Speech by Yasser Arafat. 1998

Speech by Yasser Arafat to socialist members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 13, 1988 (extract).

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hereby declare that the people of the intifada, the Palestinian people whom I represent, are committed to peace based on justice. Our heritage and culture and our Islam, Christianity, and Judaism disallow hatred and repudiate aggression. Inasmuch as they open our minds to peace based on justice, they shape our resolve to defend ourselves, uphold our rights, and resist the occupation.

We respect our international commitments. We also respect international legitimacy. At the same time, we believe that a just peace cannot be achieved through the selective application of half of what international legitimacy provided for and the dumping of the other half.

That is why it is imperative that we witness and sense the respect by Israel and the US administration of international resolutions, particularly those upholding the Palestinian people’s right to self- determination and statehood, and which constitute the cornerstone of the proposed international peace conference.

I also declare from this rostrum that several contentious points, as well as issues raised as preconditions in their minute details, hinge on the success of negotiations at the international conference. Other points will figure on the agenda of negotiations to take place at the authoritative international conference, under the auspices of the United Nations and with the participation of the permanent Security Council members and all the parties to the conflict in the region, including Israel, and the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

It would be possible at the said conference, and through the negotiations that will take place within its framework, to discuss and agree [upon] arrangements for international guarantees of peace among all states of the region, including the independent Palestinian state.

Israel has never defined the terms of reference for the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. We wonder: are they the UN Charter? Or the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council? Or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Or the 1977 Vance-Gromyko statement? Or the natural right of peoples? Or international legitimacy with all its implications in as far as the establishment of the State of Israel is concerned?

As far as we are concerned, many of you wonder about our position vis-a-vis resolutions 242 and 338 in view of our commitment to international legitimacy.

We endorse the charter of the United Nations Organisation and all its resolutions, including 242 and 338. International legitimacy is an indivisible whole, and no one can choose to accept only what suits him and discard what does not.

How can the United States and Israel accept the only birth certificate of the State of Israel, namely Resolution 181, which provided for the creation of two states in Palestine, and simultaneously reject, for instance, Resolution 194 (1948), which called for the repatriation of the Palestine refugees or the payment of compensation for the property of those choosing not to return?

How can we be asked to accept Resolution 242 and forget the other international resolutions, the most recent of which were Security Council resolutions 605, 607, and 608 as well as resolutions 252, 446, and 465 and General Assembly resolutions 3236 and 3237 – especially since Resolution 242 concerned Israel and a number of Arab states, yet did not address the Palestine question or the rights of the people of Palestine? It only referred to the need to achieve a settlement of the refugee problem. Even this reference was interpreted in the US-Israeli (or "Vance-Dayan") statement of 1977 as meaning Jewish and Arab refugees.

Consequently, we declare our acceptance of one of the two following options as the basis for convening the international conference under UN auspices and with the participation of the Security Council’s permanent members and all the parties to the conflict in the region, including the PLO and Israel:

a. All UN resolutions relevant to the Palestine question, including Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.

b. Resolutions 242 and 338 along with the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, foremost among which is their right to self- determination.

Allow me to cite another example where the selective application of international legitimacy led to distorted results, undermining international legitimacy as such. The example relates to Mr George Shultz, the US secretary of state, and his so-called Middle East [peace] initiative.

In the course of his fourth and last visit to the area, he stood up in Cairo to declare that he had discovered that the conflict in Palestine is one between two peoples over the same land and that the solution lies in the recognition of both peoples’ rights.

We saw in this the first positive stand by Washington in terms of recognising the Palestinian people and their rights.

No sooner had Shultz made his statement than he reverted to the practice of partitioning international legitimacy by translating Israeli rights into an independent state, a government, and a people, while dismissing the Palestinian state, government, and people by speaking of Palestinian rights in terms of a mere entity attached to the Kingdom of Jordan and of Palestinian residents being absorbed within the Jordanian population.

In this context, and in order to create an atmosphere of good will conducive to a just peace, we responded positively – and still do – to all proposals calling for the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and placing these under UN administration or an internationally supervised European force for a limited interim period. The proposed international force could stay on after the establishment of the independent Palestinian state for as long as the Security Council deems necessary, to guarantee the security of everyone concerned.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and gentlemen,

We all know of the measures recently adopted by Jordan concerning the West Bank. The PLO Central Council accepted these measures and decided to shoulder the responsibilities resulting therefrom, including the political among them, regardless of the timing and the manner in which the measures were introduced – without consultation or co-ordination with us – and irrespective of the difficulties that we found ourselves facing.

The Jordanian measures ended the European, American, and Israeli debate on Palestinian representation at the international conference. No one can claim any more that there is someone else to share with the PLO the representation of the Palestinian people, particularly after the cessation of the Jordanian option and the failure of the autonomy option. The only option left is the right, realistic, and irreplaceable one – namely, the Palestinian option, the essence of which is the independent Palestinian state ...

Source: Palestinian Visions – a documentary account of the peace initiative, Palestine Human Rights Campaign / American Council for Palestine Affairs, Chicago and New York, 1990.