Thursday, June 13, 2013

Moshe Sasson Talks to Palestinians, December 1967

The other day we posted a barely legible document about discussions held by Levi Eshkol's special envoy to the territories in 1967. Well, it didn't take long for us to dig up a copy of better quality, one that can be effortlessly read.

The post earlier this work deciphered the cover letter. Here's a summary of the 7-page report itself, dated December 15, 1967.

Introductory comments:
I've held 36 conversations with 32 public figures in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, and Bethlehem. They belong to many different political groups, and some unaffiliated. I haven't yet met religious Muslim leaders because it's Ramadan. 
No-one refuses to meet me. On the contrary, some ask why I invited them so late. They are obviously talking among themselves and exchanging notes, though they're still presenting me with their own particular positions. 
They all wish to know what our positions are, and often seem disappointed when I tell them I'm mostly listening. 
They all see my talks with them as a sort of recognition of the Palestinians, though they attribute different sorts of significance to this; some wonder if we're intending to create an independent Palestinian entity. 
Political background:
The local Palestinian political scene is lively, and they're in regular contact with other Arabs in Jordan and elsewhere. 
Many of them are fed up with the Arab world, and are eager to change their own position. They may be a force we should deal with. 
The current events are something of a distraction. Nasser's recent speech, the intended arrival of Gunnar Jahring, the UN emissary and other immediate events are grabbing much of their attention. 
Common denominations
There is a rough consensus among most of them, with the exception of the communists, the Baath nationalists, and the PLO. 
1. They don't want to remain in their current condition under Israeli military rule.
2. They're tired of violence and have no expectations Nasser will be able to help them.
3. If Nasser thinks time is on the side of the Arabs, he's wrong.
4. They don't want to go back to the situation before the war. If there's no other option, they'd prefer Israel to leave as part of an agreement.
5. They don't wish to live in a Palestinian ghetto inside Israel. They regard the status of Israel's Arab citizens as one of a "spiritual prison". 
They mostly agree about what they don't want. There's less agreement about what they do want. 
Israel's image:
1. They're pleasantly surprised that Israel isn't at all like they were described during 19 years of propaganda. "You're the same people we lived with under the British Mandate."
2. The PLO is hurting the good atmosphere, but so are some Israeli actions.
3. They have the suspicion that Israel seeks to expand and take over the entire land; they also think Israel will try to impose peace; they are mystified by Israel's demand for direct negotiations with Arab nations. 
The Baath and the Communists:
They are fiercely against any peace settlement. My interlocutors can't understand why Israel is allowing them such a free hand. Those [among the communists and Baath] I've talked to state that there can be no settlement with the Palestinians unless there's a settlement with the entire Arab world. Yet since the general public will is for a settlement, they're using terminology that conceals their true positions. 
Supporters of a Palestinian State:
There is potentially broad support for this option, yet it's always the second alternative. Each of them has a preferred settlement, an independent Palestine being only their fall-back plan. Many of the leaders I spoke with have vested interests in Jordanian rule or other options, and they fear for their status if there's a new and independent Palestine. They remember the [internal Palestinian violence of ] the 1930s, and they're afraid. Many are also waiting: if Israel comes out clearly in favor of this option it will change the dynamic. In the meantime they're under external pressure and from the Soviets. 
They're afraid of appearing as Israeli lackeys, though some wonder if they might use the UN plan of 1947 as legitimisation to speak of an independent Palestine.
Jerusalem must be the joint capital of the two countries - but undivided.
The Position of the Main Leaders:
They are willing, though reluctant, to serve as mediators between Israel and the Arab leadership abroad, but they want to know what our intentions are. 
Supporters of a Temporary Settlement:
No matter what they do, they'll be accused of working for Israel, they claim. So some are wondering if Israel might grant them some form of autonomy from which they will be able to build a stronger position. 
Outliers:
1. The Arabs are mistaken in not immediately entering negotiations with Israel, so as to demonstrate its lack of sincerity.
2. Israel should annex the entire territory, so that they're be a single state for both nations.
3. There should be a three-way federation [Israel-Palestine-Jordan] with Jerusalem as its capital.
4. The West Bank should be a separate canton within Jordan.

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