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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 March 1999
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


March 1999


1

Canada and the Palestinian Authority signed a free trade agreement in Ramallah. The accord, which was signed by Canadian International Trade Minister Sergio Marchi and PA Economic and Trade Minister Maher Masri, would open up possibilities of developing trade between the two sides. Canadian-Palestinian trade was estimated to be no more than a million dollars a year while Canadian-Israeli trade came to more than US$ 300 million in 1998, according to Palestinian figures (AFP)

The Japanese Government announced that it was donating up to 506 million yen (US$4.3 million) to pay for equipment needed to train new Palestinian doctors. A statement from the Japanese Foreign Ministry said the money would help pay for medical teaching facilities at Al-Quds University to improve the health of and medical services provided for the Palestinians. (AFP)

2

Haaretz reported that Israel stripped 788 Palestinian Jerusalemites of their residency in East Jerusalem in 1998 in what Palestinians call a campaign of “silent transfer.” Of the Palestinians stripped of residency, 441 cases came in the last five months of the year. The Committee Against House Demolition, an Israeli activist group, said a total of 35 houses were destroyed out of 600 demolition orders issued that year, explaining that the high number of building violations was evidence of Israeli discrimination in issuing building permits. It also said that the Jerusalem municipality was manipulating zoning laws to make it hard for Palestinian residents to build houses, and had failed to supply Palestinian neighbourhoods with adequate infrastructure. (XINHUA)

3

Israeli police and Border Police have prepared a contingency plan in the event that PA President Arafat declared an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. The code name for the plan is “Magic of the Melody.” Intensive training included training for snipers, riot control, and combat in open terrain. Border policemen would also train with armoured personnel carriers and conduct joint manoeuvers with the Israeli Defence Forces. (Ha’aretz)

German and Palestinian representatives signed a financial aid accord in the West Bank town of Al-Ram, by which Germany would provide the Palestinian side with US$56 million in development aid. Palestinian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Shaath said Germany was the most important donor country, having provided US$380 million over the past five years. The PA Development Ministry said the aid would be earmarked for water resources, including water purification and sewage facility for Gaza City. (AFP, DPA)

An international team of scientists urged Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan to work together in a race against time to preserve dwindling water resources. A team of 15 scientists, headed by Mr. Gilbert White, released a study entitled “Water for the Future” which said it would be difficult and expensive to sustain high-quality water supplies in the region where a plentiful fresh water supply was lacking and population growth was rapid. Mr. Ayman Rabi, a Palestinian team member, said Palestinian areas used 94 cubic meters (3,290 cubic feet) per year in contrast to 244 cubic meters (8,540 cubic feet) in Jordan and 344 cubic meters (12,040 cubic feet) in Israel. Palestinian researchers estimated that Israel pumped more than 85 per cent of water resources in the West Bank to Israeli towns or Jewish settlements in the area. (Reuters)

4
The Israeli Army has created a new unit to carry out “security operations” in the Palestinian territories, according to a report by the army radio. The Unit, code-name Erez, would be based in the West Bank and would carry out duties now assigned to army reservists such as responding to “public disorder,” patrolling roads and setting up security checkpoints. Israel had begun beefing up its security apparatus in anticipation of renewed conflict in May, when Palestinians were expected to declare their independence unilaterally. (AFP)

PA Health Minister Riyad Za’noun said more than 600,000 Palestinians had been detained by Israel since its occupation of the Palestinian territories. Despite the accords, Mr. Za’noun said Israel still held 2,800 Palestinians. Some 350 prisoners were suffering from various kinds of illness, 50 of whom had heart disease and kidney failure. Around 267 prisoners have been imprisoned for 10 to 26 years. (XINHUA)

6

Jewish settlers set up seven mobile homes on a hilltop near the West Bank town of Dahariya. The settlers, from the settlements of “Tene” and “Omarim” at the southern tip of the West Bank, bulldozed a dirt access road to the hilltop and hauled in seven mobile homes and a water tank, according to army spokesman Peter Lerner. (AFP)

7

The Palestinian Council began its fourth annual session. The Council reelected Ahmed Qorei as its speaker at the meeting held in Gaza City. (AFP)

In a speech before the conference of the Parliament Speakers of European Union and Mediterranean countries, Jose Maria Gil-Roblez, President of the European Parliament, called on the leaders of legislatures of Mediterranean countries to intensify cooperation in the political field and promote in every way the entering into force of the respective agreements, signed in Oslo between Israel and the PLO within the framework of the Middle East peace process. (Itar-Tass)

8

Palestinian villagers clashed with Jewish settlers from the “Efrat” settlement over a ditch being dug by bulldozers hired by the settlers for water pipes on land near the Palestinian village of Jurat al-Shamaa, south of Bethlehem. It was also reported that Israeli bulldozers belonging to “Efrat” tried to level land owned by Palestinian villagers in order to incorporate it into the settlement. The situation was described as “very tense” by Mr. Salah Tamari, a member of the Palestinian Council from Bethlehem. (AFP, DPA)

9
The Israeli army has put on hold a plan to forcibly remove a group of Jewish settlers who illegally occupied a hilltop near Nablus. The small group of settlers established a makeshift camp several weeks ago on a hill near the settlement of “Itamar” on the outskirts of Nablus. They have called on fellow settlers to help them resist their removal by the army and have addressed similar appeals to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Arens. Military sources said the pressure had led to a suspension of army plans to forcibly evacuate the group. (AFP)

The Israeli authorities demolished a large West Bank house belonging to a Palestinian family living abroad. A spokesman for the Israeli army’s civil administration in the Palestinian territories said that the family who had built the house near the Jewish settlement of “Givat Zeev,” had been ordered to stop building the house during construction, and were again told to take it down when it was completed. (AFP)

10

The Palestinian Authority along with four Muslim countries began two days of talks in Rabat to raise funds in support of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Fund committee aims at putting together a plan on how to seek contributions from the Muslim world and the rest of the international community to prevent Israel from Judaising Jerusalem. The committee, composed of Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and the PA, would act as the secretariat of the Fund set up by the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 1995 to help Palestinians buy land in East Jerusalem. The Fund’s chief, Wajih Kacim, said it was seeking contributions to a US$100 million plan to build houses, medical and educational facilities for more than 150,000 Palestinians who live in the city of Jerusalem. (Reuters)

11

Mr. Theodor Wallau, German Ambassador to Israel, was reported in Ha’aretz to have delivered a letter to the Israeli Foreign Ministry on behalf of the EU confirming its support for the internationalisation of Jerusalem and rejecting any Israeli limitations on diplomatic visits to the Orient House in East Jerusalem. The letter had reportedly stated that all of Jerusalem, including the Jewish western sector, was a corpus separatum or a separate body, and that the EU had no intention of changing its custom regarding meetings there. Prime Minister Netanyahu has reportedly rejected the EU note, stating that the unified Jerusalem has been their capital for 3,000 years and would continue to be an inalienable part of their country. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XUNHUA)

Former Defence Minister Mordechai, in an election rally, pledged to bolster Jewish settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He said settlement was crucial for controlling the land and preserving the homeland. (Reuters)

12

US Defence Secretary Cohen told Israeli leaders to quickly and fully implement the Wye River Memorandum or face a hold-up in US$1.2 billion in US aid linked to the land-for-security deal. Mr. Cohen said the money, which was additional aid that Israel requested to meet security costs linked to the West Bank withdrawals, would be forthcoming once all the pullouts had been carried out. (AFP)

A seven-year old Palestinian boy underwent surgery for a head wound after being hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet fired by Israeli troops during clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank village of Deir Abu Mishal. Sporadic clashes occurred in this village which was close to Jewish settlements. (AFP)

In a telephone interview from Washington, US Envoy Dennis Ross told Reuters that settlement activity was very destructive to the pursuit of peace precisely because it determined and prejudged what ought to be negotiated. (Reuters)

14

The Israeli Cabinet adopted a resolution stating that Jerusalem would never be internationalized or divided. The resolution was passed to counter an EU statement reasserting the EU’s refusal to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and its rejection of Israeli attempts to prevent diplomats from meeting with Palestinian officials in the eastern sector of the city. The Cabinet would send its declaration to the EU in an official communiqué, according to Israeli radio. (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he intended to begin final-status talks with the Palestinians soon after elections. He added that “in light of Israel’s security needs, the PA would not have the rights of a state in terms of maintaining an army or inviting a foreign army into its territory.” (The Jerusalem Post)

A general strike closed businesses and schools in Palestinian sectors of East Jerusalem to protest Israel’s hosting of an international conference in the city. The conference which was entitled “Taking heritage into the future,” brought representatives from 150 towns and cities in 30 countries. A statement issued by the strike organizers charged that Israeli authorities had no right to host the conference in a city where Palestinian culture and institutions were being destroyed. (AFP)

15

The Mayor of Waladja, south of East Jerusalem, accused the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem for creeping annexation by a policy of harassment. Mr. Mustafa Abu Tin said municipal authorities had already pulled down 15 houses in the village and ordered the demolition of another 28. Municipal authorities also told Mr. Abu Tin that unless there was a court order to the contrary, a road just built between Waladja and the neighbouring village of Beit Jala would also be destroyed. (AFP)

Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged to strengthen Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Touring the Jordan Valley, he said that without the Jordan Valley as a protective wall, the State of Israel could not be protected and therefore the settlement would remain there forever. He also promised to turn “Maale Efrain,” a settlement of 1,700, south of Nablus, into an “anchor city” that would provide services for the Jordan Valley region. (Reuters)

16

Foreign Minister Sharon met with European ambassadors at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel to discuss the controversy between Israel and the EU over the status of Jerusalem. Mr. Sharon had reportedly stated that General Assembly resolution 181(II) was “null and void” and that there was a very wide national consensus on the issue. He also told the ambassadors that settlements contributed to peace and Israel’s security. An Israeli Government statement on 14 March had instructed Israeli missions in Europe and worldwide to launch an “information campaign” to explain Israel’s stance on Jerusalem. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

The US House of Representatives approved a resolution by a vote of 380 to 24, urging President Clinton to oppose any unilateral declaration of an independent Palestinian State. The US Senate had approved a similar resolution on 11 March by a vote of 98 to 1. (Reuters, XINHUA)

17

A poll conducted by the Tel Aviv University’s Center for Peace revealed that most Israelis believed the Palestinian Authority was sincere in making peace with Israel. Some 41.7 per cent of Israelis interviewed thought that the PA was “genuine” in making peace with Israel, while 19.8 per cent answered it is “very genuine.” Palestinians, by contrast, distrusted the intentions of the Israeli Government. Some 52.5 per cent termed its intentions as “not genuine at all,” while 36.3 percent described it as “not genuine.” The same poll revealed that 70.4 per cent of Israelis were opposed to East Jerusalem becoming the capital of a Palestinian State, while 91.3 per cent of Palestinians rejected continuing Israeli sovereignty over that sector of the city. (AFP, XINHUA)

Israeli’s Interior Ministry formed a panel to prepare for expanding the borders of Jerusalem westward by annexing parts of the West Bank, in a move designed to boost the Jewish population of the city. Another aim of the expansion plan would be to provide new sources of tax revenue for the municipal government. Interior Ministry spokesperson Ellinson said a commission would initially look at non-built areas. (AFP)

18

Senior Palestinian officials and South African officials were reportedly discussing, during the past two days, various approaches to Palestinian statehood that would be less contentious than a unilateral declaration. PA President Arafat met with South African President Mandela in Helsinki, while Speaker of Palestine’s Parliament Ahmed Qorei met with SA Deputy President Mbeki in South Africa on 15 March. An option discussed was handing the issue of Palestinian sovereignty and statehood to the UN Trusteeship Council. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

A number of consul-generals and other diplomats from countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, met with top Palestinian official Faisal Husseini and member of the Palestinian Council Hanan Ashrawi at the Orient House in East Jerusalem. Mr. Husseini told reporters that foreign diplomats would continue to visit the Orient House despite Israel’s objections. Mr. Husseini called on US President Clinton to again use his authority to waive implementation of the 1996 law requiring Washington to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 1999. (AFP, AP, Reuters, XINHUA)

Jewish settlers took over two houses in East Jerusalem, claiming that the houses belonged to Jews before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. The settlers, who were members of an ultra-nationalist religious institutions, had renovated the two ruined houses without permission. They agreed to move out temporarily when requested to do so by the Israeli police, while their ownership titles could be checked. (AFP)
22

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, head of the Vatican Committee for the 2000 Jubilee, began a series of meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials to prepare for festivities marking the 2000th anniversary of Jesus Christ. (AFP)

Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at some 200 Palestinian youths during protest against the uprooting of olive trees outside the village of Beit Dajan in the West Bank. The Israeli soldiers were guarding bulldozers ripping up the olive trees which had been replanted nine days earlier by Palestinian villagers and Israeli peace activists. The army had initially razed the orchard stating that the area was “state land.” (AFP)

23

Palestinian merchants protested an attempt by the Israeli airport and port authorities to triple levies charged for each truck using the Karni crossing. The Israeli side has demanded that the fees payable on each truck be tripled from 200 shekels (US$50) to 600 shekels (U$150). Mr. Salim Abu Safieh, the Palestinian official in charge of security at checkpoints, said “This is a unilateral step and we will continue to reject this blackmail even if the crossing is closed for a long time.” The Karni crossing was modernized in 1998 within the framework of the peace accords. (AFP)

Israeli Minister of Industry and Trade Sharanksy laid the cornerstone for a new industrial park next to the settlement of “Adam,” north of Jerusalem in the West Bank. The park, named Bemjamin’s Gate, is scheduled to open in six months and would include high-tech companies involved in telecommunications, computer technology, water treatment and security. (AFP)

PA President Arafat met with US President Clinton at the White House, wherein President Clinton made it clear that permanent status negotiations should be resumed as soon as possible, should proceed on an accelerated basis, and should not be “open-ended.” (AFP, AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

24

Prime Minister Netanyahu convened his cabinet at Jerusalem’s city hall, the first time a council of ministers have been held at the site. The cabinet approved a Jerusalem development plan that would cost about US$68 million, and include the construction of housing to attract new Jewish immigrants to the city. It called for the building of 120,000 housing units for Jews in Jerusalem over the next 20 years, which would more than double the current Jewish population of 425,000. A special commission was also created to oversee infrastructure improvements in East Jerusalem to bring that sector’s services up to the level of those in the Western sector. (AFP)

Jewish settlers put up a dozen mobile homes, a tent, and two partially-constructed houses on a hilltop separated from the larger settlement of “Bat Ayin,” 15 miles south of Jerusalem. Settler leader Eliezer Roni said he planned to eventually move 500 families onto the hilltop. (AP)

25

At its summit in Berlin, the EU issued a landmark declaration expressing concern at the current deadlock in negotiations and calling for an early resumption of permanent status negotiations in the coming months on an accelerated basis. It believed that negotiations could be concluded within one year. It urged both parties to refrain from activities that prejudged the outcome of final negotiations, including all settlement activity. It reaffirmed the unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination including the option of a state, whose fulfilment should not be subject to any veto. It declared its readiness to consider the recognition of a Palestinian State in due course in accordance with the principles mentioned in the declaration. (Presidency Conclusions, Berlin European Council, 24 and 25 March 1999.)

29

Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the closure of three Palestinian offices in East Jerusalem including the office run by a prisoners’ support group, the WAFA Palestinian news agency, and the office of Ibrahim Qandalaft, adviser to PA President Arafat on Christian affairs. Netanyahu charged that all were official PA offices in Jerusalem, and their activity was unacceptable. The institutions were to receive eviction notices. In addition, it was decided that Palestinian cabinet member Ziad Abu Ziyad, who lived outside Jerusalem but worked in that city, and Jamil Othman, the PA appointed governor of Jerusalem, would be barred from entering the city. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post, The Washington Post)

Israel announced the release of fourteen of the 2,000 Palestinians it held in jails. The fourteen were from the Megiddo and Shikma prisons. A senior Israeli security official said a few more releases were expected. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

30

Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip held their annual Land Day protest against the confiscation of Palestinian property by Israel. All political factions were represented. Ali Shamhawani, one of the rally’s organizers, complained that Palestinian towns lacked room to expand because Israeli authorities barred construction on adjacent plots which had been declared “state lands.” (AFP)

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