Palestinians want action. West Bank Arabs press PLO for daring peace moves
Supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the occupied territories are pressing the organization for new initiatives in the wake of Jordan's disengagement from the West Bank. ``As much as the intifadah has been daring, imaginative, and revolutionary, so the Palestinian leadership must also provide a daring, imaginative, and revolutionary peace initiative,'' Sari Nusseibeh, a philosophy professor at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, said in a recent interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Fajr.
``We have the right to know what the PLO wants and we insist that the PLO make its position, whatever it is, clear and unambiguous,'' Mr. Nusseibeh said.
King Hussein's announcement to sever ties with the West Bank opens the field to the PLO to seek a coordinated policy with Jordan on an equal footing while working to ``Palestinize'' institutions in the West Bank that are currently linked to Amman, supporters of the organization say.
According to a scenario painted by PLO supporters, international organizations such as the United Nations could be used as conduits for Palestinian funds for municipalities and other institutions currently supported by Jordan.
Meanwhile, they say, the PLO could follow a peace policy unencumbered by competition by Jordan for representation of the Palestinians.
The sense of enhanced legitimacy in the pro-PLO camp follows a concentrated effort by Palestinian nationalists in recent weeks to promote a more pragmatic approach to dialogue with Israel.
At the center of the campaign are leading pro-PLO figures in the West Bank who cannot legally affiliate with the PLO but are considered unofficial representatives.
These local activists are understood to have been pressuring the PLO leadership to adopt more moderate stands regarding talks with Israel.
Their effort may have been behind the recent publication of a document by PLO official Bassam Abu Sharif, in which he called for bilateral Palestinian-Israeli talks in an international conference and endorsed creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel.
The document received strong support from PLO backers in the West Bank, though it has not been formally endorsed by the PLO and was criticized by some of its officials.
Some observers have described the document as a product of the Palestinian uprising in the territories - a conciliatory statement made from a new position of strength.
Last week, leading PLO supporters in the West Bank joined a public panel discussion with Israelis on the Abu Sharif document at a meeting sponsored by the Peace Now movement, which advocates Israeli-Palestinian talks based on mutual recognition.
A major speaker was Faisal Husseini, considered the leading PLO figure in the territories.
Mr. Husseini told the meeting that the basic principles of the Abu Sharif document were acceptable to the PLO, and that criticism of the paper in the organization was more about style than substance. He endorsed the document, saying it was an elaboration of principles contained in resolutions of the Palestine National Council.
Husseini, who at one point switched over from Arabic to Hebrew to clarify a point for his Israeli audience, took pains to present a moderate line.
``There has to be mutual recognition by both sides,'' he said. ``The Palestinian side has to recognize the existence of Israel. The Israeli side has to recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination and the right to establish a state on its national soil.''
Husseini added that though he had a dream of a secular democratic state in the entire area of Israel and the occupied territories, ``I know this will remain a dream. We see a Palestinian state beside Israel as a realistic solution.''
[Israel arrested Husseini this week and jailed him for six months without trial for allegedly organizing anti-Israeli unrest.]
Husseini and another leading PLO supporter, Radwan Abu Ayyash, challenged the Israeli government to welcome the Abu Sharif document. ``Why don't you test it and see if it's propaganda or not,'' Mr. Abu Ayyash said.
In meetings with visiting diplomats, PLO backers on the West Bank repeatedly cite the Abu Sharif document as a basis for dialogue between the PLO and the United States as well as Israel.
In addition, the PLO-backed underground leadership of the Palestinian uprising has recently come forward with several short-term proposals for arrangements in the territories which are seen as more realistic alternatives to the sweeping and extreme message of the early weeks of the revolt.