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Division for Palestinian Rights
31 July 1998
D i v i s i o n f o r P a l e s t i n i a n R i g h t s
Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine
Monthly media monitoring review
Over forty delegations participated in the Security Council debate on 30 June regarding Israel’s recent decision on Jerusalem. A proposed resolution had not been formally submitted. British Ambassador Weston suggested the Council might adopt a presidential statement instead of a resolution.
Israeli Internal Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani banned the two-day Palestinian Heritage Day in Jerusalem. A copy of the ban obtained by
said that Kahalani was duty bound to block the celebrations because they were “planned beforehand and under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.” The festival would have included a fashion show, art exhibits and a song festival.
The Israeli Army caused a furor in the Knesset when it presented a map of Israel’s security interests in the West Bank and Gaza that left out 59 of 159 settlements. The settlements not considered vital were in the center of the West Bank. The map envisioned keeping about 50 per cent of the West Bank under Israeli rule, including a 20-kilometre-wide (13 miles) buffer along the Jordanian border. Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Landau said "this map leaves grave threats to the strategic security of the State of Israel.”
Mr. Ahmed Qorei (Abu Ala), speaker of the Palestinian Council, told
he would head a 10-strong delegation on July 20-24 to visit the US Congress in Washington. According to Mr. Qorei the invitation which came from US House speaker Newt Gingrich, was “an opportunity to explain the Palestinian positions to American legislators. It’s as important for the peace process as it is for Palestinian-American relations.”
Israeli soldiers clashed with Palestinians when the Israeli army sealed a checkpoint on the road that passes near the Gush Katif settlement. Palestinians including PA Minister Mr. Abdel Aziz Shahin staged a sit-in demonstration at the site. Palestinians began throwing stones and Israeli soldiers shot back tear gas. No injuries were reported.
On 3 July, Israel lifted a roadblock in the Gaza Strip after an agreement was reached with the Palestinian Authority, which included the opening of three retaliatory barricades around Jewish settlements. Palestinian police had been in firing position squaring off against Israeli soldiers for some 12 hours. Israeli decision on 2 July to bar passage of a Palestinian convoy past the Gush Katif settlements provoked the confrontation.
On 4 July, three Jewish settlers dressed in traditional Arab garb, rode round Hebron on horseback smashing up Palestinian cars with bike chains and iron bars. One was arrested.
PA President Arafat, Egyptian President Mubarak and Jordan’s King Hussein held a mini-summit in Cairo. Mr. Abu Rudeina, a senior aide to President Arafat, said “the significance of the trilateral summit is that the Arabs will not wait long for the American initiative … it is the last-but-one chance for the US Administration to announce its initiative.” He added that “the summit was also a message to the Israeli Government that the States which have signed agreements with Israel are warning of their deep anxiety at its [Israel’s] policies.” Mr. David Bar-Illan, spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu said “the Cairo summit was called to put pressure on Israel … but it will not work.”
An Israeli parliamentary committee approved draft legislation to extend state law to Jewish settlers in occupied territories through votes from the extreme right-wing party. It was reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the move.
US Secretary of State Albright said the US is getting closer to a deal that would break the deadlock in the peace process. Prime Minister Netanyahu also admitted that Israel and the US are “beginning to see eye-to-eye on how to proceed” but that “we are not seeing a closing of the gap between us and the Palestinian Authority.” According to the “bridging proposal,” redeployment would take place over a period of three months, with confidence-building conditions met alternately by the Palestinians and the Israelis. Israel’s Defence Minister Mordechai said military withdrawal from more of the West Bank could take place in the next few days.
The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a resolution, which conferred upon Palestine additional rights and privileges in the work of the Assembly. 124 Member States voted in favour with 4 against and 10 abstentions.
Prime Minister Netanyahu once again put off a decision on the withdrawal from more of the West Bank. According to a radio report, he briefed members of his cabinet on the subject after a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Albright on 7 July. An opinion poll found that 61 per cent of Israelis believed Mr. Netanyahu used various pretexts to delay a pullout to “gain time” because of opposition from extreme right-wing members of his government.
Mr. Saeb Erakat, Palestinian negotiator, sent a letter to Cabinet Secretary Naveh, demanding that the remains of hundreds of Palestinian fighters killed by the Israeli Army since the June 1967 war be handed over. “Hundreds of Palestinian families yearn to an end to their long suffering….” wrote Mr. Erakat. He said many were buried in the Jordan Valley and the Israeli army has retained the names of those buried in special records. The ICRC has been informed of the request. No reply was forthcoming from the Israeli Government.
Some 300 Palestinians held a demonstration in Gaza to protest Israeli plans to widen the boundaries of Jerusalem. Demonstrators marched from the Palestinian Council building to the residence of the UN Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories. One of the demonstrators delivered a letter requesting the UN to “intervene to stop Jewish settlement, the seizure of land and the policy of annexation of Jerusalem.”
Messrs. Saeb Erakat and Nabil Shaath, Palestinian negotiator and PA Minister for Planning and International cooperation, respectively, are to meet with Secretary of State Albright. PA Minister of Higher Education, Ms. Ashrawi said “this is a quick visit and the aim is not to renegotiate the questions which have already been agreed upon.” State Department spokesman James Rubin said, “We are in an intensive end-game negotiation … we have no knowledge that this will yield success.”
Leaders of three West Bank settlements, including Ma’ale Adumin, said they opposed the plan to expand Jerusalem’s municipal authority, which would include their communities. They argued that the “umbrella plan” would hurt residents and the development of their communities. They will present an alternative plan to Mr. Netanyahu.
The IDF imposed a curfew on three neighbourhoods still under Israeli army control in Hebron after shots were fired at a car belonging to Jewish settlers. The shooting reportedly took place near the Mosque of Abraham in down downtown Hebron. No casualties were reported.
Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed Lieutenant-General Shaul Mofaz as chief of Israel’s general staff (Israeli Army). Israeli commentators viewed Mofaz’s accession to the post as a set-back for senior officers generally seen close to the Labour Party. Mofaz won the post over a more experienced rival, Major-General Matan Vilnai.
US Secretary of State Albright told Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop stalling on the peace process and decide whether or not to accept the US proposal for further redeployment, according to Israeli daily,
. Israel reportedly is ready to hand over 10 per cent but wants to retain control over zoning and planning in the remaining 3 per cent. PA President Arafat has said he will not renegotiate the terms of the proposal he accepted in January which included Israeli withdrawal from 13 per cent of the West Bank.
The Israeli Army destroyed two Palestinian houses and four unfinished buildings in the town of Anatta and in the Ramallah area. Families were forcibly evacuated before the demolition. A group of 200 Palestinian and Israelis peace activists protested the demolitions in front of the Israeli army headquarters in Bet El in the same region.
Israeli police arrested a settler from the Maon settlement on suspicion of setting fire to crops of nearby Palestinian farmers.
Israel’s Shin Beth warned the Government of risk of attacks by Jewish extremists against Israeli officials. Risks would increase dramatically in the event of further Israeli troop withdrawals from the West Bank. Meanwhile, Israeli military intelligence also foresees a “high risk” of armed conflict with the Palestinians including armed attacks against Israeli settlements if the peace process remained in its current moribund state.
Israeli bulldozers destroyed a recently-completed one-story home in East Jerusalem belonging to a Palestinian. Several Israeli police guarded the bulldozers as they demolished the building.
Prime Minister Netanyahu met with his security cabinet (Ministers Mordechai, Sharon and Sharansky) but again failed to reached a decision on the US proposal. The US State Department has said that success in its efforts depended on an Israeli approval of the plan since the Palestinians had already agreed to the initiative in principle.
At least five Palestinians were wounded in clashes when Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets as they entered a “restricted military zone” near the settlement of Ma’ale Amos in the West Bank. The Palestinians from Ar-Rashaid said they were protesting against seizure of up to 1,000 sheep and goats which the Israeli military said were grazing in the closed military area.
Israelis fired at a Palestinian police car in Bethlehem. Another police vehicle crashed into a wall in Hebron after it was hit by stones thrown by Jewish settlers. A settler group took responsibility for the attacks.
Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear at the cabinet meeting that Defence Minister Mordechai would focus on only two issues during talks with the Palestinians scheduled later this week: the need to ratify the Palestinian Covenant and on providing Palestinians some civilian powers in only 3 percent of the 13 per cent pullback envisioned. The Palestinians have repeatedly said that they will not renegotiate the US proposal, would not agree to an “Area D” and would not convene the PNC to ratify the Covenant. Israeli Army would retain the right to re-enter Area D for security reasons after withdrawal while Palestinians would be barred from building in the area. No date has been set for a meeting.
Israel’s National Infrastructures Minister Sharon warned of a government downfall if it agreed to a "14 percent" total withdrawal. The coalition would be brought down by a Knesset vote of no confidence, although not necessarily on the withdrawal issue since Labour might support the decision. But it could fall on future no-confidence vote on any other issue, according to Mr. Sharon.
Mr. Faisal Husseini, member of the PLO executive committee, is launching a fund-raising campaign aimed at saving Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem. Mr. Husseini said he hoped to raise US$30 million to run schools, hospitals and cultural activities in East Jerusalem. Funds would come from Palestinians in the region, Saudi Arabia, Europe and the diaspora.
(The Financial Times)
Palestinians and Israelis are preparing for talks between Palestinian negotiator Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Israel’s Defence Minister Mordechai. Both sides, however, expressed deep pessimism about chances of reaching an agreement on the US proposal.
Syrian President Assad said he was ready to join the Franco-Egyptian peace conference on the Middle East which was proposed in May, “when the appropriate circumstances exist.” French President Chirac said “there can be no peace in the region without Syria actively taking part.”
Ateret Cohanim, a settler group, said they now have 62 Jewish families in 37 residences in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The group’s leader, Mr. Yossi Kaufman, said “I understand the Arabs have been here in history. We only want a serious Jewish presence here so an evacuation of East Jerusalem won’t be discussed in negotiations.”
A group of Israeli businessmen have started a company, Yesha is Here Inc., to sell products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights, in response to a threatened EU trade action against products made in settlements. The European Commission has charged that Israel is misrepresenting such exports, labelling them “Made in Israel” thus gaining preferential duty-free customs treatment. The Europeans maintain that their free-trade treaty with Israel applies only to pre-1967 borders.
PA negotiator Abbas and Israeli Defence Minister Mordechai held a three-hour meeting in Tel Aviv. Another meeting was planned for 20 July but the Israeli side did not confirm this. Palestinian sources said they have set a one-week deadline for talks to achieve results on the troop withdrawal from the West Bank. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said they did not want to prolong the talks “because the Israelis did not bring any substantial proposals” to the meeting.
Israeli police said they discovered a suspected car bomb in West Jerusalem when a van burst into flames. Large amounts of explosive liquids and nails were reportedly discovered. The driver, who had suffered serious burns, was sentenced by an Israeli court to 20 months in jail in 1990 for his involvement in HAMAS activities.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, new Vatican representative in the occupied Palestinian territory, met with PA President Arafat in Gaza. The Archbishop Sambi also holds the Jaffa-based post of Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and the Jerusalem-based position of Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem. The Holy See plans to open an office in Bethlehem in preparation for the celebration of 2,000 years since the birth of Christ.
A 28-member Palestinian family was ordered to leave their house in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighbourhood. The Israeli High Court ruled a year ago that the house had been built on Jewish-owned land. The Palestinian family, who strongly denied Jewish ownership, had been given a year to evacuate the house, ending on 22 July. Mr. Riyad Ghuzlan, one of four brothers living in the house, said they were not going to leave under any circumstances. Peace Now activists said the Jewish National Fund would hand over the house and land in August to Jewish settlers from the El-Ad movement.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and Security Chief of Gaza Mohammed Dahlan met with Israeli Secretary Danny Naveh and legal adviser Yitzhak Molcho at the Ma’ale Hahamisha kibbutz near Jerusalem. It is reported that the Israelis have proposed the following: 3 per cent of the 13 per cent pullback be designated as West Bank “green zones” or nature reserves in which both Israelis and Palestinians would be forbidden to build; and that the PLO Central Committee convene to ratify changes in the Covenant with a promise to convene the full PNC at a later date. The Palestinians have rejected the new proposals.
Palestinian and Israeli negotiators held a third round of talks in a kibbutz near Jerusalem without any sign of progress. PA spokesman Abu Rudeina said that after three meetings, there was nothing new in the Israeli ideas. According to him, “… there is no need to have meetings which do not lead to implementation of the US plan." Palestinian negotiators have insisted they would accept nothing less than a 13 per cent withdrawal from the West Bank. Israeli Defence Minister Mordechai called for the US to send Middle East envoy Dennis Ross to help rescue the peace process. Mr. Mordechai reportedly called President Mubarak, asking him to persuade PA President Arafat to make a deal.
A delegation of Palestinian legislators, headed by Mr. Ahmed Qorei (Abu Ala), met with US House Speaker Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich had invited the Palestinians during his visit to the Middle East in May. Mr. Gingrich expressed his concern about getting the peace process to move forward and said that prosperity was a key to long-term peace. Mr. Qorei said Palestinians have “much expectation and hope about the relationship that will start with this House.” Mr. Gingrich announced his plan of sending a delegation to the PA after the November congressional elections. He also said that if talks got back on track, he planned to host a joint legislative meeting in the United States and form an internship programme with the PA, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
Mr. Meir Sheetrit, chairman of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition, said new “bridging proposals” to help hammer out an agreement on the US proposal, have been presented to PA President Arafat. Palestinian negotiator Mr. Nabil Shaath said the suggestions would be studied over the weekend.
PA President Arafat announced that his deputy, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), would resume talks “on a systematic basis” with Israeli Internal Security Minister Kahalani beginning next week. Top Arafat aides, however, denied that the talks represented a return to negotiation on Israeli troop withdrawal in the West Bank, adding that Minister Kahalani was not part of the Israeli negotiating team. Mr. Kahalani, leader of the centrist Third Way Party, had threatened to bolt the coalition unless agreement was reached soon on troop withdrawal. Mr. Arafat met with Mr. Kahalani fot two hours in Ramallah.
Israel is trying to arrange a summit meeting between PA President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Mr. Arafat reportedly promised to study the request made through Mr. Meir Sheetrit, chairman of Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition.
(Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)
The British Government raised the diplomatic rank of the Palestinian Mission to the Court of St. James to that of "Palestinian General Delegation," thereby affording it the same status enjoyed by a
(The Jerusalem Post)
Israeli President Wiezman called anew for early elections, warning of disaster unless the Government reaches a pullback agreement with the Palestinians.
(The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)
Peace Now reported that construction in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank and Gaza had increased by 134 per cent this year, but decreased inside the Green Line by 20 per cent. It added that based on figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, 730 housing units were started in settlements during the first quarter of 1998 compared to 310 units in the first quarter of 1997.
(The Jerusalem Post)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Moussa said that the joint Egyptian-French initiative on holding an international peace conference on the Middle East peace in gaining wide support. He said there was an Arab and international acceptance of the proposal.
During his visit in Damascus, Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, EU Envoy to the Middle East, said the Franco-Egyptian proposal to hold a new conference to rescue the stalled Arab-Israeli peace talks was now taking shape. “We have to adjust, prepare, elaborate, and adopt the different positions of each of the parties concerned to make it acceptable and successful,” he stated.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said that after a meeting with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv, the gap between the two sides on an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank remained as wide as ever.
After two days of talks between Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa and President Chirac in Paris, it was decided that the Franco-Egyptian proposal for an international peace conference on the Middle East should be set in motion. President Mubarak wants the first round of meetings to be held next August. The initial phase of the conference would deliberately exclude those directly affected - Israel, the PLO, Lebanon and Syria. Those to be invited would be the US, the Russian Federation, the EU and a number of Arab States.
(The Financial Times)
King Hassan of Morocco announced that a special fund would be established to invest in East Jerusalem on behalf of the Palestinians. The fund, which will be headed by the Palestinian Ambassador to Morocco Wajih Hassan Ali Kacem. The fund would “boost investments in Jerusalem and help Palestinians buy land in the holy city.”
The IDF destroyed three Palestinian houses in the village of Tarqumiya, in the southern West Bank, and one in nearby Idna. At the same time, another bulldozer tore down three barns used for storing grapes and apples in Kurum Anab near Al-Taiba. According to Palestinian sources, the Israeli authorities have demolished more than 30 houses and buildings in the Palestinian territory in the past two months.
The OIC's Jerusalem Committee ended a two-day meeting in Casablanca. In its final communiqué, the Committee “urged Muslim states which started steps towards building relations with Israel in the framework of the peace process to reconsider their relations with Israel, including shutting missions and (diplomatic) offices until Israel bows down to its peace commitments.” The statement also called on Governments, financial institutions and ordinary people in Muslim countries to step up a collection drive to aid Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The latest Israeli-Palestinian talks held in a Tel Aviv hotel ended without results. The Israeli negotiators did not show the Palestinian side a map of the areas to be included in the proposed redeployment. They also did not respond to questions about the special status Israel wanted to give to the 3 per cent of the area included in the pullback, according the Palestinian negotiator, Mr. Saeb Erakat. Israeli Defence Minister Mordechai said he thought Prime Minister Netanyahu would meet soon with PA President Arafat to discuss the pullback.
Russia will do its best to help remove obstacles preventing the establishment of peace and security for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, and the strengthening of stability and good-neighbourly relations in the whole Middle East region, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said during his meeting in Moscow with the Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Mr. Abbas, who is also co-chairman of the Russian-Palestinian working committee for the Middle East, noted the importance of Russia's role as co- sponsor in the peace process and called on its leaders to increase its influence and intensify Russian-Palestinian political interaction to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict.
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