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Source:
30 September 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


September 1997

2

Israeli authorities let a limited number of Palestinians return to their jobs in Israel for the first time since sealing off the West Bank and the Gaza Strip more than a month ago. PA Information Minister Yasser Abed-Rabbo condemned called this decision by Israel “cosmetic and meaningless”. (Reuters)

Jewish settlers threw stones at Palestinian labourers and laid down in the street to disrupt work on a United States-funded road project in the heart of the divided West Bank town of Hebron, witnesses said. An American engineer overseeing the work on Al-Shuhada Street said a settler fired an air gun at a mechanical digger, shattering its window. The US State Department deplored the attack by the settlers on USAID workers. “These attacks on USAID workers are simply unacceptable and we call on the Israeli authorities to ensure the security of those working on the road, so that it may be completed as called for in the Hebron agreement,” State Department spokesman James Foley said. (AFP, Reuters)

The European Union said it was looking at ways to provide temporary financial aid to the Palestinian Authority after Israel last month froze the transfer of tax revenues in response to a West Jerusalem bombing. “We are facing a real call for aid by the Palestinian Authority,” said Foreign Minister Jacques Poos of Luxembourg, which holds the EU Presidency. (Reuters)

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In response to the 4 September suicide bombing in West Jerusalem, Israel said it would freeze the transfer of parts of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. The announcement was made after an emergency cabinet meeting. A statement read by cabinet secretary Danny Naveh said: “Israel cannot continue on a path, which would grant the Palestinians additional territory while the Palestinian Authority fails to fulfill all its obligations, primarily a commitment to fight terrorism in the territories already under its control. … The (Israeli) security forces will operate and do everything they have to do independently, without any connection to the Palestinian Authority concerning everything to do with terror organizations.” (AFP, AP, MSNBC, Reuters)

7

The President of Egypt Mubarak, King Hussein of Jordan and the PA President Arafat concluded a meeting in Cairo aimed at finding ways to restart the peace process. The focus of the meeting was Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement on 5 September that no more West Bank land would be transferred to the PA unless it cracked down on terrorism. In a joint statement issued at the close of the summit the three leaders called on Israel to refrain from policies alien to the “spirit of peace” and to implement its peace pledges, including ending the building of settlements, confiscation of Palestinian land, collective punishment and actions relating to the status of Jerusalem.. They stressed that “Israel must implement redeployment, of which the second stage has fallen due on September 7” and called on Israel to refrain from operations that could change any part of Syrian land.” The three leaders “condemned acts of terrorism and violence regardless of their motives or source.” They see them as “an attempt by a few from the Arab and Israeli sides to obstruct the peace process.” They also urged more intense international efforts to save the peace process and expressed hope for the success of the Madeleine Albright visit. (AFP, CNN, Haaretz, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times - Washington Post News Service)

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Following a triple suicide bombing in West Jerusalem on 4 September, PA security forces arrested 35 activists of HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

9

Around 2,000 Palestinian men, women and children demonstrated in front of UNRWA's headquarters in Gaza demanding the Agency rescind its announced cutbacks in relief assistance. In Jenin, around 600 women and school girls demonstrated in the streets. Hundreds more held protests in Nablus and seven refugee camps in the area. There was a general strike in Jericho, where more than 500 students held a protest march. Shops also closed in several refugee camps. UNRWA is now facing a US$20 million budget shortfall. The Agency’s crisis threatens its health and educational programmes in the region. UNRWA said it faced an impossible task trying to maintain services to a population of refugees growing at 3.8 per cent a year while donations have not grown since 1993. (Reuters)

10

US Secretary of State Albright arrived in Israel on her first visit to the Middle East aimed at restarting the peace process. Speaking at a meeting with Israeli President Ezer Weizman, Albright backed Israeli demands that the PA President Arafat take tougher action against militants. “We are with you in the battle against terror and the struggle for security. … We are with you in your insistence that the Palestinian Authority fulfill the responsibilities and obligations it has undertaken.,” she stated in her arrival statement at residence of President Weizman. Hanan Ashrawi, PA Minister of Higher Education and member of the Palestinian Council, commented on the start of Ms. Albright’s visit to the region, saying the Secretary of State had displayed “a wholeheartedly one-sided approach.” (AFP, AP, CNN, Haaretz, MSNBC, Reuters)

Israel's Channel 2 TV report said the US Secretary of State would propose a 45-day freeze on the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. According to Maariv, Albright would propose “a new code of conduct” to end recriminations and a “political safety net” to guarantee Israeli withdrawals by mid-1998 if a permanent settlement is not reached. (AP)

Sales of apartments in settlements in the West Bank rose 56 per cent in the first seven months of 1997, compared with the same period last year. According to a report published by Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing, 1,560 units have been sold since the beginning of the year. Since January, many of the settlements in the West Bank have been designated as national priority areas, entitling buyers to substantial financial incentives, including loans of NIS 60,000 or more, half of which becomes a grant. Other incentives include development subsidies and educational assistance. (AFP, Haaretz)

11

The US Secretary of State Albright met with the PA President Arafat in Ramallah. The PA President, speaking at a joint news conference at the Palestinian Council building, blamed Israel for the impasse threatening the peace process but pledged that the Palestinians would remain committed to the peace agreements. Ms. Albright said there was a “great deal more work to do.” (AFP, AP, CNN, Haaretz, MSNBC, Reuters)

According to Haaretz, the PA has issued a list of demands, to be presented to Secretary of State Albright. The list is a response to the Israeli demands of the PA published on the eve of Ms. Albright's arrival to the region. The PA list includes the following demands: 1) Israel must immediately transfer US$100 million in tax revenues collected for the PA, which it has been withholding since the 30 July suicide bombing in Jerusalem. 2) The “internal closure” in the West Bank, which prevents Palestinians from travelling between towns and villages, must be lifted. 3) All building activity in and around Israeli settlements in the territories must be stopped. 4) The Palestinians must be permitted to resume exports, especially of agricultural produce. (Haaretz)

French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine said the Middle East peace process was “broken” and accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of humiliating Palestinians to unprecedented levels. “There is no longer a peace process, no longer any dynamic, no longer any prospects,” he told Socialist deputies in Montpellier. “The Government of Mr. Netanyahu has, through harassment and humiliations, brought the Palestinians' situation to an unprecedented level of exasperation,” he added. “The process has been broken," he said. (AFP, Reuters)

In a televised speech in Jerusalem, the US Secretary of State Albright blamed both, the Israelis and the Palestinians for a crisis in the peace process she referred to as “neither inevitable nor accidental”. She added that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had both failed to live up to “their full obligations as partners in peace” under the Oslo peace accords. She also said: “There can be no backing off from Oslo commitments or from the principle of reciprocity that is inherent in them. This means that Israel should refrain from unilateral acts, including what Palestinians perceive as the provocative expansion of settlements, land confiscation, home demolitions, and confiscation of IDs. We believe that a time-out from these kinds of unilateral actions will create a climate, in which ... an accelerated approach can succeed in achieving a final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement”. (AFP, Financial Times, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times - Washington Post News Service)

12

The US Secretary of State said she was unable to make significant progress in her peace mission, and would return to the region only if the Israeli and Palestinian leaders have made hard decisions.” “I will not come back to tread water,” Albright said after meeting with PA President Arafat for a second time in the West Bank. She added: “I wished this trip had produced larger steps, because they are needed.” Ms. Albright also announced that the Israeli and Palestinian delegations would meet in Washington under US supervision, and then Israeli Foreign Minister Levy and Mahmud Abbas, chief Palestinian negotiator, would hold talks in New York during the session of the UN General Assembly. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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The Israeli Government announced that it would return half of the remaining Palestinian tax revenues estimated at NIS240 million it was withholding. Prime Minister Netanuahu said the move was a recognition that the PA was taking some first steps towards implementing the security measures. The army also announced it would lift the “internal closure” that confines Palestinians to their individual communities, although a general closure keeping Palestinians out of Israel would remain in effect. (AFP, AP, CNN, Financial Times, Haaretz, Reuters)

Prime Minister Netanyahu vetoed a plan for the construction of a new Jewish settlement in Ras al-Amoud in East Jerusalem. (AFP, CNN)

15

The 3,400 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails staged a 24-hour hunger strike to protest against prison conditions and detention without trial. Issa Karaka, head of the Bethlehem-based Prisoners’ Association, said the hunger strike was called to protest against prison conditions, administrative detention and the incarceration of Israeli common law criminals in the same cells as Palestinians. According to the Association, some 3,000 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israel and 432 are in administrative detention. (AFP)

Jewish settlers blocked Al-Shuhada Street, linking their enclave with the rest of Hebron, to protest plans to re-open the street, which connects 20 per cent of Hebron occupied by Israel with the remainder of the city governed by the PA. The municipality is enlarging the street and improving the sewerage system and lighting with US aid, in order to re-open it to Palestinian vehicles. (AFP)

16

The PA called on the United States to force Israel to reverse the take-over of a home in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers. Chief Palestinian negotiator, in coordination with the PA President, sent letters to the US peace envoy Dennis Ross, as well as to his European counterpart Miguel Moratinos warning of danger if the settlement project was not stopped. “The settlement of this home in Ras al-Amud will have very dangerous and serious consequences” unless stopped, Erakat said in the letter. “We ask for immediate intervention to stop these activities in Jerusalem. … “Those who conduct unilateral acts and those who encourage settlement activity want only one thing, and that is to wreck the efforts being made to rescue the peace process,” Erakat added. (AFP, Reuters)

According to Maariv and The Jerusalem Post, Prime Minister Netanyahu was told of the Ras al-Amud settlement plan 10 days before three settler families moved into the house on the night of 14 September. Maariv said Prime Minister Netanyahu had asked the US millionaire Irving Moskowitz who bought the house, to hold off on occupying the premises until the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited the region. The Jerusalem Post said the Minister of National Infrastructure Ariel Sharon and the Minister of Public Security Avigdor Kahalani both had told their cabinet colleagues of Moskowitz's plan for the settlement in Ras al-Amud at a meeting on 5 September. Haaretz reported that Jerusalem police knew of the settlers’ plan last week “and apparently coordinated with them on the timing of their occupation of the house.” (AFP)

17

The Israeli police said it would forbid Jewish settlers from taking over more houses in Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem. “The police will not allow new groups of settlers to settle in houses acquired in the Ras al-Amud neighbourhood,” a police spokesman said. (AFP)

The Israeli army permitted 3,000 Palestinian merchants and 1,000 agricultural workers into Israel in an easing of travel restrictions imposed following a triple suicide bombing in West Jerusalem. An army spokesman said 200 Palestinians working in tourism and 300 religious officials had also been authorized to enter Israel. (AFP)

18

According to Avigdor Kahalani, Israeli Minister of Public Security, the Israeli Government has reached a tentative compromise with Jewish settlers occupying houses in the Ras al-Amud neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Kahalani said that under the agreement, three settler families who moved into a home in Ras al-Amud would leave the premises by 21 September and be replaced by 10 Jewish religious students. “We want to defuse the situation without having to use force. We want to find a way, in which those houses don’t serve as a domicile, and at the same time we don’t negate the fact that those people own those houses,” the government spokesman Moshe Fogel told The Associated Press. PA President Yasser Arafat said anything short of the settlers’ departure was inadequate. “They have to be removed from these houses. Patience has limits,” he told reporters in Gaza City, where his Cabinet was due to meet to discuss the situation. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

The European Parliament meeting at Strasbourg criticised Israel for rejecting an appeal from the US Secretary of State Albright for a halt to the building of new Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. The resolution adopted by the European Parliament said such unilateral actions threatened further to undermine the moribund Middle East peace process. The resolution also called for the Israelis and the Palestinians to adopt a code of conduct, with Israel freezing the building of settlements and the Palestinian Authority stepping up efforts to prevent violent attacks by extremist groups. (Reuters)

Israel prohibited PA President Arafat from taking off and landing at the Rafah airport in the south of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Airlines president Fayez Zaidan said. “It's a gross violation of an agreement, which we concluded in March with Israel,” Zaidan told AFP, adding that Israel had not provided an explanation for the ban. (AFP)

The United States welcomed a deal for Jewish settlers to move out of two properties in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras al-Amud. The State Department spokesman James Rubin said Secretary of State Albright “regards it as good news that the families are moving out”. “Equally important is the fact that there will be no further construction on the site and no movement toward creating a new neighbourhood. We hope and expect that the status quo will not change,” he added. (AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

19

Palestinian officials charged that the US acceptance of an Israeli decision to permit Jewish settlers to remain in a house in Ras al-Amud had undermined Washington’s role as a peacemaker. “The American position provides cover for an agreement between thieves and their godfathers. If this is a sign of the direction US peace efforts will take, it is a very negative sign for us as Palestinians,” said PA Minister of Information Yasser Abed Rabbo. (AFP)

Israeli troops fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators in Hebron. About 50 Palestinians were protesting at an Israeli government decision letting Jewish seminary students stay in the Ras al-Amud buildings in place of Jewish families who occupied them. There were no immediate reports of injuries. (AP, CNN, Reuters)

20

Dozens of Palestinian schoolchildren in East Jerusalem clashed with Israeli soldiers in Ras al-Amud neighbourhood where Jewish seminary students occupied buildings taken over by Jewish settlers. The protesters threw stones at soldiers who responded with tear-gas. Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem ended class early to protest the settlers’ move into Ras al-Amud. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

21

The Arab League also decided that its members must decide for themselves whether to take part in a regional economic conference in Doha, Qatar, that Israel is expected to attend. The Arab leaders agreed that their participation in the conference, where closer economic integration between Israel and its neighbours is to be discussed, will be linked to Israel reversing what the Arab States see as breaches of the peace agreements. The conference is scheduled to be held from 16 to 18 November. (AFP, CNN, Financial Times, Haaretz, Reuters)

22

Dozens of Palestinians were arrested in several towns and villages in the northern West Bank, including Nablus, during a vast pre-dawn operation by the Israeli security forces aimed at “dismantling armed Islamic groups responsible for recent suicide bombings in Jerusalem.” (AFP, CNN, Haaretz, Reuters)

23

The Israeli authorities allowed 8,000 Palestinians workers to return to jobs in Israel, bringing the total with entry permits to 13,000. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Russian President Boris Yeltsin blamed Israel for a deadlock in Middle East peace negotiations and called on the United States to apply pressure on its ally to get the process back on track. “The Middle East crisis is continuing and it will be very difficult to overcome, largely I think because of Israel’s unconstructive position,” Yeltsin told a group of reporters after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “The United States has some influence on Israel and should work here more actively although we too should do more in this direction,” he said. (AFP, Reuters)

In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta in Moscow, President Mubarak commented on the role of the Russian Federation in the Middle East peace process. He said: “Not only the United States but also Russia is a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace settlement. But we do not see any moves on the part of Russia. The Russians are the only ones who are absent, as if they were from a different planet.” (AFP)

24

The Palestinian police in Nablus arrested some 20 members of HAMAS after Israel offered proof that four of its West Bank members had carried out the suicide bombings in West Jerusalem. (AFP)

President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel, on a “symbolic” tour to support the Middle East peace process, met PA President Yasser Arafat in Bethlehem. The two leaders held talks at a Bethlehem hotel. (AFP)

Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged, during a visit to the West Bank Jewish settlement of Efrat, that his Government would build 300 more homes there. US State Department spokesman James Rubin said Prime Minister Netanyahu did not mention the plans during a telephone call with Albright earlier in the day. “She did ask me to say that based on initial reports from our embassy and from the media, that she does not regard this kind of building as consistent with the kind of climate for negotiation that she hoped to create, that would be most likely to yield progress in a political negotiation,” Rubin told reporters in New York. (AP, AFP, Financial Times, Reuters)

25

Israeli authorities allowed another 4,000 Palestinian workers to reach jobs Israel in a further easing of the latest closure. The 4,000 permits were evenly distributed between workers from the Gaza Strip and West Bank and brought to around 21,000 the number of workers permitted into Israel from the Palestinian territories. (AFP)

Several hundred businessmen from 28 Mediterranean and European countries, excluding Israel, met in Tunis to promote partnership among them. The three-day meeting, Médpartenariat Tunisia 1997, is organised by Tunisia's State-run Agence de Promotion de l'Investissement and the European Commission. Countries that were represented at the forum included, in addition to those of the EU, Turkey, Malta, Hungary, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Czech Republic, Jordan, Lithuania, Switzerland, and the Palestinian Authority. Israeli businessmen, who were represented at a preparatory meeting last April in Tunis, did not attend. (Reuters)

The Palestinian delegation composed of Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Nabil Shaath and Saeb Erakat, met US Middle East peace coordinator Dennis Ross at the State Department and handed him a list of demands, which they are insisting that Israel fulfil in parallel with the security demands Israel is making of them. The Palestinian side is demanding that Israel disarm right-wing extremists in the Palestinian territories and arrest those suspected of violence against Palestinians. Ross is laying the groundwork for a three-way meeting on 29 September at UN Headquarters between Israeli Foreign Minister Levy, US Secretary of State Albright and PLO chief negotiator Abu Mazen. The US hopes to be able to issue a joint communiqué announcing a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the reactivation of the joint committees on specific issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement. (AFP, Haaretz, Reuters)

26

The United Kingdom protested against Israel's plans for a new Jewish housing project. “We remain firmly opposed to Israeli settlement policies,” the Foreign Office said in a statement in reaction to the plan to build 300 extra homes in the West Bank settlement of Efrat near Bethlehem. “Settlements are contrary to international law and an obstacle in the search for peace,” the statement added. “This unilateral action risks undermining current US efforts to bring about a resumption of negotiations, which we fully support.” (AFP)

Some 700 new homes will soon be built in Efrat, the settlement of more than 5,000 residents located in the Gush Etzion Bloc of settlements. In addition to 300 units to be built by the Ministry of Construction and Housing Ministry, some 400 units are already underway, according to Yinon Ahiman, the head of the Efrat local settlement council. (Haaretz)

27

A number of anti-settlement protests flared up in parts of the the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The Israeli troops reportedly used live ammunition to repel protesters at Gush Katif settlement near Khan Yunis. Near the Kfar Darom settlement in central Gaza, Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli border police, who fired on them. Palestinian reporters at the scene said the troops used live ammunition, and the nearby Deir Balah clinic said a 17-year-old Palestinian had been hit by gunfire. He was slightly wounded in the leg. In Ramallah, Palestinian police scuffled repeatedly with protesters trying to reach an Israeli checkpoint on the outskirts of the city. (AP)

28

Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the decision to resume talks with the Palestinian side at the weekly cabinet meeting. According to Israel Radio, the negotiations would involve pending issues such as the opening of an airport and a seaport in the Gaza Strip, the release of Palestinian prisoners and movement between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

According to Sakherdin Adik, a spokesman for the PA Civil Affairs Ministry, Israel destroyed 45 bedouin homes to clear land to link up Jewish settlements of Maale Adumim and Qedar east of Jerusalem. (AFP)

Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), an Israeli peace group called for a boycott of all goods produced in Jewish settlements in territories occupied by Israel in 1967. “We call upon the whole world to support peace by not buying products made in settlements,” Uri Avneri, a leader of the group told news conference. The group released a partial list of some 90 Israeli companies that are based or have branches in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and in the occupied Syrian Golan. (Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

29

Israeli Government gave preliminary approval for the creation of a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank. “Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai has approved the construction of 1,000 housing units in a new settlement to be called Ir Ganim (Garden City),”said Shilo Gal, president of the local settlers’ council. Shilo Gal also said the plan to build Ir Ganim in the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements south of Bethlehem had been initially approved by the previous Labour Government. According to Yediot Aharonot, the 1,000 housing units were only a first stage and that Ir Ganim was slated to expand to 10,000 homes, making the biggest Jewish settlement in the West Bank. (AFP)

30

Israel said its policy on Jewish settlements had not changed, a day after agreeing to discuss a “time-out” with the Palestinian Authority when they resume peace talks. “We obviously have our own view,” Prime Minister Netanyahu told reporters at his office. “You know we are building in the settlements, are enabling natural growth of the settlements and I don't intend to change our policy,” he said. (AFP, AP, Reuters)
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CR09/01.10.97


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