Palestinians Revoke Charter

(December 14, 1998)

On December 14, 1998, with President Clinton in attendance, the Palestinian Legislative Council meeting in Gaza voted nearly unanimously to revoke portions of the Palestine National Charter calling for Israel's destruction. Following the vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the The Palestinian Authority (PA) had fulfilled its obligation under the peace accords.

More than 1,000 Palestinians participated in the meeting, including more than 450 from the PLO's Palestine National Council (PNC). They stood and voted by a show of hands to reaffirm the nullification of clauses in the PLO charter calling for Israel's destruction. Only a few dozen of the members remained seated during the vote.

More than 100 PNC members stayed away, primarily hardline opponents of the peace process who had denounced making any changes to the charter. Similarly, a handful of right-wing Israeli politicians maintained the vote was not conducted according to the PNC's rules for revocation and continued to insist the Charter remained in effect with the offending articles.

Clinton, the first U.S. president to visit Palestinian-ruled territory, hinted at recognition of Palestinian self-determination when he declared: “For the first time in the history of the Palestinians, the Palestinian people and their elected representatives now have a chance to determine their own destiny on their own land.”

Yasser Arafat told Clinton: “We affirm to you that our people support a just peace and will not return to a pre-peace era and we will not be easy with anyone who harms the security of either side.” Yasser Arafat also condemned Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank and Gaza. He also deplored the continued detention of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. While repeating the Palestinian intention to create a state with Jerusalem as its capital, Yasser Arafat omitted previous references to doing so next May, the deadline for a final peace deal under interim accords with Israel. Yasser Arafat went on to reaffirm his determination “to oppose any attempt to threaten the security of the two parties.”

The Israeli government released the following statement following the vote:

PM Netanyahu today expressed his satisfaction at the result of the PNC vote today, achieved as a result of the firm stance taken by the government of Israel on the issue of the vote to revoke those clauses in the Palestinian charter calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. The prime minister said that his government would continue to insist with the same firmness on the fulfillment of the other Palestinian commitments, so as to ensure the implementation of the agreement and the advancement of the peace process.

Source: Various press reports.