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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 July 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

July 1999

Several thousand Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the fifth anniversary of PA President Yasser Arafat’s return to Gaza. In Gaza, bands played and more than 2,000 people, some from villages inside Israel, took part in a street festival marking the anniversary. (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Portugal told PA President Arafat that it would open a diplomatic mission in the Palestinian territory in August. Portugal Foreign Minister Jaime Gama said the Mission would be fully operational by the time Portugal took over the EU Presidency in January 2000. Both men also signed a US$2.6 million protocol committing Portugal to aiding restoration work in Bethlehem and other sites in the West Bank. (Reuters)


The National Islamic Committee for Confronting Settlements, a Palestinian group opposed to Jewish settlement activity, pleaded with the Thai Government to intervene to stop Thai labourers helping to build Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In a letter, the Committee stated that Thai workers continuing to work in the settlements sent a signal that the Thai Government agreed with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. (AFP)


A Jewish family of 13 from the Ateret Cohanim group moved into a house in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem. It was reported that the family bought the house from a Palestinian and moved in. Israeli police spokesman said they had no contact with the deal and that the two border guards outside the house would be withdrawn in a few days. (AFP)

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) issued a final communiqué in Jeddah calling for Israel to return Arab land in line with UN resolutions. The statement also said Jerusalem must be the capital of an independent Palestinian State. It called on Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak to resume serious negotiations with the Arabs and honour the commitments of the previous governments. (XINHUA)


Israeli settlers have started laying down the foundation for several buildings for a new Jewish settlement located at the site of Ras al-Amud on the side of the Mount of Olives. The settlers planned to build 133 housing units with a kindergarten, shopping centre and synagogue on an area of 1.4 hectares (3.7 acres). The construction was being financed by American businessman Irving Moskowitz. (AFP)


The International Alliance for Arab-Israeli Peace, organized a two-day peace meeting in Cairo, which was attended by Arab and Israeli activists. It called on Israeli Prime Minister Barak to take expeditious action for revitalizing the peace process. The Alliance was a group formed in January 1997 with Danish and EU funding with the aim of supporting the peace process by a people-to-people dialogue that would nourish mutual understanding and respect. (AFP)


EU Middle East Envoy Miguel Moratinos said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak must halt settlement building and implement the peace accords with Palestinians, but should not be pressed to act at once. He said he trusted the Israeli Government to be committed to the clear message received from Israeli society, and that it was not the right time to talk about pressure. Mr. Moratinos added that he preferred to wait some time to get a fair, accepted and lasting deal than to press for an immediate result that later would be rejected. (Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak expressed his immediate plan to set meetings with Arab leaders starting with PA President Yasser Arafat. Mr. Barak also planned to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and possibly Morocco’s King Hassan. In his speech during his swearing in at the Knesset, he addressed Syrian President Hafez Assad, stating that the time had come for an open and bold peace which would ensure the future and security of their peoples. Mr. Barak also said that he would take bold steps to embark on a “peace of the brave,” to end the Arab-Israeli conflict while referring to what he called the suffering of the Palestinian people. (AFP, AP, BBC News, The Jerusalem Post, XINHUA)


Israel’s new Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said he would seek to abolish so-called administrative detention laws that allowed for the lengthy imprisonment of Palestinians. He said he found it extremely difficult to live in a democracy in which Palestinians were held under administrative detention. Hundreds of Palestinians were held in Israeli jails under administrative detention orders in which detainees had no access to lawyers and were not told of the charges against them. (AFP) 9

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and told him he hoped to modify the Wye River Agreement. A senior aide to Mr. Barak said that during the meeting, Mr. Barak was examining how to combine the Wye Agreement with an agreement on the final status talks. President Mubarak also said Prime Minister Barak should be given more time to make progress towards Middle East Peace. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat ruled out making any changes in the Wye Agreement under any conditions, and said that they could not wait anymore and that he expected Mr. Barak to begin to implement previously negotiated withdrawals of Israeli troops from the West Bank this month. (AFP, AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)


PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met at the Erez border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip – their first meeting since Mr. Barak was elected in May. The two leaders met with warm handshakes and exchanged gifts. Mr. Barak hinted at possible changes to the timetable of the implementation of the Wye River Memorandum, but Mr. Arafat stuck to his position that the Wye accord should be implemented immediately. Both leaders postponed decisions on most of the outstanding issues until Mr. Barak completed a round of diplomatic visits to Egypt, Jordan and the United States. (AP, AFP, BBC News, The Jerusalem Post)


Israel’s new Industry and Trade Minister Ran Cohen said he had suspended all applications for industrial investment subsidies in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. He said what he had frozen was the administration and approval for factories beyond the Green Line because the Government, as part of its policy line, would be re-examining all priority national development areas. (Reuters)

The Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention was held at the UN Headquarters in Geneva. During the meeting, which was attended by 103 countries, a statement was adopted which reaffirmed the applicability of the Convention to the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The statement also said that taking into consideration the improved atmosphere in the Middle East as a whole, the Conference was adjourned on the understanding that it will convene again in the light of consultations on the development of the humanitarian situation in the field. (AFP, AP, The Jerusalem Post)

PA President Yasser Arafat requested Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari to help break the Middle East impasse and play an important role in pushing forward the peace process, as he enjoyed prestige, respect and appreciation with all parties. Zuheir Elwazir, head of Mr. Arafat’s delegation on a trip or Finland, said Mr. Ahtisaari would act in his role as the leader of the country that held the presidency of the EU. (AFP)


Some 500 Palestinians in the Dehaisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem protested against the chronic shortage of water over the past two months. The PA says Israel was not providing it with the agreed quantities of water, thus preventing it from supplying water on a regular basis. The entire region had been suffering from a drought, and Israel controlled water resources in the West Bank and only rarely allowed Palestinians to draw on water sources. (AFP)


During talks with US President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak set a 15-month timetable for comprehensive Middle East peace agreements. It was reported that Mr. Barak felt peace breakthroughs could be made with both Syria and the Palestinians by November 2000. Mr. Barak also said he did not think Palestinian refugees would be able under any circumstances to return to Israel, and that a solution should be found in the countries where they were living now. He further said that it was up to the Palestinians to negotiate what kind of entity would be shaped for them, under the wider context of all the other issues that would be on the table. (AFP, AP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post, XINHUA)

Israel’s High Court agreed to release the longest-held Palestinian detainee who had been imprisoned for almost six years without trial. The Court approved an agreement made between Israeli military authorities and West Bank resident Osama Barham, who was arrested in 1993 for his membership in the militant Islamic Jihad group, over the terms of his release. Israeli television reported that more than 60 Palestinians were being held by Israel without charge or trial, with the length of their detentions ranging from several months to several years. (XINHUA)


Israeli radio reported that the Israeli Army was beginning preparations to relocate installations in the Jenin region of the northern West Bank. The report said the Army was to move a brigade headquarters, local headquarters for a Border Police unit, and regional liaison offices with the Palestinians, from their present location south of Jenin. The new location would be near the “Shaked” settlement, part of a settlement block close to the border separating Israeli territory from the West Bank. (AFP, DPA)

A study conducted by Israel’s Peace Now Movement said Jewish settlement activities have flourished since 1996 with 42 satellite settlements set up in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The study showed that 20 of the 42 new settlements were within 1,000 meters of their mother settlements. It further showed that majority of these settlements were built without official permission, but were later approved by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Defence Minister Moshe Arens. (XINHUA)


Nine Palestinian youths were hurt in clashes with Israeli soldiers during a protest against a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip. The soldiers fired rubber-coated bullets at around 200 youths who were throwing stones at the troops guarding the settlement of “Netzarim.” (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli Interior Minister Natan Sharansky said Israel would review a policy of stripping Palestinians of their right to live in Jerusalem if they left the city for more than seven years. Palestinians and human rights groups have charged that the present policy of revoking the Israeli-issued identity cards to absentee Palestinians from East Jerusalem amounted to quiet deportation aimed at keeping a Jewish majority in the city. B’Tselem, the human rights organization based in Jerusalem, welcomed the policy review and said 5,385 of some 170,000 Palestinians had their residency revoked since 1967, 2,200 of them in the last three years alone under the Netanyahu Government. (Reuters)

During his two-day visit to the West Bank and Gaza, World Bank President James Wolfensohn said peace between Israel and the Palestinians would help strengthen the Palestinian economy. The Bank approved $54 million to support three development projects in the West Bank and Gaza in fiscal year 1998-99. This would include $21 million for a water and sanitation project in the southern West Bank. Since 1994, the Bank has committed $267.5 million for 16 development projects in the West Bank and Gaza. (Reuters)


Israeli police blocked Jewish militants who tried to force their way into Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, on a religious holiday marking the destruction of Jewish temples. No arrests were reported as police prevented a group of about 30 members of the Temple Mount Faithful from entering the compound. The group threw pamphlets into the mosque compound and scuffled with Palestinians until the Israeli police intervened. Three militants, supporters of the outlawed Kach movement, were arrested. (AFP) 25

Israeli Prime Minister Barak ordered the Army to remove five mobile homes set up illegally by Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The settlements were established two days earlier on a hilltop near the Jewish settlement “Shvut Rahel.” A statement from Mr. Barak’s office said the Government guaranteed the security of all Israeli citizens everywhere but opposed all illegal activity, including adding new mobile homes near this settlement located 35 kilometers north of Jerusalem. Benny Kashriel, newly appointed Chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, deplored the settlers’ actions and stated that they did not represent the Council’s stand. (BBC News, The Jerusalem Post, XINHUA)


US President Clinton, PA President Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Barak held a three-way meeting in Rabat at the sidelines of the funeral for Morocco’s King Hassan. The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said the talks were mostly on protocol. (AFP, Itar-Tass)

A study conducted by the Jerusalem Institute for Israeli Studies stated that Jerusalem’s Arab population was increasing three times as fast as its Jewish population. While Jews still made up approximately two-thirds of the city’s 633,000 residents, the Jewish population in 1998 had grown by only one per cent, compared with 3.5 per cent for Arabs. Maya Choshen of the Institute attributed the difference in part to a faster rate of natural increase amongst Arabs and a rise in the number of Jews opting to leave the city. (Reuters)

PA Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) paid a private visit to the Israeli Knesset, the first such visit by a senior Palestinian official. Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, who initiated the invitation, welcomed Abu Ala at the entrance of the Knesset compound. The two went into the Knesset for a tour and a private discussion. (XINHUA)


At the meeting held at the Erez Crossing with PA President Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Barak asked Mr. Arafat to take two weeks to consider his proposal to merge the implementation of the Wye accords with the final status negotiations. PA officials said they did not want to accept any delay in the promised Israeli pullbacks from the West Bank, and wanted the full implementation of the Wye accords. Meanwhile, both sides agreed that a joint panel would meet to begin immediate discussions on continuing the Wye process. (AFP, AP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

The PA suspended security coordination and joint patrols with Israel in Bethlehem to protest illegal construction near the Israeli enclave of Rachel’s Tomb, which was the only part of the city still under Israeli military control. An Israeli Army spokesman said they were renovating security structures and did not damage an adjacent Muslim cemetery, while a PA official said Israel did not have the right to make any changes in the area. (AFP, AP)

An Israeli parliamentary committee voted to extend for another three years emergency laws which allowed Palestinian prisoners in the occupied territories to be detained for long periods without trial. More than 60 Palestinians were reported to be in Israeli jails under administrative detention orders. Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, who had earlier called for the abolition of the law, said the Government wished to keep the legislation in place until a final peace settlement had been reached with the Palestinians. (AFP, AP) 28

PA President Arafat held talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Gaza City. In a joint press conference after the meeting, Mr. Fischer reaffirmed the support of Germany and the EU for the Palestinian people, stating that they did not want a peace which was only a ceasefire, but a full and lasting peace for all parties. (AFP)


Sumar Assad, the nephew of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad met with PA President Arafat in Gaza City, making it the first visit by the close member of the Syrian president’s family to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP)
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