Yassir Arafat has managed to get overwhelming support to amend the PNC Charter and abide by the Oslo Accords.
He was required to make the changes by May, eliminating the sections calling for Israel's destruction. The vote passed with a 504 - 4 majority. Members of the PFLP boycotted the assembly. The Charter was not actually amended. Thevote gave the PNC Legal Committee the authority to amend it or write a new Charter within six months.
Arafat did state that future talks with Israel would include discussion of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.
Prime Minister Shimon Peres stated this was a big step. Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu stated that the PLO must publicly recognize Israel's right to exist.
MK (Likud) Binyamin Zeev Begin stated that "we should be extremely cautious. This is just a trick" Begin explained that one can ask any of the persons who were involved in the decision [at the PNC meeting]. "No sections of the Charter were deleted or amended. Nothing has been changed" added Begin.
Following the change, Arafat immediately called on Israel to uphold its commitments [as did the PLO by this vote] under the Oslo Accords and order the IDF redeployment form Hevron prior to the upcoming National Elections.
No response to Arafat's request has been made but following the wave of suicide terrorist attacks in March 1996, Prime Minister Peres stated there will be no IDF pullout from Hevron prior to the apprehension of certain terrorists. The list was given to the PLO but many of the names listed still remain free, including Mohammed Dief, the most wanted on the Israeli security services list. (Galei Tzahal/Army Radio../..4/24../..10:00pm, 4/25../..8:00am, Jerusalem Post News../..4/25, SNS../..4/25).
24 April, 1996
IMRA interviewed Nabil Abu Rodein, Spokesman of the Palestinian National Council, from Gaza on April 24, 1996.
IMRA: Is an English translation of the decision of the PNC available yet?
Rodein: Not yet, right now we only have it in Arabic.
IMRA: How long is it?
Rodein: About a page and a half.
IMRA: What was the decision?
Rodein: The decision is to cancel those portions of the Charter which contradict the mutual letters of recognition of the PLO and the Government of Israel of September 9, 1993. The PNC authorizes the Legal Committee to rewrite the Palestinian Charter and this will be discussed by the Central Council at its first meeting. The vote was 504 for, 54 against and 14 abstentions.
IMRA: Can you clarify; does the decision explicitly cite which passages in the Charter are being dropped?
Rodein: As I told you, the decision is to cancel those portions of the Charter which contradict the mutual letters of recognition.
IMRA: That is a blanket statement, but what happens now from a practical standpoint if the resolution does not explicitly note which passages in the Charter are dropped?
Rodein: What is left is formalities. The Legal Committee will now prepare a new Charter. This vote means that the Charter has been cancelled.
IMRA: This is confusing. On the one hand you say that the decision is to drop parts of the Charter and now you say that the entire Charter is dead. If you do not have a Charter how do you have a framework within which the PNC can function?
Rodein: The PNC meetings are not over. We will be meeting tomorrow.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Associate IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis) (mail POB 982 Kfar Sava) Tel 972-9-904719/Fax 972-9-911645
25 April, 1996
IMRA interviewed Danny Shek, the Foreign Ministry Spokesman, on April 25, 1996
IMRA: When IMRA interviewed Arafat's spokesman, Nabil Aburodeina, last
night, he would not cite the specific passages in the Palestinian Charter which
would have to be changed to fulfil the obligation made by the PLO in Arafat's
September 9, 1993 exchange of letters with Prime Minister Rabin. Does the
Government of Israel have a list of the specific passages in the Charter which,
in the view of Israel, should be changed.
Shek: Not that I am aware of. The Israeli demand is a general one, to change the passages which deny Israel's right to exist and are inconsistent with the commitments of the September letter.
IMRA: How do you know if the relevant passages are in fact going to be changed?
Shek: We will only know when a new Charter is proposed.
IMRA: Is there an agreed mechanism for determining which passages should be changed?
Shek: There is no such mechanism.
IMRA: So for all intents and purposes there is no reason to rule out the possibility that we may find ourselves disagreeing later with the Palestinians over which passages have to actually be changed.
Shek: Look, this is nothing new. All of the agreements with the Palestinians have been subject to interpretation and have not included a fixed mechanism to independently interpret the agreements. We have committees and working groups and they have always managed to resolve disagreements.