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Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 97 11:53:17 CST
From: MID-EAST REALITIES <mer@MiddleEast.Org>
Subject: LAST STRAW Palestinian Writes About Hebron
Article: 3901

Hebron deal—the last straw

By Qais Saleh, Mid-East Realities,
18 January 1997


Yesterday, Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netenyahu signed an agreement on redeployment in Hebron, coupled with an American letter of guarantees about which nobody knows its real value (if any). To many observers this might be just another step on the Oslo highway. But for many Palestinians this represent the last straw in a series of degrading concessions.

From my point of view, I always knew that the original Oslo text was a bad start enabling double interpretation and establishing very dangerous precedents and facts on the ground. The following Oslo II agreement in Cairo left even more to be desired. The only reason that made it possible to live in peace with these agreements was the hope that we would enhance our position as we go along the way. But to my total dismay, the extreme opposite is happening, paving the way to a much worse future for the Palestinian people in general.

This Hebron deal has finally succeeded in blowing away any final hope that I still possessed deep inside. Of course I knew that the original Hebron agreement signed with the Labor-led Israeli government was very bad in itself. But this deal has gone even further to establish the precedents that many feared might happen.

First the deal gives official Palestinian legitimacy to the presence of settlers in the Palestinian land giving them total and unconstrained control over an area (namely 20% of Hebron city in total) densely populated by Palestinians. Second, it establishes clear double standards by ensuring the settlers better treatment and preferential access to the whole city. Third, it further establishes the concept of separation between jurisdiction over land and over people, and even extends Palestinian responsibility for the security of the settlers.

These three points are just examples of unacceptible precedents that the agreement is filled with. And all this makes the road ahead even more difficult regarding negotiations to remove settlements in final status negotiation when not only has their right to exist been accepted but settlers have been guaranteed better security and treatment than the surrounding Palestinian population!

Even worse than the Hebron deal itself, is the attached American letter of guarantees, called Notes for the Record. We all know that this letter is totally unbinding legally speaking -- and we all know how many letters and promises of this kind litter the past. And we can all see that the Israelis are not going to follow the timetable set in the letter, not even remotely, and even if they say they will no one knows the actual territories or arrangements the so-called timetables refer to!

Another very dangerous element of the American attachment is that it further attempts to establish the legitimacy of the breach of even the original agreements by supporting a delayed mid-1998 schedule of withdrawal from the West Bank. Even more ominously, no one knows what territories are supposed to be withdrawn from and under what conditions.

In addition to everything else, these precedents (as negotiated by the official sponsor and guarantor of the Oslo accords) means that all the previous agreements are not worth the paper they are written upon, and in a sense give Mr. Netenyahu a freehand in violating further clauses in these already very bad agreements in the months and years ahead. The Israelis can in fact claim that they are freed from any legal obligations some believed existed in the previous agreements allowing everything to be re-negotiated over and over again until it fulfills their goals.

No doubt that the sad ceremony that occurred yesterday at the Eretz humiliation point (as it is called by Palestinian workers) will have very serious implications in the near future and will deprive many of even the last glimpse of hope that some kind of a final solution that is barley acceptable can be achieved.