Friday, March 12, 2010

The U.S. government, via the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided support for a glossy 39-page “Palestine Guide Book.” Just released by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Tourism, it declares on its first page, “Palestine lies between the Mediterranean Coast and the Jordan River.” Not until Page 10 are we informed - under the heading “Country” - that “Palestine comprises the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

No discrepancy here. Rather, a clear message is intended: While the “country” is restricted to certain areas, “historical Palestine,” to which Muslim Arabs lay claim in its entirety, is much larger. That impression is reinforced by the Historical Map of Palestine on the last page, which shows Palestine from the river to the sea.

Under “Capital,” there is a single word: “Jerusalem.” This flies in the face of the official Palestinian Authority (PA) position that it seeks “East Jerusalem” as its capital.

What the PA offers here, as fact, is a vision of the country that it anticipates soon will be. Yet its underlying premise - that all area beyond the Green Line belongs to the Arabs of Palestine and will soon make up their state - is fallacious. That this booklet is founded on factual misrepresentations should not surprise. The PA is well-acquainted with the psychological truism that a lie told often enough will be believed.

A backward look provides insight into where the fallacies lie:

The League of Nations’ 1922 Mandate for Palestine - allocating Palestine for a Jewish homeland - incorporated as integral parts both the West Bank and Gaza. As the mandate has never been superseded in international law, they remain areas to which Israel retains considerable claim.

When Israel declared independence in 1948, the Arab League attacked. At the war’s end, Jordan controlled the West Bank, and Egypt controlled Gaza. Palestinian Arabs controlled neither of these areas. The line behind which Israel found herself - roughly what is called the Green Line - was not a final border, but an armistice line, understood by written agreement to be temporary.

After the Six-Day War of 1967, during which Israel secured control of the West Bank and Gaza, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 242. It spoke of Israeli withdrawal from “territories,” but not all territories. Implicit was recognition that the Green Line as border would not provide security for Israel. In no event was Israel required to withdraw prior to negotiations. No reference was made to a Palestinian people or Palestinian state.

So how did we arrive at the present situation, with the PA boldly pretending, absent negotiations, that a country of defined parameters exists?

The Palestinian Authority - an “interim self-government authority” - was established by the 1993 Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This accord called for final status negotiations based on Resolution 242.

There is no reason to assume that the Green Line was to become Israel’s final border (i.e., that all of Gaza and the West Bank would lie beyond Israel). According to Oslo, the status of Jerusalem, the status of settlements (which were not deemed illegal) and final borders were all to be discussed during final status negotiations.

The PA, awash in internal politics that are neither moderate nor conciliatory, has been displeased consistently with negotiations - despite some extraordinarily generous offers. It thus suits the PA to create “facts” unilaterally, making its case to the international community rather than at a negotiating table.

This booklet promotes fallacious positions that defy a major U.N. Security Council resolution and a written agreement between Israel and the PLO - both of which require negotiations for determination of final status for Palestinian Arabs.

It is unsettling to see the USAID logo on the back cover, but it is no accident.

Magdouline Slameh, head of the PA Ministry of Tourism Department of Materials and Translation, expressed gratitude to this writer for the wonderful support provided by USAID. She said her staff wrote the booklet in close cooperation with the USAID offices in Ramallah.

Arlene Kushner is senior analyst for the Center for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem.

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