I sent this report to Arafat at one of his Tunis meetings,
in 1987. Clement

On An Unilateral Recognition of Israel by the PLO

Pursuing an aggressive policy, the state of Israel has extended
its boundaries at the expense of the Palestinian people. Today
the Palestinian people, under the leadership of the PLO is
struggling for the recognition of its rights, that is to say to
get rid of the Israeli occupation and to live in their own State
under the government of their choice. That struggle is forty
years old.

A single day under foreign occupation is an abomination. In this
respect, forty years is a very long period. It is natural
therefore to ask ourselves if it had to be so.

There is no doubt that a number of factors worked against the
Palestinian cause. Some of them did not depend on the will of
the Palestinian people or that of their leadership. We can
mention the absence of dedication of some Arab countries to this
cause to which they were paying lip service only. Mention can
also be made in this respect to the policies of the United
States and its influence on the policies of other states.

Other factors which depended on the Palestinian people played
also a role in prolonging their sufferings. For too long a time
the people remained disorganised and accepted, may be
reluctantly, the tutelage of other Arab states. It can be safely
said that the true Palestinian modern leadership is about twenty
years old only.

It is a credible opinion which states that, for a long time, the
PLO was acting under the belief that their cause being right it
had to prevail. The future is for the righteous. They did not
expect that victory would come by itself without struggle, but
they were sure that their cause being just it would be enough to
reject the Israeli domination, to persevere in the struggle
against occupation and, somehow, Palestine would again belong to
the Palestinians.

The fact is that there is no law of nature  ensuring that all
just causes have to be victorious. In order not to interrupt the
argumentation, the example of a just cause that could have been
won but was lost for ever, is left to an appendix.   It is not
enough that a cause be just. There must exist (in the long-term
if not immediately) a possible combination of forces powerful
enough to win the battle. And even that is not enough. There
must also be a strategy that is likely to join together the
diverse elements of that combination. Even then the victory is
not yet sure. There must be proper tactics promoting initiatives
at the proper moment and exploiting every opportunity to
reinforce the unity in its own ranks and the disunity in the
ranks of the adversary. 

The Importance of Correct Aims

Note that the mention is of 'correct aims' and not 'Just aims'.
By correct aims is meant aims that are as close as possible to
'Just' aims, but have a fair chance of success, chances which
would be lacking if they were any closer to the 'Just aims'.
Differentiating between correct aims and just aims is absolutely

The fact is that by defining the aims, you automatically define
your actual friends and enemies as well as your potential
friends and enemies. Defining the aims is therefore deciding
what is the combination of forces that can be mobilised to
struggle for its success. If, with the best leadership applying
the best tactics, this combination is too weak to ensure the
victory of the cause, there must be a 'soul searching'
reevaluation of the aims. The aims must not be abandoned. They
have to be modified, as slightly as possible and as much as
necessary, so that in their new form it be possible to mobilise
such a combination of forces that, with a proper leadership,
victory would be a likely result.

For a long time, the official aim of the PLO was the formation
of a Palestinian state with no racial feature. It would be
neither an Arab State nor a Jewish state but a state for all its
inhabitants, Jews and Arabs, with equal rights for all.
Citizenship to that state would be according to who resided in
it at a given previous date (before the Jewish intensive
immigration) Was this aim just? People would argue about it
though it may be conceded that this aim was no less just then
the implantation of a Jewish population in Palestine against the
will of the majority of its population.

In the short-term, and with such an aim, the Palestinians were
utterly isolated. The creation of the state of Israel having
been approved by a large majority at the United Nations, the two
super powers having voted both for the resolution, the Arab
states being then more subservient to the West than they are
now, no real and appreciable force, other than the Palestinian
people, could be mobilised in support of that aim. A stand
against the existence of the state of Israel was enough to
alienate the world public opinion which, for contemporary
historic reasons could be aroused more easily, and with more
passion, in favour of the Israeli cause. Much more could be
written in this respect. Suffice it to say that it became
evident to the Palestinian leadership itself that they did not
have a winning combination. It was therefore necessary to revise
the aims in order to have realistic chances of success. In order
to decide what modification must be made to the aims we must
examine how the distribution of forces is affected by the aims.

Let us make an inventory of the forces available:

1) The Palestinian people is the most important force of all.
Unless it demonstrates its will against the Israeli occupation
unless it is evident that it is willing to struggle for the
realisation of its aims, no other force will rally to its
support. The Palestinian people is the only factor which is
stable, available whatever be the aim defined by its accepted

It must however be taken into consideration that the Palestinian
people, having suffered so much for so long, would not forgive
its leaders if, for lack of boldness, for rigid adherence to
forms instead of substance, they would reject a policy which,
though imperfect, would result in an acceptable situation: a
Palestinian state with no foreign occupation.

The Palestinian people is rich in experience and has attained a
degree of maturity which allows it to face realities and
understand it. If what is said here makes sense to the reader,
it will then make sense to the Palestinian people. One should
not underestimate its ability to understand bold initiatives at
the service of correct strategic aims.

2) The Arab governments are just now divided. Many of them have
strong relations of dependence with the West. In the long term
it is not possible to foresee the day at which they would be
able to stand consistently in support of the interests of the
Palestinian people. The Arab governments are afraid of the
political maturity of the Palestinian people. It is easy for the
Arab governments to take the most radical and uncompromising
stands in favour of the Palestinian cause. They try thus to
demonstrate their dedication and to gain the respect of their
people. It is a matter of demagogy. In the measure in which
their people see through their policies, in the measure in which
the people force them to specifically support the policies of
the PLO, the Arab government can be considered as friends of the
Palestinian cause. However, the Arab countries, having been
oppressed for a long time under the British or French
occupation, are facing serious economic and social problems
which affect negatively their military power.

3) The Arab people, just now, sympathises strongly with the
struggle of the Palestinian people. This sympathy doe not
however materialise, yet, into an effective stand. This is due
to a lack of encouragement from its leaders who do not feel a
strong popular pressure forcing them into a better stand.

4) The Western governments. Just now they would have liked the
situation in Palestine to calm down in order to appease the
public opinion in their own country and in order to secure the
stability of the Israeli position. They are afraid that the
continuation of the Palestinian revolt may 'inflame' the 'Arab
masses' in 'friendly' Arab countries (friendly to the West).
They will come out with proposal after proposal aimed at helping
Israel to overcome its problems. In the long term, an increase
of consciousness in the people of these countries may bring
about better governments. I would not wait till then. However
since these government, in a given measure, are susceptible to
the mood of their people, they may modify their stand if pressed
to do so by the popular opinion. As we will see this is
possible, if the Palestinian aims are modified. In this respect
the western government could be potential friends of the
Palestinian cause.

It must be remembered that the western government consider
Israel as an essential ally in the Middle-East to foster their
policies of economic and political domination on the African
continent. Since the Palestinian people and leadership are not
prepared to play such a role, there is just now a sharp
difference of interests between the Western governments and the
Palestinian people. This anti-Palestinian policy is the easier
to pursue when the governments can argue that the extremism of
PLO's aims make it unqualified to be recognised, and when such
an argument can be accepted by the people in the Western

5) The western peoples. They are influenced by a powerful
propaganda drive that prevents them from understanding what is
really going on in the occupied territories, what are the real
aims of the Palestinian and Israeli leaders and what are their
motivations. It is a major task of the PLO to exploit all
possibilities, with boldness and imagination, to counteract the
Zionist propaganda in these countries. A change in the popular
mood in these countries may lead to powerful pressures on their

6) The Socialist governments. They sympathise with the struggle
of the Palestinian people and denounce the Israeli policies and
those of the West. However, they recognise the State of Israel.
Moreover they are careful to limit their involvement when it
could evolve into a dangerous confrontation threatening world

7) The Socialist peoples. They are better informed than in the
West with regard to the Palestinian question. Some sections, in
some of the socialist countries, would support Israel as a way
of dissent with the Socialist government.

8) The Israeli Government. Just now it is the most virulent
enemy of the Palestinian cause. Its aims are expansionist and
annexionist. There is no possibility of coming to terms with
this government unless it is subjected to enormous pressure. Any
move towards satisfying the Palestinian demands would be made
only 'under duress'. In the long term the situation is expected
to remain unchanged unless there is a radical change in the
Israeli government brought about by radical changes in the mood
an understanding of the Israeli people.

9) The Israeli people. It aspires to peace. It has been
brainwashed into believing that Arabs cannot be trusted and that
the PLO is a treacherous organisation aiming at the destruction
of the state of Israel. It believes also that the state of
Israel would be in mortal danger if the Palestinian people is
allowed to form its own state under the PLO leadership. In the
short term, the Israeli people is therefore an enemy of the
Palestinian cause. Unless there is a change in the avowed aims
of the PLO, this enmity would remain in the long term as well as
in the short term.

In view of the existing forces in presence, any perception of
the PLO as bound on the destruction of the state of Israel,
produces an alignment of forces which is very detrimental to the
Palestinian cause and resulted in forty years of essentially
negative results.

There are plenty of indications that the PLO reached new
conclusions and is willing to agree to a mutual recognition of
the Israeli state together with that of a Palestinian state.

There is an essential flaw in the PLO approach. Its position is
that of wanting to keep the recognition of Israel in its deck of
cards, so that it can exchange a card of given value for Israel
with a reciprocal card of value for the Palestinian cause. This
is a totally false perception of the situation. The recognition
of Israel by the PLO has no value for the Israeli government
which is therefore not ready to give ANYTHING in exchange. It is
not a card in the PLO deck.

The reality of the situation is that as long as there is no
realignment of forces, the Israeli government has no motivation
to encourage an understanding with the PLO. From the point of
view of the Israeli government, the absence of a PLO recognition
is ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT. It ensures a stratification of the
forces along favourable lines. In such conditions, and in spite
of the Palestinian revolt in the West Bank and Gaza, the
expansionist policies of Israel have a prospect of realisation.

That is why Shamir was happy when Sartawi was assassinated.
Answering a journalist question as to how sad the killing of a
moderate Arab leader has made him, Shamir said that on the
contrary he was very happy because the extremist leader is of no
danger to Israel. Only the moderates are dangerous since only
they can give credibility to the PLO.

What is needed in order to overcome the virulent opposition of
the Israeli leadership to the peace process with the
Palestinians, what is needed is a realignment of forces. This
can be done by relying on whatever common interests can exist
between the Palestinian people and some of its short-term
enemies, to transform them first into potential friends and then
into actual friends.

The Israeli people has interests many of which coincide with
those of the Palestinian people. Peace could be of common
interest. Economic development could be of common interest.

Let us stop here for a moment. It is not said here that the
Israeli and Palestinian people are conscious of a community of
interests. It is only said that it is possible to find common
aims acceptable to both sides.

Is the PLO prepared to consider the existence of a Palestinian
state, side by side with the state of Israel, coexisting in
Peace and, hopefully, in mutually beneficial economic
co-operation, with total respect of the sovereignty of each one?

Now is the People of Israel ready to accept a secure peace
solution that would be based on the peaceful coexistence of a
Palestinian state along the state of Israel?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then there is no doubt
in the existence of a community of interests. There is of course
a great difference between the existence of a community of
interests and the perception of this existence. If the Israeli
people believe that the PLO is bound on the destruction of
Israel, it cannot perceive the community of interests. The
reason being that the Israeli people is misinformed.   Likewise
if the Palestinian people does not believe that the Israeli
people (as differentiated from its leadership) is ready to
accept the existence of a peaceful Palestinian state, then the
Palestinian people will not perceive the community of interests.
The reason being once more that the Palestinian people is
misinformed.   The community of interests exist objectively but
is not perceived subjectively because of misinformation. That is
why the two people are potential friends only and not actual
friends.   Woe to the leaders who desire a peaceful solution and
would shy from confronting the difficulty of transforming
potential friends into actual friends! The recognition of the
prejudices that blind the Israeli public opinion must be a
challenge to follow the most bold and imaginative policies able
to overcome those prejudices.

A PLO application to the Vatican for the recognition of the
state of Israel within the pre-1967 boundaries, together with a
recognition of the right to statehood of the Palestinian people,
is an example of a bold initiative that would captivate the
imagination of the people of Israel and those of the West. It is
bound to play a great role in enabling the Israeli people to
overcome its prejudices. Incidentally this would add
tremendously to the prestige of the PLO.

The Israeli people, if only it could trust the sincerity of the
PLO, if only it could believe that a Palestinian state would
pursue a peaceful policy would readily agree to its existence.
An unilateral recognition of Israel by the PLO, specially if it
is made with no reservation and no ambiguity and no time
limitation, would go a long way to answer the security concerns
of the Israeli people. Justified or not, these concerns are
strong and are being cultivated very successfully by the Israeli
leaders in order to rally the population to its opposition
against the PLO. It must be noted that the opposition of the
people is mainly motivated by its security concerns, while the
opposition of its leaders is mainly due to its annexionist
policies.   Therefore once there start to be an answer to the
people's concern for security, a wedge is starting to be
introduced between the Israeli people and its leaders. Is it not
time that the PLO acts in a way that plagues the Israeli side
with disunity instead of being plagued by it itself?

What is more is that a permanent and consistent stand of the PLO
build around an unilateral recognition of Israel, will result in
an increasing pressure which, with time (much much less than 40
years) will either force the leadership along the path of
recognition of the PLO and the right of the Palestinians to
statehood, or will lead to different leaders willing to go along
this path.

The unilateral recognition of the state of Israel is not a
concession to the government of Israel. Its leaders have a state
and do not care for the PLO recognition because in order to
pursue an annexionist policy they need the firm support of the
Israeli people given to them on the understanding that the PLO
is not ready to recognise Israel. It can safely be predicted
that if the PLO recognises Israel, the Israeli leaders will try
their utmost to demonstrate to the Israeli people the 'lack of
sincerity' of the recognition. They may even be successful in
that for some time. It is the consistency of the PLO stand that
will result in the Israeli people pressuring its leadership for
a radical change of policy.   It is argued that it is not
possible to ask from a persecuted people whose right to
statehood is denied, to recognise the State of the persecutors.
This is an infantile attitude which underestimate the
understanding ability of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian
people can readily understand that the recognition of the right
of Israel to a peaceful secure existence compatible with the
secure and peaceful of a Palestinian state is not a free gift
given to the persecutors. It is a necessary instrument for a
more positive realignment of the forces. It is a card which is a
winning one only if used as fast as possible, and unilaterally

In reality the choice is between two options:

1) PLO sticking to a mutual recognition. This leaves the
alignment of forces unchanged. It is therefore no contributing
factor to the realisation of Palestinian statehood. Only very
few broad-minded people will recognise the meaning given by the
PLO to this mutual recognition. All others will see in it a will
to avoid a clear stand and a possible lack of sincerity.

2) An unilateral recognition of Israel by the PLO. This will
open the door to a gradual split in the Israeli camp: people
versus leadership. Moreover it will allow also a gradual shift
of the Western public opinion in favour of Palestinian statehood
and recognition of the PLO leadership to the Palestinian people.
The Western public opinion represents a considerable force since
it can pressure the Western Governments into stopping the
support of Israeli policies of annexation.   A unilateral
recognition of the PLO by Israel will have a powerful effect on
three important forces who till now were standing against the
cause of the Palestinian people: the Israeli people, the peoples
in the Western countries and the Western governments. The
potential is there for isolating the Israeli Government and for
constituting a combination of all the forces concerned against
the Israeli government whose only ally would then be the
South-African Government. The potential is there for separating
the Israeli people from its annexionist leaders.   The
unilateral recognition of Israel by the PLO should only be a
start. It should be followed by a proposal including practical
steps to be taken able to answer the concerns for security of
the Israeli people as well as those of the Palestinian people.
The proposal may contain schedules for gradual steps aiming at
building confidence and proving that, given good will, a shift
towards the existence of a Palestinian state along the Israeli
state can be made without endangering the security of anyone and
without creating imaginary or real threats. Boldness and
imagination are very much needed.   To be ready to recognize
Israel in the frame of an agreement including the recognition of
the leadership of the PLO, while refusing to recognise it
beforehand is the equivalent of having an effective weapon and
refusing to use it until the adversary recognises that the
weapon is effective.   This document addresses the need for the
PLO leadership to follow a policy based on the understanding of
the political strategic situation as opposed to a policy based
on feelings.   A similar document could be addressed to those
Israeli leaders who really care for a peaceful solution and who
are convinced that it cannot be obtained except by the
recognition of the right of the Palestinians to statehood.

In such a document, the duties of these leaders could be
considered and the need could be expressed for a bold and
imaginative policy to convince the Palestinian people that the
Israeli people could be a friend of the Palestinian people in
its attempt to secure its rights to statehood in a way
compatible with the security of a peaceful Israel. Of course a
peaceful Israel would be a Israel that renounces annexations
definitely. Such an Israel would probably have different leaders
than its actual ones. The PLO if it follows policies close to
those advocated here would contribute to the enlightenment of
the Israeli people and would bring nearer the day in which the
actual leaders would loose the confidence of the Israeli people.


The case of the Sudeten Germans

At the end of World War I Czechoslovakia was formed and given
boundaries such that over 3 millions Germans (Sudeten) were
included within them.

The Sudeten minority was well treated but aspired nevertheless
to more autonomy and self-rule. In the thirties, the region was
hit by unemployment and there was a feeling in the population
that, would they have been more independent from the
Czechoslovakian Government, their situation would have been

The leaders of the Sudeten could have chosen as their aims an
increase in minority rights within the Czechoslovakian state and
with the cultivation of friendship with the Czechoslovakian
people. Such aims would have obtained the support of the
Czechoslovakian people and the Sympathy of all other people and
governments, except may be the German Government who counted on
the Sudeten claim for the inclusion of Czechoslovakia into

Would the Sudeten had restricted thus their aims, it would have
been part of the winning combination of forces at the end of
World War II. It would then have been unthinkable to proceed
with the evacuation of all Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia
to Germany.

However, the Sudeten leaders were short-sighted. They did not
estimated correctly the forces involved in the short and long
term struggle. Their victory was short lived and their cause is
now lost, probably lost for ever.

Was their aim of inclusion into Germany Just or unjust? Such a
question cannot be answered in the abstract. Of course a people
has the right of self determination and has the right to decide
its inclusion to a border state with the population of which
they had much more affinity. However, in the concrete situation
of 1938, their demands were reinforcing the strength of an
aggressive state versus that of all non-aggressive states. The
Justice of their claims was no longer Just when its success
meant the success of Nazism. But even if this would not have
been the case, a clever leader should have been able to foresee
the dire consequence following a predictable defeat of Germany
in a second World War. A winning combination for the Sudeten
could have been achieved only by a modification of their aims so
as to transform a sure enemy (the Czechoslovakian people and all
other free peoples) into a potential friend.


Clement Leibovitz
e-mail: info@cleibovitz.org

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