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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 May 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

May 1997


According to Israel’s public radio, construction began on a new network of roads in the West Bank for Jewish settlers to by-pass Palestinian self-rule areas. Israel began building the by-pass roads for Jewish settlers after the signing of the Interim Agreement in September 1995. (AFP)



Prime Minister of Jordan Abdulsalam al-Majali said his country would attend a mini-summit proposed by President Mubarak of Egypt. The four-way meeting would involve President Mubarak, Prime Minister Netanyahu, King Hussein and PA President Arafat. (Reuters)


According to Ali Alatas, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, his country will not establish diplomatic relations with Israel until outstanding disputes between Israel and the Arab world are resolved. Speaking on 5 May at the United Nations Asian Seminar and NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine, held at Jakarta, Mr. Alatas said: “There will be no diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Israel until the Palestine and Arab-Israel problems have been solved. … This is our principle, our basic stand and I believe the world will respect and understand our point of view.” (AFP)


Foreign Minister of Germany Klaus Kinkel said there was no alternative to the Middle East peace process and that his country was opposed to Israel’s settlement policies. Following his talks at Luxor, Egypt, with President Mubarak, Kinkel said: “We are absolutely opposed to the settlement policies and support the Arab position.” (AFP)


US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross held three hours of talks with PA President Arafat in Gaza City, following two sessions on 7 and 8 May with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Ross was expected to propose new initiatives that include Israel’s freeze on settlement construction and resumption by the PA of intelligence information sharing. Israel Radio said Ross and Netanyahu discussed an Israeli proposal to move directly to negotiations on permanent status. Also on Mr. Ross’ agenda were confidence-building measures the sides were willing to offer to restart the peace process. PA President’s spokesman Marwan Kanafani said Mr. Arafat had stressed to Ross the need to stop all settlement activity before peace negotiations could resume. David Bar-Illan, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s communications director, said on 7 May: “We obviously are not going to stop building in the settlements any more than the Palestinians are going to stop building in their towns.” (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

Jewish settlers occupied a newly acquired house in East Jerusalem to expand a yeshiva. Ahmed Tibi, an aide to the PA President, said: “This is a very dangerous provocation, which will raise tensions and the chance and danger of a clash. It is an attempt to Judaize Arab East Jerusalem.” (AFP, Reuters)


Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan, heads of Palestinian Preventive Security in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, met in Tel Aviv with officials of Israel’s Shin Bet. Israel Radio said the meeting was held at the United States embassy, and that the head of Shin Bet Ami Ayalon did not attend, sending lower-ranking officials instead. A CIA official also attended. (AFP, AP, Reuters)


The statement issued by the Palestinian cabinet called on the United States “to assume its responsibilities for the peace process” and to put pressure on Israel instead of acting as its protector. The statement was released after the Cabinet meeting in Ramallah on 9 May. (AFP)

Israel imposed a total closure on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on the eve of commemorating its independence day. (AFP)


US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross met with PA President Arafat in Ramallah on 11 May to discuss the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. US Consul General in Jerusalem Edward Abington said Ross was trying to arrange a US-Israeli-Palestinian meeting. (AP, Reuters)

Following his meetings with a delegation of Italian businessmen in Ramallah, Ahmed Qorei, President of the Palestinian Council, said: “The accords (with Israel) set the interim period as lasting for five years from the date of September 4, 1994. So, the following day we will announce our independent State.” (AFP)



Leaders of the seven-nation South-Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), at the end of a three-day summit held at Male, Maldives, adopted a joint declaration, in which the leaders “expressed concern at the setback to the peace process and unleashing of violence against Palestinian people in occupied territories and the resulting threat to the peace process due to policies of the Government of Israel in establishing and enlarging Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.” The SAARC leaders “also called for the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination and the establishment of a sovereign State under the leadership of the PLO, their sole legitimate representative, which could coexist with its neighbours in peace and harmony.” (Reuters)


The US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross’ mission ended in a failure, with PA President Arafat ordering his negotiators not to attend a scheduled meeting with their Israeli counterparts in the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. According to officials close to Mr. Arafat, the PA President wrote in a letter to President Clinton that he was disappointed with Ross’ mission and that the mission had failed to produce any results. The letter called for a greater US role in the peace process. It was to be handled to the US Consul General in Jerusalem Edward Abington. On the Israeli side, Danny Naveh, Cabinet Secretary, told Israel’s army radio: “There is an attempt, apparently, by the Palestinian Authority, by its leader, to create an artificial crisis.” (AFP, AP, Reuters)

The European Union Middle East peace envoy Miguel Moratinos said that it was time for Europe to act to rescue the peace process. Following his meeting with Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator, Mr. Moratinos told reporters: “It is up to Europe to work quickly to save the peace process and we will work side by side with the Americans to put negotiations back on track.” (AFP)



PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo condemned Israeli plans to demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes in the Israeli-occupied parts of the West Bank. He called the move “ethnic cleansing” aimed at destroying the peace process and likely to spark violence. Mr. Abed Rabbo also said that Israel was practising “a racist and systematic policy … of uprooting Palestinians from their land.” Israel Radio had reported that as many as 500 homes were slated for demolition. (AFP, AP, The Financial Times)

Speaking before businessmen in Tel Aviv, US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said: “The core bargain of Oslo has broken down - Israel was promised security and the Palestinians were promised self-government.’ PA President’s spokesman Marwan Kanafani directly blamed the US Ambassador for the stalemate. He said: “He is the one who has encouraged Israel to continue its settlement policy. The Americans should be telling Netanyahu that confidence-building measures cannot succeed in the light of … the settlement building.” (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)


According to Israel’s Itim news agency, the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia rejected invitations to send representatives to the 1997 technology fair in Tel Aviv in protest to a freeze in the Middle East peace process. (AFP)

Palestinian Airlines announced that it would launch its first scheduled international flights in June with twice-weekly trips to Jordan. (Reuters)


Haaretz reported that, at a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian officials held during his visit to the region, the United States Middle East envoy Dennis Ross presented a US study, compiled early this year partly with satellite photography data, showing that some 26 per cent of Jewish settlements in the West Bank are unoccupied. The figure for the vacant settlement units the Gaza Strip is 56 per cent and for the Syrian Golan - 28 per cent. “The United States believes Israel need not expand settlements, because a large part of the housing units in them are unoccupied”, the newspaper said. It also said the US study showed 31,061 of 41,000 settler homes in the West Bank were occupied, with 2,000 homes (26 per cent) empty in the settlement of Ariel alone. The study did not include East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu denied the existence of the study. Settler leaders dismissed it as “nonsense”.(AFP, Reuters)

Elias Freij, 80, the mayor of Bethlehem and PA Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, said he was retiring after 25 years in the post on the advice of his doctor. Freij, a Christian, has been a member of the Bethlehem council since 1946. He was elected to his mayoral post in May 1972. Freij was one of the first West Bank officials to call for peace talks with Israel. He said he would continue serving as a Minister of State with “reduced responsibilities”. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)


In response to the US survey made public on 20 May by Haaretz, Salai Meridor, head of the Jewish Agency’s settlement department, said there were hardly any empty homes in the territories. According to Haaretz, data from the Central Bureau of Statistics indicate that some 12.1 per cent of the housing units in the Jewish settlements are empty, well below the figure of 26 per cent in the United States survey. Peace Now spokesman Mossy Raz said that figures his organization had were “somewhere in the middle “ between those cited in the US report and the settlers’ leaders claim that there are hardly any empty apartments available. (Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post)



The Palestinian Council approved a 13-article budget law, setting the framework, within which annual budgets were laid out. The Council expected an US$866 million budget for 1997 to be approved next week. Salam Fayyad, IMF Director in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, said it was “an extremely important step since it is the first budget to be approved. A US$51.8 million deficit is forecast. Both the PA and the IMF expect donor countries to cover the deficit. The PA has already secured external financing of US$10 million for the deficit. According to Fayyad, the deficit was reduced from last year’s US$95 million due to improved revenue administration. (Reuters)

Yediot Aharonot reported that Ami Ayalon, head of the Shin Bet, the General Security Services, proposed to turn over responsibility for Palestinian-ruled areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to army intelligence. According to the newspapers military correspondent the reform in the security service would mark a “revolution” in Israel’s approach to the Palestinian areas. “Ayalon has thrown a bomb’, he said, noting that the proposed reform would grant de facto foreign-State status to the Palestinian self-rule areas. (AFP, Reuters)



Israel’s inner Cabinet for the first time began discussing proposals for a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s inner Cabinet is composed of Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordekhai, Foreign Minister David Levy, Minister of Public Security Avigdor Kahalani and Minister of National Infrastructures Ariel Sharon. (AFP, Reuters)


Haaretz published a front-page map of what it said the West Bank would look like under a new Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to transfer less than 40 per cent of the land to the Palestinian control during the permanent status negotiations. According to the paper, one of the unique elements of the plan are roads or “corridors”, which both sides would use to move between their respective areas. The Palestinians would have no land link between the northern and southern parts of their territory in the West bank. Israel would keep a wide land area in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley along the Jordanian border and around Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu commented on the report: “There is no basis to that report because I did not show to anyone (a map) nor did I draw a map.” Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator, reacted: “This is not acceptable. He is negotiating with himself, or rather with himself and other extremists in his Government. He has forgotten that he has a partner.” (Haaretz, AFP, AP, Reuters)

Israel rejected a mission to the country by a UN Secretary-General’s representative to look into Israel’s plans to build a Jewish settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim. Yigal Palmor, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “There is no reason for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to send an emissary since Israel has totally rejected the UN resolution adopted in April.” Palmor added that Israel was willing “to invite an envoy from the UN Secretary-General to discuss a series of issues concerning the region.” (AFP)


Israeli troops clashed with some 500 Palestinian protesters in Bethlehem after a rally in memory of Khaled Abu Daiyeh, a Palestinian who died in Israeli custody. Israeli troops fired tear-gas and rubber bullets. Witnesses said two Palestinians were wounded in the shooting. Earlier some 1,000 Palestinians assembled in the city’s central square to protest Abu Daiyeh’s death. (AFP, Reuters)

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