The so-called Tenet ceasefire agreement is a perfect misnomer. It is not a Tenet, neither a ceasefire, nor an agreement. It is not a Tenet because all its components were purely Israeli conditions and dictates conveyed by George Tenet to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on a take it or leave it basis.
It is not a ceasefire for many more reasons than one:
a) The Palestinians declared an unconditional cease of what they never admitted to have fired in the first place. They have been emphasising all along that they were only responding, with the most inferior means available to them, to an Israeli organised military destructive onslaught aimed at crushing the authority’s infrastructure and the uprising, which they consider as a lawful expression of resisting occupation, creeping annexation and expansion of illegal settlements on the little land (22 per cent of historical Palestine) designated for them in accordance with the international resolutions upon which the peace process has been based.
b) No ceasefire will be worthy of its name if one side, the Palestinian, does not have the means, and the other, the Israeli, does not have the intentions to implement. The PNA may be able to control any elements and groups (including its security forces) that exist within its administrative and political parameter. There are serious doubts though about the authority’s ability to control and restrain many other activist Palestinian factions who have been repeatedly and loudly voicing their rejection of any agreement ending the Intifada on Israeli terms.
c) The Israelis, on the other hand, are not that much concerned about a lasting ceasefire. All they need is a truce to provide the necessary time and calm to implement urgent security plans to close all gaps in the defence of the Israeli settlements which proved vulnerable and exposed. They need time to create a buffer zone on the so-called green line to prevent any infiltration into Israeli territory and to protect the bypass roads linking the settlements with Israel. Such arrangements will in themselves be fresh violations of the “ceasefire agreement” as they will involve new attacks on Palestinian rights and property, destruction of more houses and farms and annexation of more Arab land to establish the buffer zone.
In the meantime, the Israelis expect the PNA to start the implementation of its part of the Tenet terms by arresting Intifada leaders, disarming the people, policing the lines and points of friction and silencing any voices, or even songs, calling for independence or liberation because any such patriotic expressions have been simply classified as incitement.
Once they have fortified their positions on the ground and disarmed their Palestinian opponents, the Israelis would only have completed the first phase of their scheme to destroy the Intifada, and rendered the “ceasefire”, or what is left of it, unnecessary.
While the first phase is intended to extinguish the flame, the second and final phase would search for any hidden embers in a sweeping clean-up operation to further eliminate any possibility of any form of anti-occupation expression.
And finally, the Tenet agreement can be anything but an agreement. Most dictionaries describe the term “agreement” as an act of coming to a mutual arrangement, or as unanimity of opinion, harmony in feeling, state of being in accord and conformity. None of these descriptions come close to what the PNA had to accept under the threats of a superpower representative, coupled with mounting pressures from the Europeans, the UN and some Arabs, or face the wrath of Sharon, implying destruction and expulsion, a punishment which would then be justified, even authorised, by all those whose advice was not heeded by the Palestinians.
The levels of violence had indeed reached alarming heights. And it is only right and constructive for any mediator to step in between combatants, push them apart in a sincere objective effort to stop the bloodshed and help them settle their conflict on the basis of a correct assessment of the causes of such conflict and, most importantly, on the basis of evenhandedness and justice.
Regrettably, that was not the case with respect to the mission of Tenet who was rushed to the region to rescue the Israelis from a steadily deepening crisis at the full expense of the Palestinian rights. The quick-fix approach required the treatment of the symptoms only, by simply punishing and disabling the Palestinians. First, and following the Tel Aviv suicide attack, Arafat was forced to declare an unconditional ceasefire which he had to read himself in the presence of a visiting European foreign minister and a UN representative. Later Arafat was presented with quasi surrender humiliating terms which he had to accept as is, without any remarks or reservations; faced with the threats of alternative destruction Arafat had no choice but to acquiesce.
It will not take long before this project will collapse, pushing the region into deeper trouble. Humiliating the Palestinians by taking advantage of their isolation and weakness will only increase their pain, frustration and suffering as it will deepen their feelings of how unjust the world around them is getting. That is not the right approach for confidence building or for the creation of a healthier climate for fresh negotiations. It is directly and exactly the opposite.
The writer is former Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations. He contributed this article to the Jordan Times.