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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 January 1998

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

January 1998


Israel announced that it was opening its borders to farm produce from the Palestinian areas, as required under the “Protocol on Economic Relations between the Government of the State of Israel and the PLO, representing the Palestinian People”, signed in Paris, on 29 April 1994. The Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said only sanitary controls would henceforth be put on imports of Palestinian-produced fruits, vegetables and animal products to the Israeli market. (AFP)


The United States announced the establishment of a US$60 million equity fund to encourage US investment in the Palestinian territories and Jordan. The fund of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US federal agency, will invest in a variety of projects, including both service and manufacturing companies, the US Consulate General in Jerusalem said. (AFP)



Saudi Prince Walid ibn Talal made a 3.75 million riyal (one million dollar) donation for welfare projects in the Palestinian territories, according to his Kingdom Holding Co. (AFP)


According to the Foreign Ministry of Norway, former Planning Minister Terje Rød-Larsen has been appointed as special adviser for the Norwegian Government to the Middle East peace process. (AFP, Reuters)

In an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath criticised donor countries for failing to honour their commitments to the PA, which has only received 60 per cent of promised funds, with US$600 million owed for 1994 and 1995. “The Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and the prolonging and repeated blockade of the Palestinian territories by Israel has led to losses of US$2.8 billion over the last four years,” Shaath said. External Palestinian trade has suffered, plunging to US$631 million ast year from US$1.3 billion in 1992, while the budget deficit is running at US$352.2 million dollars, he said. Mr. Shaath added that the Israeli restrictions were also forcing private investors to withdraw from the Palestinian territories, while bank deposits totalling almost US$2.5 billion had been moved abroad because of the lack of financial markets in the territories. (AFP)

President Chirac’s spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, said the Vice-President of the Syrian Arab Republic Abdel-Halim Khaddam had “called on France and Europe to play a bigger role in the peace process to complement US action and work for peace more efficiently.” She also said that Paris was continuing to work on a new initiative with its EU partners, but only as a complement to US efforts. (Reuters)


Amnesty International (AI) called on Israel to bar the use of torture as the Israeli High Court of Justice met to consider the legality of “physical pressure” used by interrogators on Palestinians. “Israel is the only country in the world known to have effectively legalized torture by officially allowing certain interrogation methods,” AI said in a statement. “We hope for a clear ruling by the High Court that the use of these methods is unacceptable, (which) would be a key step towards ending the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment by the Israeli security services,” it said. (AFP)


In an interview with Maariv, Prime Minister Netanyahu said there would only be one withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank. “You can’t ask us to fulfil all our commitments concerning the pullbacks when they (the Palestinians) haven't fulfilled a single one of their commitments. … So I proposed an agreement, in which we will carry out one pullback, and the rest of the territory will be handed over as part of the final status agreement,” he said. The PA said the latest effort of the US Middle East peace coordinator Dennis Ross has failed. “Zero, there are no results,” said PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. (AP)



Israel’s Cabinet released a 12-page list of “commitments” it said the Palestinian side must make before Israel will fulfil its promise to withdraw troops from the West Bank. Among the Israeli conditions is a demand that the Palestinian Authority disarm Islamic militants, who have carried out suicide bombings in Israel. Israel also wants the PA to hand over suspects in the killing of Israelis and to reduce the size of the security forces in the West Bank from 40,000 to the 24,000 permitted in the peace agreements. The Cabinet demands that the Palestinian National Council meet to cancel articles in the Palestinian covenant challenging Israel’s right to exist. Finally, the document insists that the PA halt all “illegal” political activities, primarily in East Jerusalem. (AFP, AP)


Israel’s Cabinet made a formal decision regarding the parts of the West Bank it would not withdraw from in a final settlement with the PA. The Cabinet did not establish a map of the areas. A cabinet communiqué listed eight loosely defined zones and locations it said would constitute “the basis for the interim agreement and permanent agreement with the Palestinians.” The areas would include all 148 Jewish settlements, a buffer zone ringing the West Bank and major north-south and east-west roads. Also included were a wide zone around Jerusalem, military bases of “strategic importance” or necessary for “deterrence”, water resources, electricity networks and “Jewish religious and historical sites.” The Cabinet said the “vital national interests” list would determine what land Israel would be willing to cede in a final peace agreement and how much territory it would give up in an interim troop withdrawal. (AFP, AP, Reuters)


Jewish settlers parked 25 caravans on a hill close to the West Bank settlement of Talmon in a bid to expand the settlement. Six families have taken up residence in the caravans at Talmon, which is close to the Palestinian-controlled city of Ramallah. The radio said funds for the project were collected at a demonstration by 30,000 settlers in Tel Aviv on 14 January called to warn Israel's Government not to withdraw troops from new areas of the West Bank. The Peace Now movement issued a statement accusing the settlers of trying to construct a new settlement. (AFP)

The Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation commented on Israel’s decision not to withdraw from parts of the West Bank in a final settlement. Foreign Ministry spokesman Valery Nesterushkin said Israel’s decision “does not conform with the overall movement towards a settlement of the crisis in the region.” He also said the Israeli position “contradicts the spirit of the Madrid accords” aimed at settling the Arab-Israeli conflict. “We understand the reaction of Palestine and other Arab States,” Nesterushkin said, urging Israel to “pursue a balanced policy to achieve peace and stability in the region.” (AFP)


Israel’s Cabinet put off a decision on how much West Bank land to withdraw from in a final settlement with the Palestinian Authority. An Israeli cabinet communiqué said an unspecified “ceiling” would be set only after Prime Minister Netanyahu returned from his meeting with President Clinton. Although the Cabinet gave Mr. Netanyahu ample leeway to elaborate on its decision to hand over more territory to the PA, it did not specify the precise geographical areas to be evacuated. “On the Prime Minister’s return from the US, the Cabinet will consider the implications of further redeployment up to the limit defined by Israel's vital interests," the communiqué said.(AFP, AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)


The following is a summarized list of demands of the Palestinian side, as released to the media, for its negotiations with Israel in Washington, D.C., beginning on 20 January: Israel must “implement the further redeployment phases from the West Bank”; Israel must “stop its unilateral actions in Jerusalem”; Israel must “refrain from initiating or taking any step that may change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and thus should cease all settlement activities”; Israel must “honour the implementation of the agreement concerning the safe passage of persons, vehicles and goods between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”; Israel must “remove all forms of closure imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip”; and Israel must “implement the provision relating to the establishment of the Gaza sea port.” (Reuters)




At a meeting in Washington, D.C., PA President Arafat presented President Clinton a letter outlining revisions made to the Palestinian National Charter aimed at nullifying provisions calling for the destruction of Israel. “As far as we are concerned, this issue has been put to rest,” Mr. Arafat said. (AFP)


In a meeting with Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that construction would soon begin at the Jewish settlement of Har Homa south of East Jerusalem. (AFP)


PA President Arafat called for an urgent Arab summit to discuss the deadlocked Middle East peace process. (Reuters)


Speaking at a news conference in New Delhi, French President Jacques Chirac said the whole world had invested great hope in the promises that had been made, but then suddenly everything was halted. “We are very worried, very worried about this peace process,'' he said. “The new Israeli Government has not wanted to continue along the same road as its predecessors. … My wish is that, with the friendly advice of the international community - which today is unanimous - the road to peace can be rejoined with respect for the pledges that had been taken and which had been founded on a simple idea - the exchange of land for peace.” (Reuters)


PA President Arafat rejected a US proposal for a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Asked if he agreed to a phased withdrawal, Mr. Arafat told reporters in Gaza City: “Definitely not.” (AFP, Reuters)

The PA said an Arab-European summit could be held in a bid to front to force Israel off hard-line positions they said have brought the peace process to a “dead end.” “There is Arab diplomatic motion now which I think will lead to an Arab summit. The only question is whether it will be a full summit or a mini summit,” said senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath. “I also do not rule out the possibility of a mini-summit including leaders of some Arab and some European countries in order to save the situation. … The European role is not apathetic and it is not just an economic role. Europe insists on having a role of participation and initiative,” he added. (AFP)

Pierre Schori, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, signed the aid package in Gaza with Nabil Shaath, PA Minister for Planning and International Cooperation. It said US$15 million of the package was Sweden’s annual aid to the PA and was earmarked for infrastructure projects and creating jobs. Another US$5 million was to go to civil groups working in the field of democracy and human rights, while US$20 million was Sweden’s contribution to UNRWA. (Reuters)




Dozens of Palestinians hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers manning a road block on the main Jerusalem-Bethlehem link road after a funeral for a Bethlehem teenager who Israeli police said had committed suicide in jail. Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated metal bullets to disperse the protesters. One Palestinian was hit in the leg by the Israeli fire, and was taken to hospital. (AFP, Reuters)


The PLO Executive Committee, meeting in Ramallah, took no action on amending articles in the Palestinian charter which Israel views as seeking its destruction. The PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters the committee had only “reviewed” a letter PA President Arafat had given to President Clinton, listing the charter clauses annulled by the PNC. (AFP, Reuters)
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