Palestinian leaders will gather in Gaza City Sunday and Monday to debate the upcoming proclamation of an independent state, a decision they insist has already been taken, regardless of the developments of the peace process.
Zakariya Agha, a senior member of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's political group Fateh, said the meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council would focus on technical and tactical preparations for statehood.
Peace negotiations have so far failed to bring Israel and the Palestinians closer ahead of a September 13th deadline for a permanent settlement and US Secretary of State Madeline Albright was unable this week to secure a three-way summit with US President Bill Clinton to bridge the substantial remaining gaps.
Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, who delayed a declaration of statehood in May 1999 because of Israeli elections as well as US and European pressures, vowed again last Sunday to unilaterally proclaim a Palestinian state if there is no peace deal by September.
Israel has warned such a move would kill the peace process and spark violent confrontations. Press reports say it would even annex all occupied land still under its control.
"The Palestinian leadership and the Central Council will implement a Palestinian state on September 13th. It is a Palestinian decision that cannot be overturned," Agha said.
"The Palestinians cannot live under open dates," he added.
An advance copy of the meeting's agenda said the delegates would "debate the political situation of the interim stage, including prisoners, withdrawals.
"They will also debate the final status of Jerusalem as the capital of an independent state, and borders and refugees.
"The council will also discuss the announcement of the implementation of an independent Palestinian state and listen to committee reports on a constitution and debate the preparations for the state proclamation," the agenda said.
Palestinians currently have partial or exclusive control over about 40 percent of the West Bank and 65 percent of the Gaza Strip.
Jamil Majdalawi, an official from the opposition Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said an independent state was a necessary step to continue the fight to regain the rest.
"We should announce the state and make it a fact," said Majdalawi, whose group opposes the 1993 Oslo peace accords.
"The fight must move between two states, one of which is occupying the other," he added.
Although the PLO officially declared independence in Algeria in 1988, its proclamation meant nothing on the ground.
Tiseer Khaled, leading member of the opposition Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said his faction would "petition the Council to ask Jordan and Egypt to establish its borders (with the Palestinian state) and to cut the roads into Israel."
Although the Palestinians had hoped the Central Council meeting would overcome factional differences, the militant group Hamas and its smaller rival Islamic Jihad spurned their invitations – GAZA CITY (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)