Amendment to the Palestinian National Charter (1996)

(See also the Palestinian National Charter)

Letter from Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to Prime Minister Shimon Peres

May 4, 1996

Mr. Shimon Peres
Prime Minister of Israel

Dear Mr. Peres,

I convey my best wishes to your excellency, and I would like to convey to you the recent historic resolution adopted by the Palestinian National Council at its 21st session held in Gaza City.

As part of our commitment to the peace process, and in adhering to the mutual recognition between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel, the P.N.C. was held in Gaza City between 22-25 of April 1996, and in an extraordinary session decided that the Palestine National Charter is hereby amended by cancelling the provisions that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the P.L.O. and the government of Israel on 9/10 Sept. 1993.

Please find enclosed copies of the official Arabic and English texts of the P.N.C.'s resolutions.

We remain committed to the peace process.

Gaza: 4/5/1996

Yasser Arafat
Chairman of the Executive Committee of Palestine Liberation Organization
President of the Palestinian National Authority

Official Translation

The Palestinian National Council, at its 21st session held in the city of Gaza,

Emanating from the declaration of independence and the political statement adopted at its 19th session held in Algiers on Nov. 15, 1988, which affirmed the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means and accepted the two states solution,

And based on the introduction of the Declaration of Principles signed in Washington D.C. on 13 September 1993, which included the agreement of both sides to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict and to live in peaceful coexistence, mutual dignity and security, while recognizing their mutual legitimate and political right,

And reaffirming their desire to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process,

And based on international legitimacy represented by the United Nations Resolutions relevant to the Palestinian question, including those relating to Jerusalem, Refugees and Settlements, and the other issues of the permanent status and the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338,

And affirming the adherence of the Palestine Liberation Organization to its commitments deriving from the D.O.P. (Oslo 1), the provisional Cairo Agreement, the letter of mutual recognition signed on 9 and 10 September 1993, the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Oslo 2) signed in Washington D.C. on 28 September 1995, and reconfirm the resolution of the central Council of the P.L.O. adopted in October 1993, which approved the Oslo Agreement and all its annexes,

And based on the principles which constituted the foundation of the Madrid Peace Conference and the Washington negotiations, decides:

  • The Palestinian National Charter is hereby amended by canceling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the P.L.O. and the Government of Israel 9-10 September 1993.

  • Assigns its legal committee with the task of redrafting the Palestinian National Charter in order to present it to the first session of the Palestinian central council.

Important Notes Regarding the Information Above

It is, in fact, generally accepted that the vote taken by the Palestine National Council in April 1996. and the importance attached to it, is at best doubtful:

One piece of evidence, noteworthy because of the emphasis put on it as a potential symbol of the change in Palestinian intentions, is the PLO covenant. In his 9 September 1993 letter to Yitzhak Rabin preceding the signing of the DOP, Arafat committed the PLO formally to nullify those articles of the covenant which deny Israel's right to exist and are inconsistent with the principles of the Oslo process. He made the commitment again as part of the negotiations over Israeli withdrawal from Gaza-Jericho, promising to bring about the change within two months of his assumption of power. The Palestinian National Council (PNC) finally did convene on 24 April 1996 and passed a resolution in which it "amended by canceling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the PLO and the Government of Israel" and assigned to a legal committee the task of redrafting the charter within six months. [Amendment Palestinian Covenant-Arafat Letter & Text: 4 May 1996, Information Division, Israel Foreign Ministry.—See above] As of yet no so such body has fulfilled this task, and there have been no reports of such a committee meeting or working.

As explained by the speaker of the PNC, Salim Zaanoun, to the PNC during the April 24 session, structuring the resolution as it did was an attempt to "fulfill the commitment demanded at the lowest possible price." [Jon Immanuel, "Fatah Report: Covenant Frozen, not Amended," Jerusalem Post (22 May 1996).] It put off making the hard decisions until the legal committee completed its work. Although Palestinian leaders have continually proclaimed to Israel and the Western press that they fulfilled their obligation and nullified the articles at issue, in their internal documents and statements in Arabic they have suggested otherwise. An apparently authoritative internal publication issued by the "Research and Thought" division of Fatah in Ramallah in April 1996 clarifies that: "The text of the Palestinian National Covenant remains as it was and no changes whatsoever were made to it. This has caused it to be frozen but not annulled." [Fatah, Research and Thought Department, "The Palestinian National Covenant: Between Renewal and Being Frozen," Fatah Publication #8, April 1996.]

Appendix II - Making Oslo Work - Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies

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