PALESTINIAN DELEGATION THE GRAND HOTEL, WASHINGTON, DC
TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 1992
STAFF: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Today also we’ll have the briefing. Dr. Hanan Mikhail Ashrawi, the official spokesperson, will answer your questions after her statement. Also, we’ll have a briefing immediately after the English briefing in Arabic for the Arabic journalists, because today we don’t have any briefing for the Jordanian delegation. They will not have one today.
So we’ll start with Dr. Hanan first, please.
MS. ASHRAWI: Thank you. Well, it gives me great pleasure to announce that the Palestinian delegation has presented the Israeli delegation this morning with what I consider a historical document of tremendous significance. It is a document in which for the first time in history the Palestinian people are presenting a full and binding proposal on a transitional phase and on arrangements for the transitional phase which are serious, democratic, comprehensive and practicable.
MS. ASHRAWI: All right. The Palestinian side is presenting a historical document of tremendous significance because, for the first time, we are presenting a binding, comprehensive, democratic, practicable proposal on the transitional phase which is in conformity with the terms of reference of the peace process, especially in conformity with 242 and 338; with the fact that these are transitional arrangements that should lead to self-government and a transfer of authority. They are also within the agreements achieved earlier with the cosponsors, the requirements and the spirit of the peace process, and within the parameters of discourse on the two-phased approach. Our proposal is also in line with in compliance with international legitimacy, with the will of the international community, with the spirit of the age, with the global values and principles espoused by the community of nations, primary among which is the value of democracy.
The document also safeguards Palestinian rights, foremost among which is the right to self-determination, in the sense that it does not preclude the exercise of the right to self-determination. It prepares the ground, actually, for permanent status negotiations and does not preempt the final outcome.
I will give you a brief outline of the document. We presented a 16-page document. The first four pages are a covering letter in which we presented basic and underlying assumptions for our proposal. Also, a Palestinian statement of commitment and intent, commitment to the peace process and to a negotiated settlement on two phases, and a commitment to pursue these negotiations, and at the same time, we call upon the Israelis to enter negotiations in good faith and in a constructive spirit and refrain from creating facts and refrain from committing acts that are contrary to the requirements of the process and the principles underlying it.
The second part of the document is in four parts. The first part is concepts and expanded outline of the PISGA, or the Palestine Interim Self-Government Arrangements, and that also discusses several aspects, objectives and foundations of the self-government arrangements, the transitional nature of the interim phase, the authority in the interim phase and the source of authority, and, of course, powers and responsibilities. And here we present the requirement for the interim self-government arrangements in that the self-government should be democratically elected, of the people, by the people and for the people, and that it gets its source of authority from the people in the sense that it is elected by universal suffrage, secret ballot.
And then we discuss the preliminaries for the interim phase and the preliminaries would encompass the period from the convening of the Madrid conference to the end of the first year of negotiations on the interim phase, i.e. from October 30, 1991 to October 29, 1992.
We ask, we call on Israel to cease all activities, primarily settlement activities and human rights violations in the Occupied Territories and any illegal acts that violate the requirements of the peace process and the elections. We also ask Israel to carry out certain necessary steps such as the release of all political prisoners, the release of administrative detainees, the lifting of censorship, revoking all laws, especially the emergency laws and military orders which are illegal and which violate again the terms of reference.
And the third part deals with election modalities. The elections are for a legislative assembly of 190 people directly elected, as I said through universal suffrage, free and democratic elections with a secret ballot and consistent with our right to govern ourselves. We also have provision for international supervision, UN or any other appropriate and mutually agreed upon international body, and under international supervisory committee.
This document was presented along with the regular update on human right violations today to the Israelis. They did not of course discuss the document. They reacted to the presentation of the covering letter and at the same time they contined their lecture series on commerce and industry and medical health services.
Tomorrow there will be a general meeting to be followed by a meeting of the Jordanian-Israeli track, and in the afternoon to be followed by the Palestinian-Israeli track.
I will be glad to answer any questions you may have.
Q Jim Anderson, DPA. Other than it being more detailed, does this plan differ from the document in substance from the one that you handed over last week?
MS. ASHRAWI: Well, the document we handed over last session you mean, in January
Q Yeah, last session rather.
MS. ASHRAWI: The document we handed over in January was an outline model of the Palestinian interim self government authority and arrangements. This time we prepared a full and detailed and comprehensive document which is based primarily on elections as a means of exercising self government and safeguarding the fact that it has to be transitional by nature and it has to have authority in the sense of transfer of authority and in direct compliance with the terms of reference, with the letter of invitation. So it is a comprehensive, detailed proposal.
It gives substance to the outline. It is entirely practicable, and at the same time it is in compliance with the requirements and the spirit of the process and the negotiations.
Q I need to follow it up. And since the last document was rejected, in effect, out of hand, what makes you think that the Israelis will be any more receptive to this detailed form?
MS. ASHRAWI: I don’t think they can reject this document because even though they tried to reject the other document out of hand, this is a document which, as I said earlier, answers the specifications or is in compliance with the specifications and the requirements of the negotiations, and therefore is in compliance not just with the terms of reference and the agreements but is also in compliance with the terms of international legality of UN Security Council resolutions and of international law in general. And if they reject this, then it means that they have rejected the basis of the negotiations and the whole peace process.
Q Yes, Isham Elham (ph), Radio Monte Carlo. Did they say why they don’t want to discuss the document? Is it a question of principle, they don’t want to discuss it because it contains questions concerning settlements and elections, or they said we will discuss it later on? I mean
MS. ASHRAWI: No, they need time, I think, to
Q their response.
MS. ASHRAWI: study it.
Q They want to study it?
MS. ASHRAWI: They objected to certain terms in the letter. For instance, they don’t like us to refer to our sole leadersuip.
Q Excuse me?
MS. ASHRAWI: They don’t like us to refer to our sole leadership. They don’t like certain terms that we use like the occupied Palestinian territory. There are certain terms that they think are objectionable to them which we feel are very descriptive terms and accurate terms. Any other terms would, frankly, be biased and would prejudice the discourse. So they said I think that they need time to study the document.
Q Was this document read to the Israeli or was submitted only. If it was read to them, how was their first reaction?
MS. ASHRAWI: Only the covering letter was read to the Israelis. The other 12 pages were submitted along with the covering letter. They said they will study it. They will study the document. Of course, their reaction was to the covering letter.
Q (Inaudible) or body language or any kind of
MS. ASHRAWI: (Laughs.) I don’t think they were overjoyed.
Q Yes, Allison Kaplin (sp) from the Jerusalem Post. It says here, detailed proposal, including election date.
MS. ASHRAWI: Yes.
Q And what is the date?
MS. ASHRAWI: The elections should take place no later than one month before the end of the period of negotiations, i.e., by September 29th. By July 31st, we should have the full necessary changes to prepare conditions for elections, including lifting of censorship, including freedom for political activity, including release of all political prisoners and administrative detainees, return of deportees, and so on, and lifting of restrictions. So, we have a few months in which Israel can start a program to prepare for elections, and elections should take place by September 29th, but by July 31st, we should have all these measures in place and ready to go.
Q And, to follow up, should we assume that the elections would include residents of East Jerusalem? And does your plan address the status of the settlers living in the territories?
MS. ASHRAWI: East Jerusalem undoubtedly is part of the occupied territories, and undoubtedly East Jerusalem Palestinians from East Jerusalem and all other parts of the occupied territory are included in the plan for elections and for the transitional phase, the interim self-government.
As far as the settlers are concerned, there is no direct reference to settlers and settlements. What we say is that all illegal military orders and acts that have taken place should be rescinded, cannot be recognized, and cannot gain any legitimacy during this period. But the authority of the interim self-government would apply to everybody in the area in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Q Sid Bowman (sp), UPI. Does your plan envision any role for the current Israeli government? For example, what if, in these territories, an Israeli settler commits a crime? Will he see a Palestinian judge or will he see an Israeli judge? How will that work?
MS. ASHRAWI: Israelis should not be able to exercise any authority during the transitional phase. The source of authority is the democratically elected Palestinian authority. The only role for Israel would be in the standing committee, which is made up of the five permanent members of the Security Council, of the Secretary General, and of the self-government, Palestinian self-government authority, and Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Israel, as a standing committee to supervise the transitional to arbitrate during the transitional phase. But because the exercise of Israeli authority is illegal, it should not be continued during the transitional phase.
We did not engage in discussions of details on if a settler does something, but, of course, settlers are an issue that have to be discussed immediately because their whole presence is illegal, the fact that they are armed, for instance. Immediately we feel that in the steps preparatory to the elections, settlers should be disarmed immediately and all their militia should be dismembered.
Q What is the role of the United Nations and the five permanent members and the other countries you mentioned?
MS. ASHRAWI: They form the standing committee for arbitration and to ensure that there is compliance with the agreement for the transitional phase.
Q Larry Register, CNN. You have a 12-page document with a 4-page cover letter that the Israelis have just received. They, I guess, took it back and will try to study it, but they have a meeting this afternoon with Jordanians. Is it practical to think that they’re going to be able to have any kind of an intelligent detailed response for you by tomorrow which ends this round, and has there been any kind of an arrangement set up where you can discuss this during the break so the momentum of this proposal isn’t lost? Or will that time be used for them to study this proposal?
MS. ASHRAWI: No, I think they will have enough time. If they are serious about it, they will have enough time to study it by tomorrow afternoon. But you must understand that we continue to state there are immediate tasks at hand which, may I remind you, the Israelis have not addressed or adhered to and which are included in our proposal. The immediate tasks include compliance with the requirements of the Fourth Geneva Convention, human rights violations and primarily the settlement activities. These continue to be primary issues which we present and discuss with the Israelis every day. And until we get something serious on that, it doesn’t mean that the proposal is going to be open for detailed discussion or negotiations.
So we do have time. I just hope that they do understand that now is the time for a positive, constructive, reasonable and responsible attitude and spirit, that they do comply with the requirements and the imperatives of this stage and of the whole peace process. I think they do have time and we have not made any provisions for any discussion outside the negotiations.
Q Well, what makes you think, though, if they haven’t responded to these earlier things as you said, what leads you to believe that they’re going to respond by tomorrow to this?
MS. ASHRAWI: Well, if they don’t respond, then they have a serious problem, but then it means that they are not taking their negotiations seriously, but we hope that they will respond, preferably in writing to the issues of substance that are presented here because these are very serious proposals, these are workable, implementable proposals and they form, I think, a true roadmap in order to end this confrontation and to start the path of a negotiated settlement that is in two phases.
Q If they don’t respond to the proposal by tomorrow, are the problems serious enough that you would consider not returning for another round of talks?
MS. ASHRAWI: This question always comes up of when we will we get to the point where we won’t return or we will withdraw from the peace process.
Despite the fact that Israel is doing its utmost to make us leave the peace process, we have proven that we are quite serious and dedicated and adamant and persistent. And we are in the peace process, and we are going to do our best to continue to be in the peace process, despite provocations and despite negative acts by Israel, and despite lack of reciprocity.
I don’t think that there is any condition that theato respond tomorrow. It’s not a necessary and sufficient condition. They do have time to respond and they can. After all, there are cosponsors to the peace process, and if there are no direct channels, they can easily present their responses to the cosponsors.
Q Hanan, has this document been shown to the American side? Have they commented on it, one? And two, there’s some rumors that they’ve rejected a sentence or something where the PLO is mentioned and the term immediately after it is "sole legitimate representative." Is that true? Can you confirm that?
MS. ASHRAWI: The Americans?
Q No, the Israelis.
MS. ASHRAWI: Well, the document was presented to the State Department today. It was presented this morning by hand and by fax. And just before I came, they said they were still reading it and studying it. So there is no direct sponsor response. But I think they will see that it is consistent with the agreed-upon terms of reference and principles and bases of the negotiations and the whole peace process.
As far as the objections, the Israelis do habitually object to certain statements and expressions. They objected to the term "our sole legitimate representative." There was no explicit reference to the PLO. There was a reference to our sole legitimate representative, and that they objected to because, I think, they interjected the PLO. But they objected to the term itself without the reference. Now, they defined our sole legitimate representative as being the PLO.
Q I’m (name inaudible) from Washington Reports. Is there any overlap between what the Israelis have presented and what you are presenting now?
MS. ASHRAWI: It’s very difficult to find an overlap. I think it’s going to take a large stretch of the imagination to find an overlap because they start, as I said, from totally different premises. They start from the premise that these their proposal is entitled "Ideas on Coexistence Under Occupation," as a matter of fact, which is consolidation of occupation, legitimizing the occupation. And it does not in any way deal with either self-government or authority or transitional arrangements in any way, so it negates the terms of reference. Ours, in a sense, deals with the transfer of authority, which is the purpose, and deals with the source of authority, which is the democratically-elected Palestinian Legislative Assembly.
Q Point of fact, ISGA means Interim Self-Government Administration, or is that
MS. ASHRAWI: Arrangements, and Authority. It depends on how you use it. In some cases it’s PISGA means Palestinian Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority. When it is authority, it is the elected Palestinian authority that gets its source of authority and legitimacy from the people, and when it is arrangements, we deal with specific arrangement, Palestinian interim self-government arrangements to create a self-governing body which is, again, democratically elected.
Q But how do the Israelis interpret their own? They call it ISGA. Is it a
MS. ASHRAWI: Because they refuse the term "Palestinian".
Q Yeah, but do they call it authority or an administration, or
MS. ASHRAWI: They call it "arrangements".
STAFF: Before taking questions, I’d like to say that the Syrian delegation will have a briefing immediately after the briefing of Dr. Hanan is over.
Q Just one last question: will the people who live in this newly-formed nation
MS. ASHRAWI: The occupied Palestinian territory?
Q Yes, who live there once your plan is implemented, will they be given passports, and if so, what will it say on the front cover?
MS. ASHRAWI: That’s a good question, because during the transitional phase we said this is not the initiation or creation of a regime in the occupied territory or a state in the occupied territory. These are arrangements transitional arrangements to set up a democratically-elected Palestinian authority that would not preempt the outcome. And our objective and right is to exercise the right to self-determination within our national unity within our program of the unity of the unity of the Palestinian people as a whole inside and outside the occupied territories. So within the terms of agreement, negotiations during this phase for this first year are for interim self-government arrangements or authority, which is transitional first-phase negotiations. That doesn’t mean that we are establishing a state that precludes later on the establishing of a full state with Palestinians from inside and outside the occupied territories. That would be subject to permanent status negotiations.
So, in terms of passports, I don’t think that the PISGA as authority will be issuing passports, but it will be a self-government. It will be a self-governing authority for a transitional phase, which will not last more than five years. The beginning of the third year, we will start negotiations for the permanent status.
MS. ASHRAWI: It will not prejudice the establishment of an independent Palestinian state?
Q Dr. Ashrawi, in the paper that the Israelis presented you last week, they talked about arrangements with Jordan. Did your paper touch upon the relationship with Jordan, and what kind of relationship?
MS. ASHRAWI: Any relations or relationships with Jordan are bilateral relations arranged directly and independently between two sovereign sides: the Palestinians and the Jordanians. Israel has nothing to do with any relations or agreements arrived at between the Palestinians and the Jordanians, and therefore our document does not enter into any discussion of Palestinian-Jordanian relations or agreements except to restate the Palestine National Council resolution that statehood is the ultimate objective of the Palestinians and right, and that also there is the proposal of confederation with Jordan. And this is something also stated in our letter of assurances from the sponsors.
Q George Gedda, Associated Press. Does the document specify a date by which the Israeli presence in the territories must end?
MS. ASHRAWI: Actually, there are two dates. Within this year, these transitional arrangements or preparations for the elections what we call the preliminary stages right now, preliminaries for peace the Israeli army should withdraw from populated areas to agreed upon locations so that there will be freedom of movement, there will be freedom for the Palestinians in order to as part of all the arrangements that would help them carry out free and independent democratic elections. You cannot carry out elections under the force with the force of the gun. We have to have free democratic elections, but we are not calling for Israeli withdrawal during this year, we are saying that they should leave the populated areas and they should stop interfering in the lives of the Palestinians.
Now during the transitional period itself, or the period of the PISGA, of course there are proposals on the withdrawal of the military presence, on international presence, even there is a call for international supervision for elections themselves.
Q One more question. Is there any similarity between your election model and the Israeli election model of ’89? Are there any things in there that cross over?
MS. ASHRAWI: Well, the term elections, but you must remember that we (laughter) that the Israelis turned around and rejected their own proposal, so I don’t know. They have a habit of doing that which makes many Palestinians very skeptical. I mean they are the ones who signed the Camp David Accords and then they give you several documents which are a total negation of the Camp David Accords to which they committed themselves. They are the ones who proposed the elections model and then they are the ones who turned around and rejected it when Secretary Baker tried to turn it into a reality, remember, two years ago. So in a sense every proposal they made, even agreement they signed related to this process, they have reneged on.
But in terms of specifics, there is very little in common except the fact that we do want elections. Now we do want elections under international supervision and protection and with conditions that are conducive to free elections without coercion, without use of pressure and force. They want elections under the direct supervision they wanted I don’t know whether they want elections now because it is not in their proposal, but in the proposal which they rejected earlier, their own proposal which they rejected earlier, they had elections but under the supervision of the Israelis within their own terms and conditions and they certainly would not be free and democratic elections.
We cannot have elections under coercion or occupation.
STAFF: Thank you very much and we remind Arab journalists that we will have a briefing after the briefing of the Syrian spokesperson.