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Division for Palestinian Rights
30 November 1997
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
During his visit to Moscow, Foreign Minister of France Hubert Védrine told a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov that Russia and the European Union had to play a stronger role in the Middle East peace process.
The PA decided to send only top negotiators to the Israeli-Palestinian talks in Washington, D.C.. Head of the PA Negotiations Affairs Department Hassan Asfour said the talks agenda would include Israeli troop redeployments, security cooperation, the definition of a “time-out” in unilateral acts and the start of final status talks. The Palestinian delegation includes chief negotiators Nabil Shaath, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Saeb Erakat.
Palestinian protesters briefly blocked the main highway through the Gaza Strip in a protest against Israeli security measures on the route.
United States Secretary of State Albright opened talks in Washington, D.C. between senior Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. The talks were called to explore formulas that could pave the way for accelerated negotiations on a permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. The Middle East Peace Coordinator Dennis Ross mediated the talks.
reported that Israel would sell 1,000 apartments in 1998 at the Jewish settlement of Har Homa south of East Jerusalem. According to the Israeli plan of the Israeli Ministry of Construction and Housing, the Government will market 300 apartments at Har Homa in 1999, in addition to those 1,000 it plans to sell in 1998. The entire settlement on the mountain will include 6,500 units at completion. The Ministry's plan to begin selling at Har Homa, due for final approval in the coming weeks, also includes a programme to market 4,420 homes in the West Bank during 1998 and another 7,135 in 1999, the newspaper said.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began formal talks under US auspices. The delegations led by Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, chief Palestinian negotiator Mahmoud Abbas and US Middle East peace coordinator Dennis Ross met at a State Department training centre in Arlington, VA. Ross said they would discuss “all the issues.” These include security cooperation, a freeze on Jewish settlements, the next round of Israeli withdrawals, implementation of old agreements and how to start talks on permanent status.
Two Palestinians, Ahmed Zurayeb, 22, and Eyad Abu Reaya, 20, were hospitalized after being severely beaten by Israeli border police as they crossed a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank.
The Israeli Defence Ministry set up a new outpost in the West Bank. A Defence Ministry statement said a unit of the army pioneer youth corps, Nahal, moved into the new outpost at Sansana, on the southern edge of the West Bank near Hebron, on 4 November. Three Palestinian families from the village Ramadine next to Sansana said dozens of hectares (acres) of their land had already been seized by the Israeli Government in recent months to establish a full-fledged settlement at the site.
The PA suspended civilian cooperation meetings with Israel at Gaza's Erez checkpoint to protest Israeli measures holding up the movement of shipping and students. Liaison committees in the West Bank would continue meeting, Kheiri added.
Israeli troops ordered about 200-300 Palestinian boys and men out of their homes in downtown Hebron before dawn, photographed them and warned them to stay away from Jewish settlers. The raid was carried out in the Israeli-controlled part of the city.
Israeli officials announced new plans to build hundreds of additional homes in a West Bank Jewish settlement in defiance of US and Palestinian calls for a freeze on such construction. The latest project to expand Jewish enclaves in occupied Palestinian land involves building 370 housing units in Alfei Menashe, a Jewish settlement of 4,400 people located near the northern West Bank town of Qalqilya and two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the Israeli border.
Jewish settlers and Palestinian demonstrators clashed in Hebron. A Palestinian police officer was wounded and taken to a hospital.
The Holy See signed an agreement with Israel granting the Roman Catholic Church legal status in the Holy Land. The agreement signed by Israel’s Foreign Minister Levy and the Apostolic Nuncio in Jerusalem, Monsignor Andrea Cordero de Montezemolo, legalized for the first time the status of the Roman Catholic Church and its institutions in the Holy Land. The document allows the Vatican legally to register its churches and institutions operating “in areas where Israeli legislation is in effect” - a formula, which includes East Jerusalem where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity's holiest site is located. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said he hoped it would provide a “boost” to the Middle East peace process. However, he also stressed that the accord did not cover the question of Jerusalem, and especially the protection of religious assets.
The PA rejected an Israeli proposal to discuss slowing down Jewish settlement activity in return for putting off further Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank.
A joint delegation of the European Union and the European Commission, headed by the Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jacques Poos, began a tour of the Middle East, which includes visits to Cairo, Amman, Jerusalem, Gaza City, Damascus and Beirut. One of the mission’s task will be to work towards finalising the EU- proposed “code of conduct” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
In an interview with
, PA President Arafat said that he would declare a State in September 1999, “whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likes it or not.” The State would be proclaimed at the end of the interim period “even if part of our lands are still occupied and even if the settlements are still in place,” he said. “We have been sending feelers throughout the world (about declaring a State) and the responses are positive. No one in the world can stop this process. It is our sacred right,” he told the paper.
The PA announced that it would boycott the MENA economic conference in Qatar, scheduled for 16-18 November. The decision to boycott the conference was made at a joint meeting of the PA Cabinet and Palestinian Council.
The PA rejected a summit between Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Arafat, saying the United States must first force Israel to make concessions in the peace process.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad ben Khalifa al-Thani, officially opened the fourth Middle East and North Africa Economic Conference in Doha, Qatar. Organisers said business delegations from 64 countries were attending the conference. Qatar sent invitations to more than 90 countries.
Israeli troops firing rubber-coated metal bullets wounded six Palestinians during protests that erupted in Bethlehem after the funeral of a Palestinian boy shot by an Israeli soldier three days earlier.
Palestinian students clashed with Israeli soldiers during protests in Bethlehem and Hebron.
The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) signed a protocol at Doha, Qatar, with the US-based Capital Investment Management Corporation, which plans to invest up to US$100 million in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan. The fund will invest 60 per cent in Palestinian areas and 40 per cent in Jordan in new projects in various sectors.
The MENA Economic Conference, organized by the World Economic Forum (WEF) with assistance of the Council on Foreign Relations, concluded its work at Doha, Qatar, by adopting a final communiqué. In it, the participants, among other things, expressed strong commitment to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, “on the basis of the Madrid Peace Conference formula, i.e. land for peace, and the United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973)”. They called for “broadening and deepening progress on all outstanding issues of the Arab-Israeli negotiating tracks of the peace process”. The participants also reiterated that immediate removal of the restrictive measures and closures would contribute positively to the performance of the Palestinian economy, and was essential for restoring confidence between the concerned parties in their commitment to the peace process.
Israel announced that it would grant special status to 30,000 Palestinian workers, 28 or older, from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip so they can enter Israel even during security clampdowns. The decision was reportedly approved by Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. Currently, some 50,000 Palestinians have permits to enter Israel, down from more than 100,000 in early 1996.
The PA Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, Sheikh Hassan Tahboub, said that the PA was concerned that the Vatican “had changed their position on East Jerusalem being an occupied city.” In a statement issued the same day, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said that the recent Israel-Holy See agreement concerned only the judicial status of Catholic institutions and “does not change in any way ... the legal or political status.”
Israel plans to block attempts to conduct a census in East Jerusalem, as announced by the PA last October. Israeli authorities said that the count would undermine Israel’s claims to sovereignty over all of the city. Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Avigdor Kahalani, said that a census in East Jerusalem would be a “harsh blow to Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.”
The PA eased its embargo on Israeli products imposed in retaliation for Israeli closures. Under the partial embargo, first enforced last August, some 20 Israeli products were barred from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Regardless of changing political circumstances, the PA Minister of Agriculture, Abdel Jawwad Saleh, said Israeli products similar to goods manufactured in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be kept out of the Palestinian areas to protect Palestinian industries.
US, Israeli and Palestinian officials toured the site of the proposed Palestinian airport in Rafah with a view to determining on the ground the differences on security matters between the Israeli and Palestinian sides.
, Israeli border police shot and killed a Palestinian man when he failed to stop at Gilo checkpoint leading from the West Bank into Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s media advisor, David Bar-Illan, confirmed earlier media reports that the Prime Minister had drawn up a proposal to withdraw troops from an additional six to eight per cent of the West Bank, and that he was also willing to “slow down” the expansion of Jewish settlements in disputed areas, but not to halt such building, even temporarily.
The PA rejected a reported Israeli proposal to withdraw troops from up to eight per cent of the West Bank.
The Israeli army demolished two homes in villages outside Bethlehem, including one whose owners said lay within a Palestinian self-rule area. Bulldozers accompanied by Israeli border guards tore down the two homes, both of which were still under construction and had not yet been occupied, in the villages of Khader and Firdeis.
reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu had outlined a plan to reach a final peace agreement with the Palestinians in six to eight months. According to the newspaper, Mr. Netanyahu suggests opening accelerated talks on a final status treaty with an agreement on three principles that would govern relations between Israel and the Palestinian entity: 1) Israeli “security zones” will be created beyond Israel’s borders and include clusters of Jewish settlements. The borders between Israel and the Palestinian entity will be permanent in some places and temporary in others - to be adjusted as relations between the two sides develop. 2) Jerusalem will remain united under Israeli sovereignty while the status of Christian and Moslem holy places will be negotiated. 3) Palestinian self-rule areas will be demilitarized according to a bilateral treaty. At the start of negotiations, Israel will agree to three steps: 1) It will withdraw troops from parts of the West Bank as required under the interim peace accords. 2) It will facilitate the opening of a Palestinian airport and seaport in the Gaza Strip. 3) It will freeze “special construction” in Jewish settlements for the duration of the negotiations. It will also refrain from building new settlements and expropriating Palestinian land. Both sides will renounce “special construction” in Jerusalem. The definition of “special construction” is not spelled out.
(AFP, AP, The Jerusalem Post)
Five Israeli families have recently moved into a new upscale 500-unit settlement of Kfar Oranim, located inside the so-called Modiin bloc of settlements on the edge of the West Bank 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Tel Aviv.
Following his talks in Ramallah with PA President Arafat, French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine called on Israel to carry out a new troop withdrawal from the West Bank and freeze Jewish settlement growth to get the Palestinian peace process back on track.
Switzerland called off a preparatory meeting for a meeting of experts of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention scheduled for 19-23 January 1998 because of lack of agreement on the nature of Palestinian representation. The two-day preparatory meeting in Geneva, which was due to start on 27 November, was cancelled because of the insistence of Palestine that it participate as a Member State, senior Swiss Foreign Ministry officials told a news conference.
Unemployment among Palestinians stood at 31.6 per cent in the Gaza Strip and 18.2 per cent in the West Bank earlier this year, the Palestinian Central Statistics Agency said. The statistics, published in the Palestinian daily
, covered July to September.
A Palestinian delegation participated in a conference of environment ministers from the EU and southern and eastern Mediterranean countries aimed at drawing up a durable programme to improve the Mediterranean’s ecology.
PA President Arafat called on the UN to grant Palestine full UN status to mark the 50th anniversary of the partition resolution. “Palestine must be able to take part fully in all UN activities and UN-linked organisations,” Mr. Arafat said in an open letter to the United Nations published in Palestinian newspapers. “Such complete participation would only strengthen efforts we are deploying to reach a full and total peace in the Middle East,” he said.
Israel’s Cabinet approved in principle another stage of redeployment from the West Bank. Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh said Prime Minister Netanyahu’s redeployment proposal, which set no scope or precise timetable for a troop pullback, was approved by 16 ministers, with two ministers abstaining.
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