Who Negotiates With Whom and About What?
By Fahmy Huweidy
If Ariel Sharon is praised by any Arab, this would definitely evoke condemnation and disgust; if he is praised by any Palestinian, this would evoke shock and dismay; but if he is praised by a PLO official, this would be a disaster. In light of these possible scenarios, caution and attentiveness should be the rule of the day. The third assumption actually took place and was reported by the Middle East paper in its 10 November 1999 issue, page three. Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO secretary, was reported as saying that Sharon changed and was a different person than the person we knew to be responsible for Sabra and Shatilla, the two Palestinian camps in Beirut that suffered horrible massacres at the hands of Sharon at the time he invaded Lebanon in 1982. Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) added that Sharon had become a normal person, and outside the negotiations in Washington, he looked like a simple peasant who highly appreciates the Palestinian figure.

This writer could not believe what he read, and followed the subsequent issues until 22 November, hoping to find a refutation by Abu Mazen to these statements, but to no avail. In fact, what he did find was a snapshot of the two men shaking hands and smiling in the 18 November issue of the same paper in a friendly meeting, causing the writer great fury and indignation. This snapshot was taken at the outset of the negotiations for the final solution scheduled that week.

A Professional Murderer from the Beginning: Sharon is viewed by Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular as a much different figure from that which Abu Mazen had described. Sharon was known to be an active member of the Zionist gangs which usurped Palestine in 1948; he formed Unit 101 of the commandos in 1953 in order to carry out the massacre that took place in Kafr Qasem, where 48 Palestinian peasants were murdered. Consequently, he was qualified to lead the parachutist brigade in 1956 when he fought against the Arabs and he was appointed the leader of the Southern Military Region during the Exhaustion War in 1970. He then exterminated the resistance formations in Gaza, which was under his control. Moreover, he formed a unit for murder called Remon, and he uprooted the refugees and transferred them to Rafah. He also was the one to suggest the building of the highways through the camps, which subsequently led to the destruction of many Palestinian homes. He reorganized these camps, which gave him good experience in destroying the Palestinian infrastructure later on. After he had become a professional fighter, we saw him as a rash leader in the Thaghra Operation during the Ramadan War in 1973. He participated in the building of more settlements when he was appointed the Minister of Agriculture by Menachem Begin in 1977.

He led the first Israeli operation to occupy an Arab capital, Beirut, in 1982, when he carried out the greatest massacre or genocide outside Israel at the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatilla. As a result of this action, he was condemned by the Kahan Committee and was forced to resign. As the Minister of Settlement and Infrastructure in 1990, he planned most of the settlements in order to uproot or deport the Palestinians. However, he did not give up his being an adamant fighter as shown in his plan to assassinate Mr. Khaled Misha’al (the chief of the Hamas Political Office in Amman whom Israel had been chasing) and his refusal to shake hands with Yasser Arafat (the chief of the PA) because he considered Arafat to be a terrorist and a murderer.

Before Sharon appeared shaking hands happily and joyfully with Abu Mazen, the mass media had just reported his statements in which he urged all Israelis to take action and capture more land in order to build more settlements and to confiscate as much land in the West Bank as they could before the Palestinians could capture it.

Cleansing the Sins of a Person Because of Ideals: When we survey this report by the Middle East, it should be noted that it does not reveal Sharon’s life in detail but rather it sums up some areas of his life then compares them with what Abu Mazen said. We may try to excuse Abu Mazen by assuming he had mistaken Sharon’s name or he meant another Sharon. However, the text reported by the Middle East clearly notes that Abu Mazen not only mention Sharon by name but he also mentioned some characteristics exclusive to Sharon, in particular his connection with the massacre of Sabra and Shattilla. Unfortunately, Abu Mazen did not describe what took place as a “massacre”, but rather alluded to the connotations of the words in order to forgive Sharon for what he had done in Beirut and for refusing to shake hands with Arafat in Washington.

As long as Abu Mazen does not deny these facts, there is no doubt that he means the very same Sharon who built his glory in Israel on the bloodshed of Palestinians in Gaza and Lebanon and who has deported most of them from Gaza and the West Bank. Having realized these facts, we ask: Why has Abu Mazen deliberately ignored Sharon’s bloody record and hatred for Palestinians and instead presented him as a kind-hearted man who has changed and has begun to appreciate the Palestinians while at the same time Sharon’s opponents could use this information to destroy his political aspirations? (In fact, most Israelis do not like him because of his rudeness.) Why has Abu Mazen elevated the personage of Sharon?

Before answering these questions, we should admit that we face a peculiar case of cleansing the sins of persons following a series of laundering operations, such as the laundering of drug money by leaking it into bank accounts and investment markets and thereafter the process of purification through account books. Next, there is the process of brainwashing or the washing of ideas by forgetting the bad memories of the Arab-Israeli conflict (while the Americans called it the strategic option for peace), the deformation of the resistance, considering it a terrorist movement and an obstacle to the peace process, or convincing the Arabs that Americans supported them in order to regain their rights. After washing away these ideas, it seemed that we entered a new phase of cleansing the sins of the persons responsible in order to wash away Palestinian blood from the Zionist terrorists, virtually turning them into innocent and kind-hearted people. This occurred for Rabin and Perez, who have become peace makers as a result of such cleansing (although the former appealed for the crushing of Palestinians’ bones and the latter was found guilty of perpetrating the Qana massacre, and both of them are still considered excellent war criminals). Therefore, we can only conclude that Abu Mazen meant to add Sharon to the list of these two men in order to cleanse Sharon’s bloody background and make him appear more innocent and shine brighter.

Abu Mazen’s Attitude Not Surprising: Those who know Abu Mazen are not surprised by his attitude toward Sharon. Some of them said that Abu Mazen’s recent attitude toward the Arab-Israeli conflict began forming much earlier, which explains most of his sayings and his actions. His family moved from Safad in northern Palestine to Damascus in 1948 and they suffered from poverty and neediness, forcing him to sell figs in Damascus. Having finished high school, he worked as a teacher. Then he was helped by a member of Fateh who found him a job in Qatar where he contacted several organizations and studied law; however, there remains several question marks about this stage of his life. In 1959, the movement of Fateh was established and he joined it to be in charge of the financial affairs, which made him an influential person with a closely-knit group of colleagues. Moreover, he was vague, introverted, narrow-minded and reserved, and he rarely declared his ideas.

In the early 1960s, he began to talk to his group about the fact that the Arabs would never do anything for Palestine or Palestinians, and the connection with the Arab ideology is futile, therefore the Palestinians must accept the coexistence with the Israelis who had become their powerful neighbours and who were more advanced than the Arabs themselves. This had been whispered by him at that time, but it became a louder whisper after the war in 1967 when it became known that he showed a definite preference for a full recognition of Israel to whom the Palestinians’ destiny should be directly connected while moving away from relying on the Arabs. Those who are well-acquainted with the decision makers in Fateh said that Abu Mazen was one of the pioneers who began the negotiation channels with the Israelis early in 1974, as well as Essam Sartawi, the PLO representative in Paris, who was later assassinated by the Abu Nidhal Group because of these suspected ideals.

Abu Mazen indicated in his book, The Way to Oslo, that he began his contacts after the Palestinian National Council had decided to begin the peace contact with the Israeli peace forces in 1976. However, well-informed sources in Fateh emphasized that these contacts had begun well before and continued until the Oslo agreement. Those who were following his course of action said that he began to appeal openly to deal with the Israeli alienation and to abandon the Arab connection after he had left Damascus as a result of the split in Fateh. Consequently, it became obvious that Abu Mazen began to lead the lobby in this regard, including most of his men who had supported him from the time he was in charge of the financial affairs in Fateh, in order to deal with Israel.

Furthermore, those who recognized this change in Abu Mazen’s loyalties were not surprised by the fact that he was one of those who designed the Oslo agreement, which began in 1992. Its design was exclusive to three persons: Yasser Arafat, Ahmed Qrei’(Abu Al-Ala’) the chief of the PNC now, and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). It was also not surprising that the ideas of the final settlement were discussed with the Labor Party and these ideas were also crystallized in a statement broadcast in 1995, three days before Rabin was assassinated. It was revealed that the Palestinian partner was none other than Abu Mazen, who prepared it with Youssi Belin, the deputy of the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs. As a result, the document was coined the “Belin-Abu Mazen document”.
This brief background explains to a large extent the attitude of Abu Mazen, who has been involved in continuous contacts with the Israelis for more than 25 years. Most of these contacts have been behind-the-scenes and were carried out by this mysterious and vague person with his unpronounced agenda. In addition, he is supported by international influential organizations concerned with these attitudes and perspectives.

Is There Really a Bargain? It was no accident that Abu Mazen was the person chosen to deal with the Israelis since 1973, that he was involved in the negotiations in 1993, that he was a partner with Youssi Belin to design the final solution in 1995, or that he was chosen to negotiate the final settlement in 1998. His Israeli counterpart will be the kind-hearted person about whom Abu Mazen talked amicably and with great admiration. This last piece of information has worried us because it is not only a matter of admiration by a leading Palestinian figure of the professional murderer of the Palestinians which breaks and ails our hearts greatly, but also that these two men were supposed to be opponents and yet they are about to begin negotiations concerning the most sensitive and intricate issue in the modern history of the Arabs.
I have said that my blood has boiled in my veins when I saw the two men shake hands in a friendly and intimate manner as portrayed in the snapshot published in the Middle East paper, and at the same time I was greatly terrified because the snapshot was away from the matter they were going to discuss. I thought the snapshot was of two intimate friends meeting in a public park, shaking hands and drinking tea in a quiet corner and when I saw the reality of the situation, I was furious and said they would be more serious about the scores if they belonged to two volleyball teams!

What would happen if the meeting was between the murderer himself and the representative of the victims’ family? If we reported the details of this meeting to any ordinary person who had no idea about the whole issue, he or she would say definitely there was a bargain. Nobody could believe that such an attitude would make us certain about the future of some crucial and serious issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, colonies, water resources and borders. Meanwhile, we would not believe the fact that dealing with these issues would not start from zero but rather there were serious steps taken as evidenced by the Belin-Abu Mazen document, and what is going on now is just a matter of final touches.

The issue of the final status has to be taken seriously, and closing the file of a cause that has lasted 100 years requires more deliberation and deep consideration, especially in this critical stage because there are certain issues which the Palestinians cannot deal with away from other Arab countries at the very least.

Who Has the Right to Defer? Let us take the cause of the refugees as an example and ask who is authorized to give up the rights of 4 million Palestinians in Diaspora, who had been deported since 1948, to go back to their homeland? Is this acceptable politically and legally? And suppose all standards are ignored, then you might ask: Is it possible to house all of those refugees in the neighbouring countries, namely Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon?

This last question could also be rendered in discussing the matter of borders because Palestine does not have borders with Israel only but it also has borders with the above-mentioned neighbouring countries. Therefore, is it possible to settle this matter without the participation of these countries?

There is another question which could be rendered about Jerusalem: Does any Palestinian party have the right to settle this issue despite its having been considered an exclusively Islamic matter by the Pan-Islamic conference? A special committee was formed and presided by King Hassan II; even the Vatican has claimed the Christian rights in Jerusalem, so what about the Muslims’ rights?

Do not these issues require more deliberate consultations among Arabs, Palestinians, and Muslims before starting the negotiations about the final settlement? We have not dealt with the timing of the final situation, which should start after the third stage of deployment according to the signed treaties. 

This includes 87% of the West Bank, but the Israelis had dropped this stage and refused to deal with this matter at all. Although the Israeli Cabinet had agreed on Wye-River treaty, the Israeli forces would only withdraw from 1% of the land while the Palestinians would get only 40%-41%, and the rest would be entirely controlled by Israel. This is another catastrophe which has been overridden in order to open the file of the final situation.

The matter is extremely serious and crucial, and even larger than Abu Mazen and Sharon would think, which may stir up puzzling inquiries about the attitude of the Palestinian leadership and its options to face this serious and fatal situation. In addition, there are other inquiries about the Arabs’ attitude toward this critical matter if there are any.

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