The PLO has launched a diplomatic offensive in the wake of the 25 February Hebron massacre to win international support for its demands from Israel which it says must be satisfied if the peace talks are to resume. The Palestinians have concentrated their efforts on persuading the US to push Tel Aviv into accepting their demands. However, Washington has shown little sign of supporting the Palestinian position.
Yasser Abed-Rabbo, an executive committee member of the PLO, outlined the PLO demands in a interview with Reuters on 1 March. They are:
ending the expansion of Jewish settlements and the creation of new ones in the occupied territories
dismantling settlements described by the PLO as centres of terrorism, including Kiryat Arba
disarming the 120,000 settlers in the occupied territories and stopping them entering Palestinian towns and villages
the creation of an effective international presence through the UN in the occupied territories.
So far, Israel has failed to offer concessions that come close to these demands. Tel Aviv has said it will disarm some of the settlers, but Police, Energy & Infrastructure Minister Moshe Shahal said on 1 March that this would affect fewer than 100 people. Israel has also said the Palestinians can have an international presence, but only in Gaza and Jericho. The Israeli government has also released at least 900 Palestinian prisoners.
Senior aide to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Nabil Shaath, travelled to Washington on 3 March to win US support, which is thought vital to get a resolution passed at the UN that would be sympathetic to Palestinian demands. In two days of debates at the beginning of March, the UN had failed to pass a resolution condemning the massacre.
The PLO has also been lobbying for support from other security council members. Russia’s deputy foreign affairs minister Igor Ivanov has expressed his support for the Palestinian demands. The current president of the EU council of ministers, Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Karolos Papoulias, said he was working on a common stand on the issue of the international protection force among European states. European ministers were expected to meet on 7 March.
More than 20 people had been killed by early March in clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in demonstrations which have swept the occupied territories and Israeli Arab towns since the massacre. Around the Middle East there have also been outbursts of support for the Palestinians, with demonstrations against the peace process in Cairo and Amman.