"We Recognize Israel" - Speech by Yasar Arafat, 1988
The purported title of the speech ("We Recognize Israel") was added by the editor of the book that published it. As far as can be ascertained, the speech in fact has no title. In addition, the words “We recognize Israel" were never said by Arafat in this or any other speech, nor were they uttered by any other representative of an Arab Palestinian political party.
Adding a title, especially an inaccurate title, to an untitled speech without informing students that it is not part of the speech, is misleading and deceptive.
The text's introduction to the speech is both inaccurate and misleading. Its description of the speech is in black type; our comments are in blue type:
"At a special session of the United Nations General Assembly convoked at the end of 1988 in Geneva, Switzerland, Arafat recognized Israel's right to exist alongside a Palestinian state." This is false - Arafat did not announce the recognition of Israel in either the speech itself or the press conference he gave after the speech; in fact. the P.A. still does not recognize Israel.
"The day after the special session took place, he clarified the Palestinian position in a press conference, extracts of which are presented below. Soon after Arafat's appearance in Geneva, President Ronald Reagan reversed the United States policy of boycotting the Palestinian Liberation Organization - which Arafat headed - and announced that the United States would hold talks with representatives from that organization. Fatah, the political wing of the PLO, controls currently the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank." “Fatah” is a reverse acronym for “Palestinian National Liberation Organization” (PLO), and its successor, the Palestinian Authority. The PLO does not have a separate political branch and does not 'control' the Palestinian Authority.
The text of Arafat's speech is accurate:
"Let me highlight my views before you. Our desire for peace is a strategy and not an interim tactic. We are bent on peace come what may... Our statehood provides salvation to the Palestinians and peace to both Palestinians and Israelis.
Self-determination means survival for the Palestinians and our survival does not destroy the survival of the Israelis, as their rulers claim. Yesterday in my speech I made reference to the United Nations Resolution 181* as the basis for Palestinian independence. I also made reference to our acceptance of resolution 242* and 338* as the basis for negotiations with Israel within the framework of the international conference. These three resolutions were endorsed by our Palestinian National Council session in Algiers.
In my speech also yesterday, it was clear that we mean our people's right to freedom and national independence, according to Resolution 181 and the rights of all parties concerned in the Middle East conflict to exist in peace and security. As for terrorism, I announced it yesterday in no uncertain terms, and yet, I repeat for the record.... that we totally and absolutely renounce all forms of terrorism, including individual, group and state terrorism.
Between Geneva and Algiers, we have made our position crystal clear. Any more talks such as "The Palestinians should give more" -you remember this slogan? - or "it is not enough" or "the Palestinians are engaging in propaganda games and public relations exercises" will be damaging and counterproductive. Enough is enough... All remaining matters should be discussed around the table and within the international conference.
Let it be absolutely clear that neither Arafat, nor any [one else] for that matter, can stop the Intifada, the uprising. The intifada will come to an end only when practical and tangible steps have taken toward the achievement of our national aims and establishment of our independent Palestinian state... Finally, I declare before you and I ask you to kindly quote me on that: We want peace...We are committed to peace. We want to live in our Palestinian state, and let live. Thank you."
Inaccuracies and misrepresentations in Arafat's speech:
"UN Resolution 181 passed in 1947 and established the original borders for the separate states of Palestine and Israel". This claim is both inaccurate and misleading. Although the intent of the resolution was to establish borders, the Arab response was a unanimous rejection of the resolution and the invasion of Israel by five (later seven) Arab nations. The war resulted in several armistice agreements, the last one signed between Israel and Syria in July, 1949. These agreements did not establish permanent borders, only temporary cease-fire lines, with the stated intent that permanent borders be renegotiated at a later time.
The U.N. recognized Israel and Jordan - not Palestine - as the Jewish and Arab states created by the Resolution. There was no attempt to seek recognition of a separate Arab Palestinian state because the concept of an Arab Palestinian people had not yet been created.
By 1949, Jordan occupied land in Jerusalem and nearby areas intended by the Resolution to be under international control. In 1950, Jordan illegally annexed that territory in defiance of Resolution 181.
"with Israel receiving 56% of the land." This claim is also misleading and inaccurate. In the 1920 San Remo Conference, the League of Nations approved and later unanimously ratified a “Mandate for Palestine” under which the area now encompassing Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan was reserved for a Jewish homeland. The Mandate, as with all resolutions ratified by the League of Nations, was adopted by the U.N. upon its formation.
The San Remo Conference also ratified the creation of Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq as Arab entities. Instead of honoring the treaty, however, in 1921 Britain gave 77% of the territory reserved for a Jewish homeland to one of the sons of the Sharif of Mecca, who wanted to form a unified Arab nation called Greater Syria. After the War of Independence, Israel consisted of less than 15% of the territory originally set aside for it under the Mandate.
"UN Resolution 242 passed in 1967 and called for the withdrawal of troops from the Occupied territories." This false claim completely inverts the meaning of Resolution 242, which links the withdrawal of Israeli troops with the cessation of hostilities and acceptance of Israel as a sovereign state. Neither of the last two conditions - the cessation of hostilities by Arab governments and recognition of Israel - has yet occurred.
The text fails to note that the only nations to accept the resolution were Israel and Jordan (Egypt purported to accept Resolution 242, however, later statements and actions reneged the acceptance).
The text's use of the term “Occupied territories”, which was not in use at the time of Resolution 242, is a further deception.
"and the establishment of two, independent states" This statement implies that Resolution 242 created an 'independent' Palestinian state separate from Jordan. This is entirely false. In no way does the Resolution create or imply the creation of two Arab Palestinian states in the former Mandate territory; instead, it confirmed the creation of Israel and Jordan. In 1967, as the result of a war of aggression towards Israel, Jordan lost the area, originally meant to be part of Israel or an international zone, it had illegally occupied since 1949.
The resolution states that “every State in the area” has the right to exist in peace and with secure borders. The only Arab Palestinian state in the area at the time it was adopted was Jordan, the vast majority (80%) of whose citizens refer to themselves as 'Palestinian'. Resolution 242 refers to Jordan, not a second state called 'Palestine'; and there is nothing in the Resolution that implies the creation of such a state.
"U.N. Resolution 338 passed in 1973 and established a ceasefire between Israel, Syria, and Egypt, therefore ending the Yom Kippur war". Resolution 338 called upon “all parties” to “terminate military activities” and engage in negotiation; it did not establish a ceasefire.