Text: Nabil Amr's letter to Yasir Arafat: "We have committed a serious
mistake"[but illegal militias, terror, etc. not one of them]
[With thanks to MewNews http://www.mideastweb.org ]
[IMRA: There has been considerable confusion in the West over the meaning of
Palestinian criticism of Arafat. Some have asserted that this criticism
mean the Palestinians realize they erred in violating Oslo with continuous
terror and thus suggest a new round of Oslo (for example "Gaza Bethlehem
First"). This is not the case. As the letter below illustrates, Nabil Amr
has no problem with the illegal militias, terror, etc. that have been an
integral element of Arafat's activities over the course of "Oslo" - just
that they aren't properly coordinated. At most he suggest a deal be worked
out with Hamas and others for a temporary lull for tactical purposes.]
Al Hayat (in Arabic)
September 2, 2002
Letter to President Yasir Arafat
by Nabil Amr [former PA minister]
I do not know if this letter will be published or if it will be shelved for
political considerations. What I know is that addressing Yasir Arafat
directly has its pros and cons.
The pros are that the letter will be sent to the correct address even if it
contains sharp criticism and disturbing revelations. The cons are the way
some inexperienced individuals will interpret the letter; they will
interpret it either as traditional and naive hypocrisy or as a ferocious war
that smacks of disloyalty.
Weighing up the pros and cons of the letter, I believe the balance is tilted
in favor of the pros. This is because I am certain that the President, who
is known for his fondness of following up everything written, might spare us
intervention by the busybody.
Mr. President: What makes you present in a favorable light the continuing
alienation within the establishment--be it Fatah or the PLO, the Legislative
Council or the Government? In the time of the revolution, this alienation
was unjustifiable; in the time of the PA and the road to the state it is
Mr. President: You accepted the "Gaza-Jericho First" idea not because it
would result in the liberation of two dear towns. You accepted it because
it would be a practical translation of the principle of a "state on
probation," a state that would start with a tiny geographic entity and a
tinier sovereignty framework. With time and when these harsh conditions are
fulfilled, it would become a state with a wider area and a wider
sovereignty. When you accepted this principle, you were aware that there
were Arabs, Palestinians, and Israelis who did not want this probationary
period to succeed. All these had strong justifications to reject and
serious tools to foil and sabotage the project.
In our internal conflict and in our negotiating struggle with Israel, we
abandoned one of our most important weapons--that of building establishments
worthy of receiving support from the world and capable of winning the trust
of the Palestinians and pulling the rug from under the feet of the Israelis.
What did we do to the Legislative Council? What did we do to the judiciary?
What did we do to the Finance Ministry? What did we do the administration?
What did we achieve on this level? I speak in the plural "we" because I
believe the responsibility for failure is a collective one, although you
shoulder the greater part of the responsibility in view of your post,
jurisdiction, and power.
What did we do to the establishments of the PLO, which had a strong and
broad international legitimacy? What did we do to Fatah and to its
conferences, regions, committees, and offices? If we did something
essential, I am certain it was not in the direction of developing and
activating these establishments but in the direction of dissolving their
role, canceling their capability, and annulling their personality and
tradition. If the most important research center in the world tried to know
the reasons for all this self-inflicted punishment, it would find only one
reason: our inability to understand our project and serve it in a way that
wards off the dangers and provides the chances of safety.
Some voice the opinion that what happened were logical manifestations of a
revolution that had suddenly become an authority. Although this opinion is
valid, it is not enough to explain our behavior. We started the solution
experiment knowing full well our commitments and obligations. We were not
combat units that climbed mountains and crossed jungles; we were the
proprietors of frameworks and establishments. Didn't we boast that we had
more embassies than Israel had? Didn't we boast that our democracy and
pluralism were better than the democracy and pluralism that existed in
stable states and societies?
Therefore, there is something as important as the sudden shift from the
culture and mentality of the revolution to the new situation. It is simply
the challenge of swimming in the sea of the Palestinian masses. In the past
dealing with this sea took place from distant shores. In the past the
leadership that was exiled to everywhere except the homeland only knew about
the Palestinian people that they are an inexhaustible storehouse of blood
and loyalty. The shortcomings of the relationship between a leadership in
exile and its people cannot be understood except when the real merger with
the people occurs. Before the merger, the leader and the people understood
each other through pictures for which we chose their colors according to the
needs of each side. The leader needed to depict the people as unanimously
supportive of the leadership. The people saw in the exiled leadership an
ingenious gathering of noble values and unique heroic personalities.
However, when the reunion took place, simple things began to matter. The
leadership is a group of individuals some of whom are brilliant and have a
proven track record in struggle and some of whom are black sheep whose
behavior does not tally with the idealistic picture formed about them
through the phases of the long struggle. As for the people, their main
traits are steadfastness and firmness. However, this people also contain
ordinary individuals with their demands, whims, and interests.
Mr. President: When the reunion took place, we did not operate well this
major historic process. We did not enact firm laws to regulate the
relationship between the authority and the people who would form this
authority and grant it legitimacy and credibility.
Mr. President: We treated our project with the mentality of sharing booty,
not with the mentality of participating in shouldering grave burdens. Not
a single committee was formed to study the qualifications of those who were
assigned big and small posts. In forming our governments we did not pay
attention to professional and behavioral considerations. We returned to the
tribe as the main consideration. We backed down on political considerations
that used to have some presence in the formulas and establishments of the
PLO. We were very lenient in the beginning so much so that we justified the
behavior of some ministers who made their ministries close to their homes.
We turned a blind eye to the allocation of one ministry to an individual who
hailed from Hebron, another ministry to an individual who hailed from
Nabulus, and a third ministry to an individual who hailed from Jerusalem.
We did nothing when a high-level official carried his job and took it to
Amman. We did nothing when a veteran struggler demanded that he be
appointed a minister as a condition for returning to the homeland on the
road to which--according to him--he nearly got martyred.
Mr. President: I do not want to remind you of the story of the lists. We
all colluded so that these lists would become the basis for polarization in
our new situation in such a way that all our people became directors. The
result was that every government post had lost its credibility and halo.
We did all this, unaware that all the friends before the enemies were
recording all our moves and steps and watching the rhythm of the state that
would be born in the 21st century in the most dangerous spot in the world
(the Middle East). They also monitored the billions of dollars that they
had committed to give to the difficult project. How naive were we when we
did not expect that lean years would come during which we would pay the
price for all this.
Mr. President: We relied on a naive assumption that influenced our mind and
behavior, namely, that the world needed our signature to any solution and
that we could do what we wanted. Who would dare to harass us while we held
the key to international and regional stability? However, our strong foes
found an effective medicine to this magic key, a medicine that was very
simple: they took this key from us.
Let us be frank with each other: There is something other than conspiracy
that has made the whole world either stand against us or incapable of
helping us. Because we have a just cause does not mean we are entitled to
do what we want. Does the justness of our cause justify all this chaos in
our house? You complain about this chaos more than others do, although you
are accused of encouraging it as tactical step to confound the enemy.
Mr. President: We will remain in a state of constant retreat as long as we
have the extraordinary ability to consider what happened to us in terms of
attrition, destruction, and defeat a great achievement by a leadership that
finds nothing to boast about except promising the Palestinians all the
catastrophes of the world. All this so that history would record that it
was a firm and stubborn leadership!
Didn't we jump for joy over the failure of Camp David? Didn't we throw mud
at the picture of President Clinton who dared to submit a proposal for a
state with some modifications? Didn't we do this? Were we sincere with
ourselves? No, we were not. This is because after two years of bloodshed
we accept what we rejected, perhaps because we know that it is impossible to
How many times did we accept, reject, and then accept? Our timing in saying
yes or no was never good. How many times were we asked to do something that
we could do but we did not do it? When this something became impossible, we
begged the world to re-propose it to us. Between our rejection and
acceptance the world either distanced itself from us or set new conditions
that we could not even think of.
Mr. President: Now, what shall we do? Now means that the Israeli tanks
firmly control the West Bank and encircle the Gaza Strip. Now means that
the chances of opening the political file have dwindled and been replaced by
contacts to obtain facilities, such as the movement of ministers in
ambulances. Now means a big retreat from the point when we stood on the
threshold of a state during Bill Clinton and Camp David to the point of Gaza
first in which Bethlehem is rewarded by lifting the curfew on it. Now means
that every Palestinian militia in the homeland behaves without checks and
controls in the name of the legitimacy of the resistance and the
inevitability of steadfastness until doomsday.
Now, after all this, what shall we do? Certainly a delegation visiting
Washington is not a solution when there is an absolute Israeli-US alliance,
when the United States prepares for war on Saddam, and when Rumsfeld speaks
about the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a language that Sharon does not dare
to speak. Certainly, phone calls by Solana, visits by Moratinos, and
attempts by the EU to open dialogue with the fighters to resort to reason
will not work.
What works is frankness and admission that a grave failure has occurred.
Admitting failure, even if it is grave, does not mean the end of the world
or the burial of an issue that has all the prerequisites for survival. It
means courage in dotting the I's and crossing the T's and preparation to
avoid the causes of failure and replace them with the requisites for
Mr. President: What prevents us from holding a serious domestic dialogue
with HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, and all factions and asking them frankly for a
period of calm for redressing the Palestinian wounds and attempting to
create a climate that would help us renovate our cracking home and eroded
alliances? Doesn't the "giant fighter" (the Palestinian people) deserve
some time to rest and take a breather even if Sharon harasses us? Is it not
wise to besiege Sharon with calm, perhaps we will win the third party that
we have lost because of our miscalculated steps?
After this dialogue for which there are no strong justifications for its
non-success, what prevents us from implementing the Legislative Council's
document on internal reform? This document is the best comprehensive plan
for a real reform that will pave the way for a real state of which we have
always dreamed even in the darkest circumstances.
What prevents us from opening an urgent workshop for reforming the
Palestinian judiciary after the issuance of the law on its
independence--this law was violated on the next day?
What prevents us from acting immediately to stop the chaos spreading in the
administrative department where the army of employees has reached 130,000
persons, three quarters of whom do not know what their work is?
Mr. President: Sharon's tanks cannot prevent the rearrangement of our house
because you still issue decisions, possess legitimacy, and can issue more
decisions without a comprehensive plan--with my apologies to those who
coined the stupid phrase the "100-day plan."
Mr. President: We have not done yet what we must do. Perhaps we have
become accustomed to finding justifications for our failure. How easy it is
for Sharon's tanks to carry all our sins over their sins!
Mr. President: We have committed a serious mistake against our people,
authority, and the dream of the establishment of our state. However, we can
be forgiven if we admit our mistake and get to work immediately. What this
people deserve is for us to work a lot with them and for them--not to place
their destiny at the mercy of a coincidence blown by new international winds
or mortgage them until doomsday without opening a window of hope for them.