Palestine National Covenant

   The covenant was adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964. Its central theme is the elimination of Israel and its replacement by a Palestinian state established in all of Palestine. It was replaced by a charter adopted by the Palestine National Council (PNC) in Cairo in July 1968. At the core of the covenant is article 20, which declares that the "Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine [see British Mandate for Palestine] and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void." Although various Palestinian leaders had suggested that the covenant has been superseded in part by subsequent statements and declarations, the covenant remained formally unchanged as the guide to Palestinian objectives until 14 December 1998.
   In his letter of recognition to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of 9 September 1993, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat pledged to take the necessary steps to formally repeal those provisions of the PNC covenant calling for Israel's destruction. This commitment was reiterated on several occasions by the PLO leadership. On 24 April 1996, the PNC meeting in Gaza passed a resolution declaring null and void the "articles [of the PNC covenant] that are contrary to the [9 September 1993] letters of mutual recognition." However, this declaration was rejected by many Israelis as vague and imprecise. On 22 January 1998, Arafat wrote to United States president William J. (Bill) Clinton specifying which provisions of the covenant the PNC was prepared to modify or rescind. On 10 December 1998, the Palestine central committee meeting in Gaza, by a vote of 81 to 7 (with 7 abstentions), voted to revoke the specific clauses of the covenant referred to in Arafat's letter to Clinton. This decision was ratified on 14 December 1998 by members of the PNC meeting in Gaza; the decision, adopted by a show of hands rather than a formal vote, was witnessed by Clinton.
   The government of Israel expressed its satisfaction with the PNC decision, calling it an "important and crucial step in the carrying out of basic Palestinian commitments undertaken in agreements with Israel." Critics of subsequent Palestinian behavior, however, pointed out that no steps were ever taken by the PNC to replace the hateful clauses of the covenant with provisions that sought to educate the Palestinian people about the benefits of peaceful coexistence with their Israeli neighbors; nor, critics continued, did the Palestinian act of recognizing Israel's existence implied in the rescinding of the covenant clauses calling for Israel's destruction necessarily equate to the recognition by the Palestinians of Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state.
   See also Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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