to wrest from the PLO some kind of 'acceptance' of U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 242, but for Israel this would be meaningless. Anyone can play at verbal acrobatics, but this does not change fundamentals. As James Reston recently pointed out, even if the leaders of the PLO repudiated their written compact to destroy the state of Israel, and accepted the permanence of Israel, implicit in the UN resolution, no one in Israel would believe them. Nor would anyone else, whatever they might pretend.

We may be approaching the point -- and we certainly must hope we are -- at which people will cease to confuse the PLO with the Palestinians, or their interests, as a whole. The PLO was originally granted status by the Arab League, not primarily out of consideration for the Palestinians, but because the Arab states were anxious to rid themselves of direct responsibility for a problem, seemingly insoluble, or soluble only at some future time no one could foresee, which did not directly concern them. It is not an elected body and rests on no popular basis. It is driven first and foremost by the need for its own perpetuation, which its followers naturally believe to be in a good cause.

It is only three years since Yasser Arafat was acclaimed, almost apotheosized, at the UN General Assembly -- accepted for what he claimed to be by the vast majority of member-states: all the Communists, all the Arabs, most of the 'third world' and others. Recently he appeared to be toying with the idea of 'accepting 242'. This may well have signified that he felt he might otherwise never be able to come out of the corner into which he was being driven -- by Mr Begin primarily -- but also by President Carter and by the new realities which have marked this stage of the Arab-Israel conflict.

Yet, at the Damascus meeting of the PLO Central Council, 242 was rejected and Zionist and US imperialist plots denounced. The PLO remained locked in its extreme role for all to see.

There was a highly significant passage in an editorial published by the New York Times in mid-August:

"It is certainly desirable for the United States to try to persuade the PLO to recognize Israel and to give up the dream of reclaiming its territory. But that effort should not lead to the inadvertent designation of the PLO as the only legitimate voice of Palestinian aspirations. Other Palestinians may wish to be heard on that question. So might Jordan, whose people include a majority of Palestinians. To declare the PLO a separate delegation to a Geneva conference would virtually foreclose the issue."

Mr Begin, himself, in his conversations with President Carter as well as in his public statements, both in Israel and during his visit to the US, stretched out a hand to the Palestinians. He made it clear that while he refused to have anything whatever to do with the PLO (which in its Covenant declares the establishment of Israel to be 'null and void'), he would have no objection to the participation of Palestinian Arabs in the Jordanian delegation to a Geneva conference. He even said that while he could not accept known PLO leaders or adherents as members of such a delegation, he would not 'search their pockets' -- or, as he put it on another occasion, scrutinize too closely who exactly they were.

Everybody knows, of course -- and the Prime Minister of Israel as clearly as everyone else -- that there is a Palestinian Arab problem. Thirty years ago the Palestinian Arabs themselves threw away their chance of creating a state of their own. It was the Jordanians who stepped into the vacuum, establishing their rule on the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). During the entire period from 1948 to 1967 they made no move to set up there a separate 'Palestinian' state -- and the rest of the world, including the whole of the Arab world, tacitly acquiesced in this. When the PLO was founded in 1964, it did not demand of Jordan that she renounce the West Bank (or of Egypt that she give up Gaza) for the sake of establishing a 'Palestinian' state. Instead, it adopted a 'Covenant' which stated roundly that there was no historical connection between the Jews and Palestine and claimed the whole of what had been the British mandated territory of Palestine -- which included the whole of Israel -- as a 'democratic secular state' for the Palestinian Arabs.

These were wild claims at the time, and they seem wilder still today -- in light of the new realities of the situation. This may have dawned on the PLO leadership, which has probably come to understand that if anyone is now fighting for his life, it is Yasser Arafat himself -- hence the search for a new image. Israel has not been taken in by these fairly transparent moves, and the editorial quoted above suggests that others are not being taken in by them either.

The solution to the Palestinian Arab problem, as has been apparent for years, can only lie by way of an agreement between Israel and Jordan. No amount of verbiage or beating about the bush can conceal this basic truth. Successive Governments of Israel have known this since 1967, but it has been left to Mr Begin, by the forthrightness of his statements, to make it understood even by those who in the past may have preferred not to understand.