||The Israel-Palestinian Negotiations
Background - Israel-PLO Recognition
Recent years have witnessed a series of landmarks in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Following intense behind-the-scenes contacts between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Oslo, an agreement was achieved between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. On September 9, 1993, Chairman Arafat sent a letter to Prime Minister Rabin, in which he stated unequivocally that the PLO:
In reply, Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians in the peace negotiations.
- Recognizes the right of Israel to exist in peace and security;
- Accepts UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338;
- Commits itself to a peaceful resolution of the conflict;
- Renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence;
- Assumes responsibility over all PLO elements o ensure their compliance, prevent violations, and discipline violators;
- Affirms that those articles of the PLO Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist are now inoperative and no longer valid;
- Undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes to the Covenant.
On September 13, 1993, a joint Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (DOP), based on the agreement worked out in Oslo, was signed by the two parties in Washington, outlining the proposed interim self-government arrangements, as envisioned and agreed by both sides. The arrangements contained in the DOP include immediate Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and Jericho, early empowerment for the Palestinians in West Bank, and an agreement on self-government and the election of a Palestinian council. Additionally, extensive economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians plays an important role in the DOP.
The Interim Agreement
Shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Principles, negotiations commmenced between Israeli and PLO delegations on the implementation of the interim agreement, which was accomplished in three stages:
1. The Gaza-Jericho Agreement was signed in Cairo on May 4, 1994, and applies to the Gaza Strip and to a defined area of about 65 square kilometers including Jericho and its environs. While the Declaration of Principles is a short document, consisting of approximately 20 pages, the Gaza-Jericho Agreement is a document containing almost 300 pages (the agreement itself and four annexes) with six maps attached. The Gaza-Jericho agreement addresses four main issues -- security arrangements, civil affairs, legal matters, and economic relations. The document includes agreement to a withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Gaza and Jericho, a transfer of authority from the Israeli Civil Administration to a Palestinian Authority, the structure and composition of the Palestinian Authority, its jurisdiction and legislative powers, a Palestinian police force, and relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
2. On August 29, 1994, the Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities was signed by Israel and the Palestinians. The Agreement puts into effect the next phase (early empowerment) of the Declaration of Principles.
In accordance with the DOP, the Agreement provides for the transfer of powers to the Palestinian Authority within five specified spheres:
On August 27, 1995, an protocol was signed transferring additional spheres to the Palestinian Authority: labor, trade and industry, gas and gasoline, insurance, postal services, statistics, agriculture, and local government.
- Education & Culture (carried out on August 29, 1994);
- Social Welfare;
- Tourism (both carried out on November 13-14, 1994);
- Taxation (both carried out on December 1, 1994).
3. On September 28, 1995, the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was signed in Washington, D.C. This agreement, which marks the conclusion of the first stage in negotiations between Israel and the PLO, incorporates and supersedes the Gaza-Jericho and Early Empowerment agreements.
The main object of the Interim Agreement is to broaden Palestinian self-government in the West Bank by means of an elected self-governing authority -- the Palestinian Council -- for an interim period not to exceed five years from the signing of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement (i.e. no later than May 1999). This will allow the Palestinians to conduct their own internal affairs, reduce points of friction between Israelis and Palestinians, and open a new era of cooperation and co-existence based on common interest, dignity and mutual respect. At the same time it protects Israel's vital interests, and in particular its security interests, both with regard to external security as well as the personal security of its citizens in the West Bank.
The Interim Agreement sets forth the future relations between Israel and the Palestinians. To the main body of the agreement are appended seven annexes dealing with: security arrangements, elections, civil affairs (transfer of powers), legal matters, economic relations, Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Milestones in the Implementation of the Interim Agreement
On January 20, 1996, following completion of the first stage of IDF redeployment (with the exception of Hebron), elections were held to the Palestinian Council and for the Head of the Palestinian Authority. Yasser Arafat was elected Ra'ees (head) of the Authority.
On April 24, 1996, the Palestinian National Council, convening in Gaza, voted 504 to 54, with 14 abstentions, as follows:
- "The Palestinian National Charter is hereby amended by canceling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the P.L.O. and the Government of Israel 9-10 September 1993.
- Assigns its legal committee with the task of redrafting the Palestinian National Charter in order to present it to the first session of the Palestinian central council." (24/04/96)
On December 14, 1998, the Palestinian National Council, in accordance with the Wye Memorandum, convened in Gaza in the presence of U.S. President Clinton and voted to reaffirm this decision.
An agreement on a Temporary International Presence in Hebron was signed on May 9, 1996.
The Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron was signed on January 17, 1997. The Protocol was accompanied by a Note for the Record prepared by the US Special Middle East Coordinator, confirming a series of agreements between the sides on non-Hebron issues and reaffirming their commitment to implement the Interim Agreement on the basis of reciprocity.
On October 23, 1998, The Wye River Memorandum was signed at the White House, Washington D.C., between Israel and the PLO, following a nine-day summit hosted by U.S. President Mr. Bill Clinton in Wye Plantation, Maryland.
On September 4, 1999, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum was signed by representatives of Israel and the PLO. Restating the commitment of the two sides to full implementation of all agreements reached since September 1993, the Memorandum sets out to resolve the outstanding issues of the present interim status, in particular those set out in the Wye Memorandum of October 23, 1998.
The sides also restated their commitment to the Interim Agreement's prohibition regarding initiating or taking any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip prior to the conclusion of the permanent status agreement.
Stages of Sharm el-Sheikh implementation:
Release of prisoners: Sep 9, 1999; Oct 15, 1999.
Additional prisoners released for Ramadan: Dec 1999; Jan 2000.
Further redeployments: Sep 10, 1999 (7% C-B); Jan 5-7, 2000 (5% -
3% C-B, 2% B-A); Mar 21, 2000 (6.1% - 1% C-B, 5.1% B-A)
Safe passage: southern route - Oct 25, 1999
Shuhada Street opened: Oct 31, 1999
Displaced persons committee convenes: February 6, 2000
Agreement Signed Implementing Economic Issues: June 7, 2000
Permanent Status Negotiations
The negotiations on the permanent status arrangements commenced in Taba on May 5, 1996. These negotiations will deal with the remaining issues to be resolved, including Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with neighboring countries.
In a joint communique issued on May 6 at the close of the first session of talks, the two sides reaffirmed the principles guiding these negotiations.
In the Wye Memorandum of October 23, 1998 both sides agreed to immediately resume permanent status negotiations on an accelerated basis and to make a determined effort to reach agreement by May 4, 1999. A first meeting between Foreign Minister Sharon and Abu Mazen took place on November 18, 1998.
Following the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, the permanent status negotiations were formally resumed on September 13, 1999, at the Erez checkpoint. Foreign Minister David Levy was appointed to head the Israeli negotiating team with the Palestinians, and Abu-Mazen heads the Palestinian team.
In parallel, talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, headed by Oded Eran and Yasser Abed Rabbo, were launched at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C. from March 21-28, 2000. These talks continued in the following months at various locations, with the aim of completing the implementation fo the interim agreements already signed.
At the urging of Israeli Prime Minister Barak, US President Clinton announced on July 5, 2000, his invitation to Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to come to Camp David to continue their negotiations on the Middle East peace process.
On July 11, the Camp David 2000 Summit convened. The summit ended on July 25, without an agreement being reached. At its conclusion, a Trilateral Statement was issued defining the agreed principles to guide future negotiations.
Under the shadow of violence and terrorism, President Clinton hosted talks with Israeli and Palestinian teams in Washington from December 19-23, 2000, at the conclusion of which Clinton presented a bridging proposal to the parties.
Following a meeting in Cairo between Foreign Minister Ben-Ami and Chairman Arafat, marathon talks between Israeli and Palestinian delegations were held in Taba from January 21-27, 2001, ending in a joint statement.
A policy statement issued by the Israeli government following the election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister in February 2001, reaffirmed the Israeli government's determination in its asipration to achieve peace with its Palestinian neighbors, but that the conduct of peace negotiations calls for tranquility.
Numerous efforts to end the violent confrontation and renew the peace process have failed due to the ongoing and escalating Palestinian terrorism supported by the Palestinian Authority. Israel accepted the vision presented in the speech by U.S. President Bush on June 24, 2002 for ending Palestinian terrorism, to be followed by the final settlement of all issues and peace. On April 30, 2003, the "road map" for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was presented to Israel and the Palestinians.Following a U.S. statement regarding the Israeli comments on the road map, promising to address the Israeli concerns fully and seriously in the implementation, on May 23, 2003 Prime Minister Sharon issued a statement accepting the road map.
This acceptance was approved by the Government of Israel on May 25. A Middle East summit meeting, hosted by Jordanian King Abdullah II and attended by U.S. President Bush, Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas was held in Aqaba on June 4, 2003.
The "hudna" (cease-fire) announced by the Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations on June 29, 2003 came to a violent end with the August 19th suicide bombing of a bus in Jerusalem, in which 22 people were killed and over 130 wounded. As a result of the attack, the Cabinet decided on September 1, 2003, among others, to wage an all-out war against Hamas and other terrorist elements, and to freeze the diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority.
On June 6, 2004, Israel's cabinet approved the plan for disengagement from the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. The Knesset endorsed the plan on October 25, 2004.
A summit meeting was held in Sharm el-Sheikh on February 8, 2005, attended by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah of Jordan. It was decided that all Palestinians would stop all acts of violence against all Israelis, and Israel would cease all its military activity against all Palestinians.
On August 15, 2005, Israel began the implementation of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and four northern Samaria communities. Disengagement from the Gaza Strip was completed on August 22, and from northern Samaria on August 23, 2005. On September 12, 2005, IDF forces completed their exit from the Gaza Strip. The Head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, signed a declaration stating the end of military rule in the Gaza Strip after 38 years.
On August 21, Prime Minister Sharon told the Cabinet: "In the Disengagement Plan there is only one stage of disengagement. The next stage in the diplomatic negotiations regards the Roadmap."
Israel's Disengagement Plan: Renewing the peace process
The Disengagement Plan is an opportunity for peace
Israel left the Gaza Strip in August 2005 in order to create the opportunity for peace. After the elections in the Palestinian Authority (January 2006) resulting in the establishment of the Hamas-led government, Israel adopted a dual strategy towards the Palestinians, maintaining pressure against Hamas and the extremists while not closing the door to dialogue with the moderates among the Palestinians towards a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and the subsequent formation of the new moderate Fatah-led Palestinian government under President Mahmoud Abbad and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad opened the door to a resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, towards the achievement of the goal of two homelands for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
The future Palestinian state cannot be a terrorist entity. For this reason, the international community has insisted that the path to Palestinian statehood must follow acceptance of the conditions outlined by the international 'Quartet' (the UN, EU, US and Russia), including the renunciation of terrorism, acceptance of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and the recognition of Israel's right to exist.
An international conference convened in Annapolis on November 27, 2007 to relaunch the negotiating process. Negotiating teams from both sides began direct talks in Jerusalem on December 12. The International Donors' Conference for the Palestinian State which convened in Paris on December 17 expressed political and financial support to the government of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and their vision of a future Palestinian state, underpinning the political process launched in Annapolis.
In June 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented his vision of peace with the Palestinians based on the principles of recognition and demilitarization: "In my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government... A fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel. Without these two conditions, there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza." He called on the Arab countries "to cooperate with the Palestinians and with us to advance an economic peace. An economic peace is not a substitute for a political peace, but an important element to achieving it."
Various measures have been implemented by the Israeli government in order to strengthen and develop the Palestinian economy. These steps have been both bilateral and multilateral, involving the PA, Israel and the international community (both governmental and non-governmental). The results have been impressive and encouraging, with World Bank and PA statistics showing an 8% growth in the West Bank economy in 2009.
On March 8, 2010, Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell made the following statement:
"I'm pleased that the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have accepted indirect talks. We've begun to discuss the structure and scope of these talks and I will return to the region next week to continue our discussions. As we've said many times, we hope that these will lead to direct negotiations as soon as possible. We also again encourage the parties, and all concerned, to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks."
After his meeting with US President Obama (6 July 2010), Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "There's a much greater meeting of the minds between President Obama and me on how to move forward at this time, how to make the transition from proximity talks into direct talks, and how to ensure that those direct talks are as substantive as possible and as soon as possible. I think that this delay does not get us any benefit. I think delaying the process, talking about talking, making conditions about getting into talks is a big mistake. I think it's cost us about a year, and I don't think it should cost us any more time."
On August 20, 2010, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited Israel and the Palestinians to hold direct negotiations: "I’ve invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet on September 2nd in Washington, D.C. to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year.
Addressing a Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress in May 2011, PM Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state, adding: "I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel's subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish."
While Israel remains dedicated to direct negotiations as the only method of resolving the conflict, the Palestinian leadership has embarked on the path of unilateral action, preferring to attempt to force their will on Israel through international pressure, with the submission of a request for admission to the United Nations in September 2011.