The Palestinian leaders' declaration implicitly recognizing Israel's right to exist is a step forward in the evolution of the Palestinian stance, but Israel is in no position to take advantage of it, say two University of Utah professors.
Ibrahim Karawan, assistant professor of political science, and Laurence Loeb, associate professor of anthropology, discussed Israel and the Palestinians Tuesday at the Hinckley Institute of Politics.Karawan called the Nov. 15 Algiers declaration of the Palestinian National Council "truly revolutionary."
From 1965 to 1974, the Palestinians espoused creation of a secular democratic state by means of armed struggle, he said. In 1974, they recognized the need to move toward their goal in stages, establishing a Palestinian entity in any territory they could liberate from the Israelis and using diplomacy and other means as well as violence. In the early 1980s they decided to limit armed struggle to the occupied territories.
But this latest declaration goes much further, accepting a two-state solution to the conflict, something still opposed by both the extreme left and the Islamic fundamentalist Palestinian factions, Karawan said.
He emphasized that the Palestine Liberation Organization, like the Israeli government, is a coalition of factions, and building consensus has taken time. He said the Algiers declaration is a positive development, "a bit later than it should be," but the United States has no right to lecture people about instant recognition, given how many years the Americans took to recognize China.
Loeb said that although the Israeli government considers the Algiers declaration "a non-starter," issued primarily for public relations purposes, many Israelis view it as "a step forward - not much of a step forward but a step forward."
But he said the coalition nature of Israel's politics is precisely why the Israelis are in no position to negotiate with the Palestinians.
The Nov. 1 elections left the Likud party with 40 parliamentary votes and the Labor party with 39. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, of Likud, has invited the Labor party to join a new broad-based coalition government to keep out the smaller religious parties. But the Labor leaders are divided about the offer, and Israel is left without strong leaders able to negotiate anything important, Loeb said.
"What it probably means is no real negotiations until the next elections."
In the meantime, he said, the Israelis may continue to deal with the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories as they have in the past year, expand their repression, or do what the Israeli Defense Forces have been suggesting and withdraw from some areas, retreating to strategic positions on the borders and in the highlands.
"Until they get their house in order, there will be no meaningful negotiation in any case."
Asked about the U.S. denial of a visa to PLO leader Yasser Arafat to discuss the Algiers declaration with the United Nations General Assembly, Karawan called it insignificant. "It'll pass with this administration."
He said it's farfetched for the Reagan administration to suggest that Arafat poses any security threat to the people of New York, and if the motive is his connection to past terrorism, "Mr. Shamir's history in that regard is not significantly different."