Text size

The Palestinian Authority has yet to respond officially to the Geneva Accord peace plan unveiled on Sunday in Jordan. Well-placed Palestinian sources who were asked last night about the silence explained that the PA is reluctant to respond to a draft peace plan that basically endorses Palestinian relinquishment of a right of refugee return.

According to the terms of the draft peace accord, Palestinian refugees would settle permanently only in states that agree to absorb them. That is, in order to return to live within the borders of Israel, the refugees would have to win official Israeli consent for their settlement here.

Hisham Abdel Razeq, former PA prisoners affairs minister, who is from a family of refugees that once lived in a village near Rehovot, said yesterday that members of the Palestinian delegation that negotiated the Geneva plan acted entirely on their own accord.

Apart from Abdel Razeq, two other former PA officials took part in the Palestinian delegation at the Geneva Accord talks. These were Yasser Abed Rabbo (who served in all Palestinian governments, and is considered a loyal supporter of Yasser Arafat) and Nabil Kassis. Abed Rabbo headed the Palestinian delegation, and negotiated directly with former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin.

Another participant in the Palestinian delegation was Kadoura Fares, a Fatah leader who has close ties with Marwan Barghouti.

The Palestinian negotiators indicated that the understandings forged in the Geneva Accord are acceptable to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and other top Palestinian officials. Abed Rabbo claimed yesterday that he received endorsements from Arafat, and also former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and current Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala). Some members of the PA leadership said yesterday that Abed Rabbo surely must have disclosed all details of the Geneva Accord to Arafat.

The Geneva Accord was discussed on Saturday night at a meeting of the PLO Action Committee. The PLO, not the Palestinian Authority, is authorized to negotiate with Israel; and members of this top PLO committee criticized the way the Geneva Accord talks have been handled. They cast doubt on the authority of members of the Palestinian Geneva Accord delegation to negotiate for Palestinians, and they complained that the PLO was not briefed adequately about the talks.

Arafat dodged these questions and complaints; PLO Action Committee members concluded that he does not intend at this stage to relate to the Geneva Accord. Arafat's reluctance to respond to the accord, they explain, derives not only from the concession on the right of return: the PA chairman cannot readily respond to territorial agreements that endorse deviations from the 1967 borders, particularly in the Jerusalem area.

Palestinian media reports yesterday on the Geneva Accord were very limited. Al Quds carried a short front page article about the peace proposal; one of the newspaper's editors said last night that top Palestinian politicians are mired too deeply in internal power struggles to pay attention to peace terms proposed in the Geneva Accord. Also, the high number of Palestinian casualties in the past few days - including eight people killed in clashes in Rafah - have dominated media coverage, deflecting discussion away from peace proposals.