Barry Rubin is author of many books on the Arab-Israeli conflict and on U.S. Middle East policy, most recently Revolution Until Victory: The Politics and History of the PLO, and is co-editor of the Israel-Arab Reader.
There's a great debate about the Middle East that boils down to a simple question: Is the Arab-Israeli conflict over? Does the current reduction in hostilities point to an end to the almost century of violence? The answer to this question has implications throughout the Middle East and far outside it.
A review of the last fifty years shows that slowly, reluctantly, a majority on the Arab (including Palestinian) side has engaged in a thorough reassessment of Israel. This reassessment has then made it possible for the Israeli side to abandon its more demanding policies of recent years and return to its earlier approach of exchanging land for peace.
Given its many participants and intricacies, making sense of one of history's most passionate struggles requires consideration of the problem in general, then a look at the changes in each of the four main participants--the Arab states, the Palestinians, Israel, and the United States.
THE BASIC ASYMMETRY
The Arab-Israeli conflict was unsolvable as long as it was set in existential terms--requiring either Israel's destruction or the Palestinian Arabs' exile and political nonexistence. Only when both sides perceived that neither could be eliminated did they become ready for an outcome giving each a national framework, a two-state solution in which Israel and Palestine partition the land and live in peace. The conflict's apparent endlessness, incurring high costs with no prospect for absolute victory, finally made success at the bargaining table seem both plausible and desirable.
Yet this explanation's general accuracy does not mean the problem has been symmetrical, involving contestants that were mirror images of each other. The key factor prolonging the conflict over so long a period was that while Israelis wanted a peace that brought recognition from their neighbors, Arabs (including the Palestinians) in principle rejected Israel's existence. Originally, they expected total victory; with time, this hope faded but the Arab side still resisted making peace because maintaining enmity to Israel enhanced a regime's stability and often improved its power.1
Thus, the deadlock persisting for decades resulted neither from tough bargaining nor misunderstanding but from a complete rejection of compromise by the Arab side. After all, the current solution pursued in the peace process negotiations -- the existence of both an Israeli Jewish and a Palestinian Arab state -- was the United Nations's original proposal for 1948; and this solution was accepted by Israel in 1947 but rejected by the Arab side. The latter insisted that the only acceptable outcome was an Arab state encompassing all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This decision triggered the international conflict. It would take almost half a century to arrive back at a situation approximating the one offered at this starting point.
Similarly, during the 1948-67 period, the Arab side never considered implementing a two-state solution by converting the Jordanian-ruled West Bank and the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip into a Palestinian state. The only option offered Israel during those two decades was to abandon its national existence altogether, a clear roadblock to any political solution. The great majority of Arab states and also the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) rejected a wide range of peace plans -- Israel's 1967 offer to trade captured territories for peace, King Husayn's 1972 United Arab Kingdom concept, the 1977 Camp David accords, the 1982 Reagan plan, Jordan's 1985 proposal, and many others -- that might have been adopted and adapted toward this end.
Permanent rejection of peace with Israel remained the most fundamental principle of inter-Arab politics until about 1991. But since the Arab states had little hope of victory, and feared the high cost of defeat, their preferred option between 1974 and 1991 was one of "no war/no peace." When any Arab leader sought seriously to negotiate he was -- as happened with Jordan's King Husayn -- discouraged from doing so by internal and external pressure or -- as befell Egypt -- faced with a dozen years of quarantine by a nearly unanimous Arab world.
For these reasons, the Arab-Israel conflict was no typical international dispute or one easily settled by some ingenious compromise formula. Outsiders could easily propose solutions but none could be implemented until the Arab side changed its policy of viewing Israel's destruction as the only solution. This development, in turn, would require an almost revolutionary reorientation of Arab politics.
Such a transition did occur but ripened very slowly. In the end, a new era was brought about by a long chain of events: Arab military defeats from the Six-Day War in 1967 to Iraq's debacle at the hands of a U.S.-led coalition in 1991; the rise of other threats to Arab governments, like Islamic radicalism and Iraqi aggression; and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Arab leaders realized that their interests required a reinterpretation of the conflict, in which Arab states offered peace in exchange for territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war. Palestinians became ready to trade recognition of Israel for an end to the post-1967 occupation and their own state on part of the land. Although there were still hold-outs, the regional political system had been transformed. Rather than setting the boundaries for permissible discourse and intimidating any dissent, the militants now found themselves isolated and on the defensive.
THE ARAB STATES
The great challenge for Arab politics in the last half century has been to find a way to escape a lack of legitimacy, economic weakness, arbitrary rule, and foreign interference, and to achieve stability and progress. But the solutions Arab states embraced often made matters worse.
While obsession about the conflict with Israel obstructed the process of recognizing and solving these problems, the real malaise of the Arabs arose not from the conflict with Israel but from two different factors. First, more than in any other part of the world, ambitious rulers (including Gamal Abdel Nasser, Hafiz al-Asad, Mu`ammar al-Qadhdhafi, Saddam Husayn, and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini) have actively tried to dominate the Middle East. In this context, militancy on the Arab-Israeli conflict, pan-Arab nationalism, and the Palestine cause became tools to promote leaders' personal ambitions and individual Arab states' interests, crush any opposition, bully other Arab regimes, and conceal domestic problems. Weaker, moderate regimes -- their intended victims -- responded in like manner to appease potential aggressors and to prove their own patriotic credentials for the domestic audience. Kuwait's history of verbal militancy and paying blackmail -- fawning over Saddam Husayn almost to the day of his invasion -- offers a compelling case study.
Secondly, the malaise resulted from the effort to find some fast way to escape political vulnerability and economic backwardness. The main proposed solution was to create a single Arab state and to expel Western influence, whose foremost local presence was said to be Israel. But the favored solutions of war and revolution, militancy and armed struggle, alliance with Moscow coupled with enmity toward the United States, and a statist economy devastated the Arab world.
Of course, many Arab leaders doubted these notions and only paid lip service to them. But that is precisely the point. Aside from the Palestinians, and especially after 1973, few Arab rulers were eager to fight Israel and they were not required to do so. While this policy of no war/no peace helped Arab politicians survive, it also inhibited progress and opened the region to enormous dangers. If extremism in the pursuit of Arab rights was no vice and moderation in the face of an evil Israel was no virtue, the resulting atmosphere fostered revolutionary Islamic movements, expensive arms races, catastrophic civil wars, and an Iraqi dictator invading your country.
Nonetheless, a series of events slowly and consistently chipped away at the Arab political and belief system. The 1967 and 1973 military defeats by Israel were followed by Lebanon's vicious twenty-year civil war, starting in 1974, Egypt's defection from the anti-Israel camp in 1977-79, Iran's 1979 revolution, and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. The year 1982 saw a triple disaster. The Syrian army massacred thousands of civilians in Hama, showing the hollowness of the radical regimes' populist, progressive rhetoric. Iranian troops crossed into Iraq for the first time, pointing up the genuine threat of Persian power and radical fundamentalism to Arab regimes. Israel's army went into Lebanon and defeated the PLO and Syrian forces, thereby showing Israel's continued military superiority, the Soviet and Arab states' inability to respond, and the readiness of some Arabs to ally themselves with Israel.
The 1980s brought much more bad news about Arab failures, defeats, and divisions. Israel not only remained strong but huge numbers of immigrants from the Soviet Union and expanding settlements on the West Bank seemed to show that time was not on the Arabs' side. In contrast, Moscow's power continued to decline and collapsed completely in 1991. Radical Arab regimes, even those possessing huge oil reserves, were unable to show economic progress. The reality of individual Arab nation-states -- each with its own interests, which had once seemed much less real than the pan-Arab aspiration -- had become undeniable.
Nevertheless, so great was the old system's staying power that Saddam Husayn, the newest incarnation of the old order, was still the 1990 Arab summit's hero. But not only did he fail to deliver on his promise of Arab victory and resurgence, he also graphically showed that the price of glory would be more wars, defeats, and perhaps political suicide for other Arabs. His adventure showed once more -- perhaps for the last time -- that the most dangerous of men to the Arabs was he who actually believed and tried to implement their slogans.
At some point many Arab leaders would conclude that this system was not working and decide that they needed to do something about it. President Anwar as-Sadat of Egypt was the first Arab leader to begin this transition, around 1971. Yet he required a war to announce the new policy and almost a decade to implement it. Elsewhere (Saudi Arabia or Syria), the process started later and has still not ended.
But the powerful logic for change has been very much at work. Perhaps it was best expressed by Egypt's President Husni al-Mubarak at the 1989 Arab summit: "God has granted us a mind with which to think. We fought for many years, but where did we get?" The Arabs had lost much money and many martyrs in the struggle, and their situation was still terrible. "I am therefore not ready to take more risks. . . . Wars have generally not solved any problem." Despite the difficulties and obstacles, he concluded, making peace with Israel was the only way out.2
The old ways could no longer continue for the Arab system amidst a growing sense of the conflict's futility and wastefulness. Individual Arab states showed increasing readiness to seek their own interests. At the least, Arab states walked away from the conflict. At most, they were ready to make peace and try to turn it to their advantage, even seeing Israel as a useful strategic ally and good trading partner.
By 1948, the Palestinians could have obtained one-half of what they might have received in 1939, and By 1967, 1979, or 1993, their opportunities had been halved again. Suffering the greatest in the long conflict, they were also the party that most perpetuated it, explicitly preferring deadlock to a solution requiring any real compromise. The PLO's basic strategy was in line with Abu Iyad's 1971 statement that it had "no right" to negotiate a settlement, but must keep struggling, "even if they cannot liberate a single inch," to preserve the option to regain all of Palestine someday.3 In 1984, he still thought so: "Our steadfastness and our adherence to our land is our only card. . . . We would rather be frozen for ten more years than move toward treason."4
No matter what the justice of the Palestinian claim to the entire land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, it was simply not realizable, and attempting to achieve it prevented the Palestinians from getting anything at all for a very long time. Indeed, even today, Palestinian public opinion has difficulties revising this worldview.
The PLO's strategy also arose from an analysis of Israel. Assuming that state's existence an aberration, the Palestinian leaders assumed it would soon collapse. They urged Arab states to go to war; pursued a strategy of terrorism to demoralize Israelis, thinking they would ultimately flee or surrender; and continued to fight on, believing that time was on their side.
But the PLO was also dependent on the support of Arab governments that usually ignored its needs or sought to subjugate it. They gave lip service to absolute support for the Palestinians but rarely acted accordingly, and even then did so based on their own views and interests. While Western observers insisted that the Arabs passionately supported the cause, Palestinians themselves felt "that virtually every Arab state has stabbed them in the back at one point or another," as Yezid Sayigh wrote in 1984.5 Buffeted by constantly changing Arab policies and rivalries, PLO leader Yasir Arafat tried to avoid becoming any ruler's enemy or puppet. This was a hard chore, as the 1970 Jordan-PLO war, the post-1975 Syria-PLO feud, and entanglements in Lebanon's civil war and Saddam's war against Iran and takeover of Kuwait would show.
The PLO also internalized the Arab world's fragmentation. Arafat never made a serious effort to impose his will on the different ideologies, fiefdoms, and loyalties that kept the PLO a loose umbrella group. In constantly toiling for consensus with Arab states and Palestinian groups, he usually gave a veto to the most militant ones, thus blocking any reform of futile strategies.
Meanwhile, the same defeats shaking the Arab world--plus a large number of its own setbacks--challenged the PLO's beliefs and strategy. From Jordan it retreated to Lebanon, from Lebanon to Tunisia. Terrorism damaged its international image and pushed it further away from any invitation to the bargaining table. Even the intifada, as much as it raised Palestinian morale and visibility, brought no material advantage. Only in 1988 did a serious debate about changing course surface in the organization. "We must admit we do not have all the time in the world," Abu Iyad warned.6 Another PLO leader, Hani al-Hasan, candidly admitted in 1989, "It took us a hell of a long time to come unambiguously to terms with reality."7 And even he would later reject the Oslo agreements.
It is striking how long it took the PLO to make this reappraisal. Few individuals or institutions urged full peace with Israel in exchange for a West Bank and Gaza state in the forty years after 1948. The pressure for consensus and from Palestinian public opinion, the constraints of ideology, the threats of radical groups and regimes, the power of belief in ultimate victory, the inability to comprehend Israel, and many other factors retarded any advance to a different vision or strategy.8
Even in 1988, the PLO could still not quite break with the past, as demonstrated by the deliberately vague wording of that year's Palestine National Council resolution and Arafat's inability--even at the cost of losing the U.S.-PLO dialogue--to condemn terrorist attacks by PLO groups in 1990. Shortly thereafter, he returned with apparent relief to his familiar practices by backing Saddam.
The fallout from that mistake finally forced the long-awaited change. With the PLO seeing its worldview once again refuted by events, deprived of its Soviet ally and most of its Arab support, challenged by rising rivals in Hamas and more assertive Palestinians in the territories, recognizing Israel's ally America was now the world's sole superpower, and on the verge of bankruptcy, it did what was necessary to make peace. In facing this crisis, the PLO also redefined its goals, replacing the hope of destroying Israel with the new goal of achieving an independent West Bank/Gaza Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The seriousness and durability of this change is illustrated by four important factors:
* The long time-span, emotional pain, and political difficulties involved for the Palestinians to make this shift show that it was not done glibly or spuriously. Arafat has many shortcomings, including his weakness in educating the masses toward the new, alternate vision, but he has nonetheless brought about a sharp change.
* The decline in Palestinians' circumstances -- notably the loss of Arab state support or interest in their cause and the backing of a powerful superpower -- is mostly irreversible.
* The new framework for the Palestinians--responsibility for their own affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, dependence on Western aid, the prospect of an independent state --created a new political dynamic in which Arafat and the Palestinian leadership have staked their interests.
* Several factors -- Israel's own strength and development, U.S. primacy, and the interests of Jordan and Egypt for the moderation of any Palestinian entity -- strengthen Israel's position and constrain that of the Palestinians.
While the Arab states' stances underwent a long-term evolution, one that forced them to give up their most cherished convictions, Israel's position moved in a circle, returning, after a long detour, to its original intent.
Israel was always ready for peace with the Arab states, from its endorsement of the 1948 partition plan to the secret post-1967 war initiative offering to trade captured land for peace. The Khartoum Arab summit responded five months later by rejecting any compromise. Thus, during most of the Arab-Israeli conflict's history, Israel could only choose a strategy to cope with--not resolve--the issue.
During those years, Israel's definition of success was to attain a full peace with the Arabs recognizing its pre-1967 boundaries, preferably with some favorable alterations. Until there was a negotiated peace, Israel would have to keep the captured lands as bargaining chips to enhance the prospect of finding a diplomatic solution on terms it could accept. Ironically, nothing extended the length of the occupation more than the way the Arab states and especially the PLO fought against it.
This land-for-peace stand remained that of Israel's Labor Party and about half of the Israeli public. While refusing to deal with the PLO--given that organization's goal and methods--Israel's government also presented in 1974 the conditions under which it would do so. Two decades later, these principles formed the basis of the Oslo agreement. Asked if he would negotiate with the PLO, Shimon Peres always responded by saying that a PLO that changed its stance would not be the same organization. But this did not seem an imminent prospect, certainly not before the end of 1988 or 1990.
A different position gained power only in 1977, with the accession of a Likud Party government asserting that experience proved the Arabs would never make peace and that even an apparent change by them was a ploy to strengthen their hand for the battle's next stage. The Likud Party and its allies insisted that Israel must keep the territories for self-defense, a permanent hold that would be guaranteed by establishing Jewish settlements there. Some cited religious grounds for doing so but the main justification was to ensure Israel's survival.
These two alternative definitions of success were fiercely debated. Yet while one was abstract--claiming that someday the Arab position would change--the immediacy of the more pessimistic assessment made it comparatively compelling, especially given the failure of secret or public plans and feelers.
Ironically, the era of mainly conservative rule between 1977 and 1992 unintentionally contributed to a long-term trend toward a peace settlement. By invading Lebanon in 1982, Israel dealt a blow to an Arab order blocking change and forced Palestinians to reevaluate their prospects. The same can be said in regard to the building of Jewish settlements and the massive immigration from the USSR.
For most of the 1970s and 1980s, Israel's situation--as problematic as it was--seemed preferable to taking significant risks without a better offer. There was little prospect of another full-scale Arab-Israeli war; Israel held the territories without too much difficulty. Similarly, the intifada, Saddam's threats, or international pressure could not force Israel's withdrawal from the territories or other concessions as long as no attractive diplomatic alternative was available.
The debate within Israel over whether such an opportunity did exist, hitherto so abstract, became an immediate matter during the 1988-90 round of efforts to start negotiations. While the PLO was moving toward a policy change, its stand was still ambiguous. Israel's national unity government collapsed in 1990 and the Likud's paradigm again triumphed, by a single vote in parliament. This outcome, plus the breakdown of the U.S.-PLO dialogue and Arafat's leap into Saddam's camp, showed that the parties needed one more dramatic demonstration both that the old struggle could not continue and that ending it would bring real opportunities.
Within Israel, the political turning point was Yitzhak Rabin's victory in the 1992 election. But it was the cold war's end and the Kuwait war's outcome that permitted a dovish Israeli government to try to implement its program. With Arafat finally ready to meet Israel's minimal conditions, the Oslo accords came fast and relatively easily.
The diplomatic breakthroughs since 1993 have been Israeli successes in terms of its original goals: ending the conflict, gaining recognition and peace from the Arab side, and securing its pre-1967 territory. Israel's concessions have been transitional steps or confidence-building measures toward a final settlement. Rabin and Peres sacrificed the more recent, maximalist demands that had, after all, originated in a now-subverted assumption that the Arabs would never accept a compromise solution.
THE UNITED STATES
Since 1974, U.S. secretaries of state and presidents have probably spent more time on the Arab-Israeli peace process than on any other single foreign-policy issue, a fact illustrating its frustrations as much as its importance. This effort also teaches much about U.S. interests and what strategies succeed in protecting them.
During the conflict's first forty years, Washington sought mainly to limit Soviet influence in the Middle East. At first, during the 1950s and 1960s, this meant trying to persuade radicals to join the Western camp. But so many forces (Iraq, Syria, pre-1972 Egypt, the PLO) allied themselves so closely with Moscow that U.S. leaders came to see these local forces as the most immediate problem.
If the radicals could be won over or appeased, and if the Arab-Israeli conflict was the cause of Arab disenchantment with the West, it could be argued that closer U.S.-Israel relations might lead to the destruction of American interests. In the effort to lure radical Arabs out of the Soviet camp and keep moderate ones from entering it, many experts on the region claimed that the United States had to show support for their cause.9 To their reasoning, it would be better if Israel did not exist at all but at the least, a quick settlement of the issue on terms acceptable to the Arabs was necessary.
U.S. policymakers generally rejected this advice, and for four reasons. First, on a practical level, as long as Arab states and the PLO were unwilling to negotiate a comprehensive solution on any possibly acceptable grounds, there was simply no basis for American diplomatic activism.
Secondly, as U.S. leaders came to view radical Arab states and movements as committed Soviet allies driven by their own ambitions and ideologies, they saw in Israel an ally to block the efforts of militant Arab leaders to overturn moderate regimes, revolutionize the region, and expel American influence. Israel proved its value as a strategic asset by defeating radical, Soviet-allied forces in 1967 and by deterring a Syrian invasion of Jordan in September 1970.
Thirdly, strengthening U.S.-Israel relations hardly hurt the American position in the Arab world. The moderate Arab states' behavior, if not their rhetoric, showed that they did not let the Arab-Israeli conflict affect other matters, including relations with the United States. More concerned about threats from Cairo, Damascus, or Baghdad, moderate regimes needed U.S. help and protection. Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf region sought U.S. protection against Iraq and Islamic Iran. Ignoring the U.S.-Israel alliance, they paid their oil money to buy products from U.S. companies, invited the U.S. Navy into the Gulf to convoy Kuwaiti tankers menaced by Iran, and asked for American help to repel Saddam's attack on Kuwait.
Fourthly, by making itself the conflict's mediator--something Moscow, lacking good relations with Israel, could never do--Washington ensured its own pivotal role in the region. Success here increased regional stability, undercutting both Soviet influence and the radicals' power. Rather than the United States's appeasing the Arab states, the latter needed to satisfy American requirements to escape their own chronically unfavorable circumstances.
Just as the 1973 war marked the Arab states' switch from active belligerence to a no war/no peace stand, it also moved U.S. policy from relative non-involvement to an active effort to manage an Arab-Israeli peace process. Henry Kissinger developed a strategy of undercutting Soviet influence not by appeasing the Arabs but by acting from strength, showing Arab regimes that militant, anti-Western behavior would gain them nothing. Only cooperation would bring them benefits. Egypt was the successful test case. Sadat acknowledged that the United States had 99 percent of the cards for making peace with Israel. Over time, this strategy also worked with the PLO and Jordan, as well as with most of the Persian Gulf and North African states.
Such an approach means the United States was not seeking a peace at any price nor of any kind. Not only does a negotiated solution have to be acceptable to both sides, it also has to promote U.S. interests. This excludes an outcome rewarding unrepentant former Soviet clients or still-fervent radicals. Making headway requires real change in Arab state and PLO positions not only due to Israeli demands but also in response to American needs.
But while the peace process was always on the list of U.S. priorities, it rose to the top only when progress became likely. American activity was repeatedly sparked by a regional event that gave reason for hope. The 1973 war led to disengagement agreements and the Camp David accords; the 1982 fighting in Lebanon led to the Reagan plan; the Jordan-PLO 1985 communiqué led to a round of negotiations; Arafat's 1988 policy shift led to the U.S.-PLO dialogue; and the 1991 Kuwait war brought the Madrid conference and direct talks. The 1993 Oslo agreement, negotiated by Israel and the PLO without U.S. involvement, was the decisive Israel-PLO breakthrough.
The American experience dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict proved a particular paradigm in comprehending Middle East politics and U.S. interests there. Mediating the dispute also enhanced Washington's assets and role. Moderate Arabs never let the Arab-Israeli conflict dictate their relations with a superpower whose help they needed; radicals who confronted America usually ended up suffering defeat. No one would make peace to please the United States but American insistence on defining the conflict in a solvable way certainly helped to bring the parties together.
Despite the difficulty of achieving a totally comprehensive solution and the continuation of some terrorism from Hamas (Palestinian) and Hizbullah (Lebanese), the Arab-Israeli conflict has faded as a central problem of this area's politics. Future regional crises will arise from factors quite outside this issue, such as strife between moderate and radical regimes or internal revolutionary situations in Arab states. Certainly, some Arab states and groups still want to combat or destroy Israel. But this is now a minority position which, in practice, parallels other bitter rivalries between individual states.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has been largely resolved by the cumulative effect of events showing the failure of alternative ways. The critical development was a PLO able to redefine its goal from destroying Israel to building a West Bank/Gaza state alongside Israel. Equally, the Arab world had not only to see that the conflict was unwinnable--a conclusion already drawn in the era of no war/no peace and relative disengagement--but that continuing it did not serve the regimes' interests, thwarted their progress, and even endangered their survival.
Once Israelis believed that Arab states and the PLO were willing to make a compromise peace, they were ready to negotiate with the PLO and make territorial concessions. They also realized that the territories could not be kept permanently at such a low cost as had been the case between 1967 and 1987.
The Arab-Israeli conflict's transformation also has broader implications for understanding international relations and foreign-policy decision making: it shows how a zero-sum conflict about existence can be turned into a more normal, potentially resolvable, state-to-state dispute and also how leaders may differentiate between real chances to reduce problems and unacceptable risks that might endanger their people's very survival. For U.S. policy, experience showed that only pressure on radical forces--denying them gains as long as they followed extremist and anti-American policies--could moderate their behavior, break these deadlocks, and build the credibility needed for moderates to make compromises. Resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict required an entire historical era. In general, it was not a story of missed opportunities but rather--perhaps like the cold war--a long, slow evolution that could succeed only when all options had been exhausted, when the need for an alternative became inescapable.
1 Alternatively, some Arabs (especially the PLO) argued that it was impossible to make peace with Israel since it was an inherently aggressive state seeking to dominate the Middle East. But this approach neither fit the facts nor had as much power as the notion that Israel's very existence was unjust, unacceptable, and counter to Arab interests.
2 Middle East News Agency, Jan. 24, 1989, in Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: Near East and South Asia (hereafter FBIS), Jan. 25, 1989.
3 Abu Iyad, Jan. 9, 1971, International Documents on Palestine (hereafter IDOP) 1971, (Beirut: 1972) p. 352.
4 Al-Majalla, Mar. 10, 1984. Arafat used almost precisely the same words in Dec. 1977 (IDOP 1977, p. 458), and again in 1988 (Time, Nov. 11, 1988).
5 Yezid Sayigh, "Fatah: The First Twenty Years," Journal of Palestine Studies, Summer 1984, p. 115.
6 Al-Anba', Sept. 7, 1988, in FBIS, Sept. 9, 1988.
7 Speech to Royal Commonwealth Society, Dec. 11, 1989, in Mideast Mirror, Dec. 12, 1989.
8 The claim that the PLO accepted a two-state solution in 1974 amounts to an attempt at rewriting history. On a political level, this invention can have a positive effect by legitimizing Arafat's recognition of Israel in 1993 as being fully within the PLO's tradition. But on a scholarly level, such a distortion blocks a genuine understanding of the PLO's history. It is based on a selective reading of a Palestine National Council resolution intended to prevent the West Bank's return to Jordan; it declares that a Palestinian entity should take over any land liberated from Israel to use as a base for conquering the rest. The resolution forbids peace, recognition of Israel, or a cessation of armed struggle against it. This long remained the PLO's policy in word and deed. In fact, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which sponsored that plan, still opposed the Oslo agreement over twenty years later. The effect of this "two-stage" strategy was to make Israel even more suspicious of the PLO.
9 For this argument, see John Campbell, "The Middle East: A House of Containment Built on Shifting Sand," Foreign Affairs, vol. 60, no. 3 (1981), p. 626; Charles MacDonald, U.S. Policy and Gulf Security (Stanford, 1984); Elmo Zumwalt and Worth Bagley, Time, June 16, 1986, p. 19; and The Washington Times, June 22, 1987.
10 Al-Hayat, June 30, 1996.