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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 October 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

October 1999


At the opening session of the second Palestinian-EU annual consultative conference held in Ramallah, EU Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos said the EU was working on a code of conduct, which would clarify the positions of the various parties to the Middle East peace process on outstanding issues. He stressed that the EU should not take a back seat to the United States, but should play an active role not only in financing peace, but also in the political process. He added that Europe and the international community had a duty to ensure that Israel implement all international resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than ask the Palestinians to renegotiate these resolutions. (DPA)

Aharon Domb, Director of the YESHA, the umbrella organization for Israeli settlements, told Yediot Aharonot that if Israel decided to evacuate settlements, he would accept that decision democratically, but said that the movement should do everything to stop any evacuation. Mr. Domb, who was stepping down as director to go into private business, said the settlement movement had largely been a failure because it never won broad Israeli support and failed to distance itself from extremists. He said he continued to believe in the Land of Israel concept but only theoretically, as practically there were already facts on the ground that he did not like but must be recognized. (Reuters)


The Palestinian Cabinet called on the UN to take a more active role in the Middle East peace process in response to Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It asked the UN to take up its historical responsibilities toward the Palestinian people which included enforcing resolutions concerning the Palestinian cause. (Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Barak, voicing Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem, officially opened a new archaelogical excavation on 3 October near the Haram al-Sharif. Mr. Barak said the excavations underscored Israelis’ ties to their past as a people manifesting its freedom in its own nation. The site houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, whose political and religious sensitivity exploded in bloodshed three years ago when former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered a new entrance dug into a tourist tunnel near the compound. (Reuters)


Israel and the Palestinians signed an agreement on the opening of a safe passage for Palestinians travelling between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The document was signed by Israeli Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and PA Civil Affairs Minister Jamil Tarifi in a ceremony at a Jerusalem hotel. The 44-kilometre (22-mile) route leads across Israel from the northern tip of the Gaza Strip to the town of Tarqumiyah in the southern West Bank. Palestinians had to obtain a safe passage card and would be given a set amount of time to make the journey by bus, taxi or in their own vehicles. Palestinians that were banned from entering Israel would be able to make the trip by Israeli-escorted bus. Israel would use magnetic cards to monitor the identity of Palestinians travelling on the route. Minister Ben-Ami said it would take a week or two before the route would be opened. (AFP, AP, BBC News, Reuters, XINHUA) Israeli settlers made two attempts to expand their settlements by installing equipment outside their existing boundaries. In one incident, they parked two caravans on a hill near Ramallah, about one mile from the settlement of “Talmon.” The Peace Now movement called on the Israeli army to remove the caravans immediately. The army so far has taken no action against the settlers. However, the troops had earlier removed a container installed near the “Susia” settlement, close to Hebron. (AFP)


EU Foreign Affairs Chris Patten urged Israel and its Arab neighbours to resume the EU-chaired talks on regional economic development. The EU was determined to play its full-part in the Middle East peace process but did not plan to usurp the leading role played by the United States, according to Mr. Patten. (DPA)


Israeli Prime Minister Barak said he would review all the illegal settlement construction that had gone on in the West Bank since the call for new elections ten months ago. Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy said those that were legitimate according to all the rules would stay, and those that did not conform to decisions and rules would not. (Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

A special Israeli ministerial committee gave Israeli Prime Minister Barak a free hand to close illegal Jewish settlements that have been established throughout the West Bank in recent years. Mr. Barak was given the power to decide the fate of “42 rogue West Bank encampments.” A spokesperson for the Ministry said the Prime Minister would decide to evacuate some of these “implantations” in the next few days. Palestinians warned that by declaring only a small number of the outposts illegal, Mr. Barak was maintaining a settlement policy on occupied land that could undermine the peace process. (AFP, The Washington Post)


In an interview with Asahi Shimbun, PA President Arafat said he was considering to include a vice-presidency system in a constitution, indicating a vice-president of a new State of Palestine as successor to the PA leader. (AFP)

Palestinians would now be using “.ps” in their Internet addresses, for Palestinian State, instead of the “.wg” which signified the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. PA Deputy Minister of Planning Anis al-Kak said it was a sign towards the independent State. He added that Palestinians had been working with the UN to arrange for addresses to reflect statehood rather than territorial status. (Reuters)
Danny Yatom, Political and Security Advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Barak, said 12 Jewish encampments in the West Bank, instead of 15 as decided earlier by Mr. Barak, would be dismantled beginning next week, in an agreement reached between settler leaders and the Israeli Government. PA Parliamentary Speaker Ahmed Korei, also known as Abu Ala, denounced the decision, stating that all settlements were illegal, and in particular all of the 42 hilltop settlements that had been set up in the past 12 months. Hassan Asfour, PA Minister of State, called the decision a dangerous precedent as it legitimized the other settlements. Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said the compromise [to dismantle 12 instead of 15 settlements] was very important because it was the first time that settlements would be removed by agreement with the settlers, not in confrontation, and it was definitely something that was important to the Barak Government. (DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

Japan pledged US$20 million in fresh aid for Palestine, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry official. The aid, which was promised by Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, would be disbursed through the UNDP and be used to construct a sewage system in the West Bank. Nabil Shaath, PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, who was accompanying PA President Arafat on a visit to Tokyo, said the PA hoped to open a representative office in Japan as the country was a major donor to the PA. (Kyodo, Reuters)

Israel released 151 prisoners in accordance with the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. Forty-two of those released were from other Arab countries and 109 were Palestinians. Buses left the Megiddo prison in northern Israel taking the prisoners to towns in the Palestinian territory nearest to their homes. The 42 citizens of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Sudan, and Syria were taken to Gaza as guests of the PA. PA President Yasser Arafat welcomed the prisoner release while stating that it was due to Palestinian flexibility that the matter of prisoner release had been worked out. He hoped for similar flexibility on the Israeli side when in came to matters of settlements and land confiscation. (AP, AFP, BBC, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

A tripartite action plan was signed by donor nations and international bodies, Israel and the PA, at an open plenary session on the final day of the two-day gathering of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Tokyo. The Committee had been established under the 1993 Declaration of Principles to coordinate policies among the three parties to spur implementation of assistance to Palestinians. The Committee also comprised Canada, Egypt, the EU, Jordan, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United States, IMF, United Nations and the World Bank. Major donor nations disbursed a total of $2.45 billion in aid to Palestinians from 1993 to 1998, with the United States accounting for 13.4 per cent, Japan 12.7 per cent, the EU 12.2 per cent, Germany 11.0 per cent, Norway 9.0 per cent and Saudi Arabia 5.4 per cent. In November 1998, donor nations assembled a new aid package totalling some $3.3 billion. The Israeli Government promised to take a broad range of measures to facilitate implementation of the aid projects, particularly ensuring movement of goods and people in and out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Kyodo, The Jerusalem Post) According to PA Finance Minister Mohammad Zohdi Nashashibi, donor countries have pledged $500 million to the PA by the end of this year during the two-day donors’ meeting held in Tokyo which ended 15 October. He added that the tripartite agreement (PA, Israel and donor countries) provided for cooperation in implementing projects under the Bethlehem 2000 programme and ventures in a number of Palestinian industrial zones. In a statement during the meeting, Mr. Terje-Roed Larsen, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process, commented that the Palestinian economy remained on a weak foundation and reminded donors that annual disbursements should be running at $600 million per year if they were to keep their November 1998 promise to the Palestinian people to provide around $3 billion in aid over the coming five years. (M2 Communications, XINHUA)

Israeli Interior Minister Natan Sharansky announced that the regulation which deprived Palestinian Jerusalemites of the right to live in the city if they had been absent for more than seven years, would be rescinded. Mr. Sharansky made the decision because the regulations had not achieved their purpose and had become a system of harassment. B’Tselem, the human rights organization, said 5,385 of some 170,000 Palestinians had had their Jerusalem residency revoked since 1967, 2,200 of them in the last three years alone. (AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at Palestinians trying to rip down a fence put up around a site confiscated by the Israeli army. Some 900 Palestinians were demonstrating against the land seizure near Deir Balut in the north of the West Bank. The demonstrators dispersed after being told that the land was needed for a temporary military tower that would be removed when another location was found. (AFP, Reuters)

A team appointed by the Israeli Finance Minister Avraham Shochat to study the future relationship between the Israeli and Palestinian economies came out in favour of allowing the Palestinians to have their own currency if they wanted one, according to the Director- General of Israel’s Finance Ministry Avi Ben-Bassat. The team’s initial report outlined three possible economic arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians under a final peace agreement, which were (1) the current arrangement of a customs union enabling the free movement of goods between Israel and the PA, as well as uniform indirect taxes and customs duties; (2) economic separation that would allow for potential taxation of the movement of goods, indirect taxes and different rates and the possibility of trade agreements between the two entities and a third party; and (3) a free trade area for local goods with the potential for indirect taxation at different rates as well as different customs rates and trade agreements with other countries. The alternatives would be studied further together with the Palestinians, according to Mr. Ben-Bassat. (Reuters)


The Israeli army began to dismantle 10 Jewish settlements in the West Bank under an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Barak and the leaders of the Council of Settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip last week. The first to be removed was an outpost built on a hilltop settlement near the settlement of “Shvut Rachel,” north of Ramallah. Radical settlers had opposed the evacuations and staged protests at the sites. Israeli army officials said they hoped to complete the evacuation of the ten outposts by 29 October. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post, XINHUA)

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released a report stating that Palestinian unemployment fell to 11.8 per cent in the third quarter of 1999 from 12.6 percent in the second quarter. Saleh al-Kafri, a labour expert, said economic conditions have recently been improving, and that there were new jobs for Palestinian workers both in Israel and the Palestinian areas. (Reuters)


A ceremony at the Erez checkpoint marked the official opening of the safe-passage route linking the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, as stipulated in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. In all, 132,000 Palestinians are so far eligible to use the route – 130,000 workers and business people who have had permission to enter Israel in the past, and 2,000 who had been granted safe-passage permits in recent days. Some 80 applications were rejected by the Israeli army for security reasons. (AFP, AP, BBC, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

An Israeli soldier shot and killed a Palestinian identified as 23-year-old Musa Khlil Abu Hallel, who the soldier said tried to stab him. The shooting took place near a holy site to both Muslims and Jews in Bethlehem. The soldier was not hurt. In reaction to the shooting, some 150 Palestinians marched to the enclave and threw stones at Israeli troops who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Five Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets, according to witnesses. Palestinian police denied that Mr. Abu Hallel had had a knife or that he had attacked the soldier. Faruq Amin, head of the Palestinian liaison with Israel in Bethlehem, said the Israeli authorities could not show them the knife when asked, and also refused to release Mr. Abu Hallel’s body. (AFP, AP)

Israeli bulldozers demolished a second Palestinian house in East Jerusalem which belonged to Iyad Nasser, who had been living in it with seven members of his family. A day earlier, bulldozers also raised a house in Beit Hanina, which had been home to 24 people from three families. An official of the Palestinian committee against the destruction of houses said, the demolitions took place in the face of an Israeli court order to await the end of the judicial process. Abdel Aziz Tahar of the association for the development of Beit Hanina said, dozens more houses in the area were also threatened with demolition. (AFP)
27 Breaking away from the funeral procession of Mousa Abu Hilal who had been fatally shot on 25 October in Bethlehem, some 200 Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli soldiers in a third day of protests. Israeli troops responded with tear-gas and rubber-coated steel pellets. A number of protesters were hit by rubber bullets or were treated for tear gas inhalation. Bethlehem had already been tense before the shooting because of Israeli plans to turn a makeshift checkpoint at the town’s entrance into a large, reinforced border station. Palestinians feared that Israel was trying to make travel even more difficult, scaring off tourists during the millennium celebrations. (AFP, AP, Reuters, The Washington Post)

US Middle East Envoy Dennis Ross met with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem to prepare for the Middle East summit next November in Oslo, which he hoped would start negotiations on a final settlement. Mr. Ross met with Israeli Prime Minister Barak, Foreign Minister David Levy, as well as Oded Eran, the newly appointed head of the Israeli delegation for the peace talks. (AFP, AP)

The foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan met with Nabil Shaath, PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, to prepare for a meeting of the multilateral committee charged with solving the problem of Palestine refugees. Mr. Shaath said the meeting aimed at coordinating positions of the Arab delegates before the committee met. He also asked both foreign ministers to provide the PA with all the statistics concerning Palestinians who had fled from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to Egypt and Jordan. (DPA)

The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, made a visit to Israel this week to discuss “trilateral American-Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation” with top Israeli and Palestinian officials. Maariv reported that Mr. Tenet met with Israeli Prime Minister Barak, who doubles as Defence Minister, and would also meet with PA President Arafat and the heads of the two Palestinian security services. (AFP)

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