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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 December 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


December 1997


1

Israel approved construction of 900 more homes in the West Bank settlement of Alfe Menashe. (AFP, Reuters)

According to the PA Deputy Minister of Finance Atef Alawneh, private and public investment in the Palestinian territories totals US$750 million, most of it coming from foreign aid. He said that investment by the private sector and public investment by the PA currently total some US$200 million each. Investment by donor countries and semi-governmental agencies funnelling foreign aid total US$300 to 350 million, he was quoted by the official news agency WAFA. Mr. Alawneh did not specify a time frame for the investment. (AFP)

2

Israeli Foreign Minister Levy met in Jerusalem with Russian special envoy to the Middle East Viktor Posuvalyuk to discuss proposals for advancing the deadlocked peace process. (AFP)

3

PA President Arafat met with the Russian special envoy to the Middle East Viktor Posuvalyuk to discuss the latest developments in the peace process with Israel. “I want to stress the importance of all sides committing firmly to implement the agreements and to refrain from taking unilateral steps which affect final status talks,” Posuvalyuk said after the meeting. (AFP)

Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed with members of his Cabinet future borders of the West Bank. The Defence Ministry plan for a troop pullback calls for establishing three blocs of PA-controlled regions in the West Bank focusing on Jenin and Nablus in the North and Hebron in the South. According to the plan, Hebron will expand to the north, west and south. Jenin will be expanded southward and to the east. Nablus will expand northward, but these two blocs will not be joined. The plan calls for transfer from areas C to B, B to A and a small section of C directly to A. According to the IDF map, some settlements could find themselves surrounded by PA-controlled zones. (AFP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

The US rejected Israeli proposals for a partial withdrawal from the West Bank as reported in the media but said Palestinian demands were also unrealistic. (AFP)

4

Israeli soldiers fired tear-gas to break up a crowd of Palestinians protesting at the expansion of an army post on to Palestinian farmland on the border between Gaza and Egypt. Some 150 Palestinians, most of them from the Zaarab family which owns the land, demonstrated against the move but gave up their protest after the soldiers fired dozens of tear-gas grenades. (AFP)

5

Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition at Palestinian protesters, wounding six people in clashes that took place just outside the densely populated Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip. The protesters said Israel was planning to confiscate a piece of land at the top of the hill, near an Israeli settlement. (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Speaking in Paris, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he had informed French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin that Israel would give the PA five months to assure security in the areas to be handed over before any further withdrawal occurred. (Reuters)

Israeli Minister of National Infrastructures Ariel Sharon set out a plan outlining his vision for the final borders between Israel and the PA-controlled territory. The plan would leave some 60 per cent of the West Bank in Israeli hands. Mr. Sharon said his plan would assure “exclusive control of two strategic zones”. One zone would be a strip of land “seven to 10 kilometers (four to six miles) deep” east of the Green Line. The other zone would be a 20 kilometer (12 mile) wide strip the length of the border with Jordan. The two zones would be linked by access roads, bypassing Palestinian areas as far as possible. Israel would also keep control of the whole of East Jerusalem. Under the plan, 155 Jewish settlements in the West Bank would remain under Israeli control. Just 18 isolated settlements would be handed over to the PA. (AFP)

8

Secretary Albright applied pressure on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make key decisions on peace but said Washington would not dictate terms for Israel's troop withdrawal from the West Bank. (Reuters)

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, said that 1,479 Palestinians had been killed by Israelis in the 10 years since the outbreak of the intifadah. All but 133 were killed by the army, B’Tselem said in a report. Between 1988 and 1989 - considered the peak of the intifadah - 556 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. But when Israel started to transfer territory in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to the Palestinians in 1994 as part of peace accords, the number of Palestinian casualties “dropped markedly,” it said. “Eighteen Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army in the past year,” the report said. (AFP)

The Palestinian Council appealed to the Islamic summit meeting in Tehran to help oppose a recent agreement strengthening ties between Israel and the Vatican. At a session in Ramallah, the Council adopted a resolution calling the Vatican-Israeli accord “an aggressive step against the Palestinian people which lends credibility to Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem.” (AFP)

10

The PA launched an historic census in the occupied territories. Some 4,500 field workers started collecting the 500,000 copies of the 78-question census, which had been mailed in November, according to Hassan Abu Libdeh, Director of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The Israeli Government was set to adopt legislation to bar the census in East Jerusalem. The PA insists that interim peace accords with Israel do not prevent it from conducting the census in annexed East Jerusalem. It is the first official census of Palestinian residents of the territories since they were occupied by Israel 30 years ago. (AFP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Foreign Minister Levy and chief Palestinian negotiator Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) met in a Jerusalem hotel, joined by Danny Naveh, a top adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Ami Ayalon, head of Shin Beth, as well as the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. Along with the main issue of Israel’s further withdrawal from the West Bank, the two sides were to review the efforts of committees negotiating the implementation of aspects of interim peace accords. (AFP)

The Knesset enacted a broad ban on Palestinian political activity in East Jerusalem, aiming to block a PA-conducted census. The legislation was approved by a vote of 26 to 11. “The proposal widens the authority to prevent all activities of the PLO or of the Palestinian Authority inconsistent with the sovereignty of the state of Israel,” Israel’s Ministry of Justice said in a statement. (AFP, Financial Times, The Los Angeles Times - Washington Post News Service, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

11

UNRWA warned that it may have to cut some services next year, when it faces a projected US$50 million budget deficit. Some 6,500 Palestinian UNRWA workers held a symbolic half-hour work stoppage in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to protest austerity measures. (AFP)

12

Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk arrived in Israel on a trip to the region that will include talks with Israel, Syria and the PA. (AFP, Reuters)

15

The World Bank announced that donor countries, meeting in Paris, committed almost US$750 million in aid for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip next year and promised to support development in them beyond 1998. They called on Israel to help improve the territories’ economic situation by ensuring the free movement of people and goods and guaranteeing free access to Jordan and Egypt and the opening of Gaza sea and air ports. The World Bank said the commitments for 1998 would translate into between US$500 and US$600 million in actual disbursements. The Bank said donors also committed a further US$150 million in guarantees for private investment. Most of the money committed on 15 December will go to helping the PA implement a three-year economic programme starting in January 1998. (AFP, Reuters)

16

Israeli Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat to discuss the implementation of interim peace accords. The two officials discussed the establishment of “safe passages” for Palestinians between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that are called for in the peace agreements. No breakthrough was reported. (AFP)

17

Israeli authorities demolished a Palestinian home under construction in East Jerusalem, saying the owners had no permit to build the house. A bulldozer guarded by Israeli police razed the construction site in Beit Hanina, in the northern part of East Jerusalem. Israel has destroyed at least 60 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem since early August 1997. (AFP)

A force of some 70 Israeli soldiers raided an observation post of the Palestinian marine police on the Mediterranean coast near the town on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP)

The PA agreed to a detailed plan worked out with Israel for cracking down on Islamic militants responsible for attacks against Israel. The PA Cabinet, which met with President Arafat, “discussed the contents of what had been reached (in talks with Israel) and found it acceptable,” said Tayyeb Abdul Raheem, Secretary-General of the Office of the PA President. The agreement, which was worked out in security meetings with Israel and mediated by the US, “protects Palestinian interests” and “requires mutual security for both Israelis and Palestinians,” he said. (AFP, Reuters)

18

In his meeting in Paris with US Secretary of State Albright, Prime Minister Netanyahu didn’t present a proposal for an overdue troop withdrawal from the West Bank because his Cabinet could not approve one. (AFP,AP, Reuters)

Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister of China Qian Qichen began a tour of the Middle East to push for peace in the region. He is expected to visit Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian territory. (Reuters)

19

According to the results of a poll published by the Yediot Aharonot, 59 per cent of Israelis would be willing to see the settlements dismantled, while 39 per cent were opposed to the idea and two per cent had no opinion. The poll also found that 86 per cent would not support Jewish settlers who resisted any government decision on such a move, while only 13 per cent would support them, including two per cent willing to take up arms. The survey of 511 Israelis by the Dahaf Institute has an estimated margin of error of four per cent. (AFP)

According to the French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine, Europe and the US might make a joint bid to revive the deadlocked Middle East peace process. (Reuters)

21

Scores of Palestinian protesters threw stones at IDF troops and Border Police posted in the area dividing Hebron’s Jewish quarter and the section under Palestinian control. Soldiers dispersed the protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas. A Palestinian youth was reportedly injured by a rubber bullet, but no statement was issued regarding the type of injury he suffered. (AFP)

22

The PA accused Israel of hindering a census of Palestinian residents in parts of the West Bank still under army control. Hassan Abu Libdeh, head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, said that despite pledges of non-interference by Israel outside of East Jerusalem, field workers conducting the count had run into trouble in the 97 per cent of the West Bank where the Israeli army still controls security. “There have been cases where the Israeli army has harassed census-takers and tried to impede their work,” Libdeh told a press conference. (AFP)

23

Prime Minister Netanyahu took 13 members of his Cabinet on a helicopter tour of the West Bank to assess, which parts of the occupied territory cannot be relinquished to the Palestinian Authority. (AFP, Reuters)

PA President Arafat agreed to a US proposal to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu in three-way talks with President Clinton in Washington, D.C. in January 1998. (AFP)

24

Palestinian and Jordanian economic and development ministers agreed to expand lists of products to be traded between the two sides. The ministers, meeting in Ramallah, also discussed the problem of “indirect trade,” goods imported from Jordan to Israel, which are then brought into the Palestinian territories. The meeting was attended by the Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister for Development Jawad Anani, as well as the ministers of public works, industry, finance and tourism. From the Palestinian side, the session was attended by Finance Minister Mohammed Nashashibi, as well as the economy, public works and civil affairs ministers. (AFP)

25

Israel is preparing to double the size of the Nissanit settlement in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Moshe Friedman, spokesman of the Israeli Ministry of Construction and Housing, said that the Israel Lands Authority had opened bids on land slated for the construction of 100 housing units in the Nissanit settlement. The settlement of Beit El, north of Ramallah, also announced plans to build a new neighbourhood of several dozen homes. (AFP, AP)

26

According to Yediot Aharonot, Israeli police know of plans by Jewish extremists to damage Islamic shrines in Jerusalem. “We know there are elements in the extremist right that are planning to harm the mosques on the Temple Mount,” police chief Assaf Hefetz told Yediot Aharonot. “We need to keep a watchful eye on right-wing extremists who are developing the idea of redemption,” Hefetz told the newspaper. (Reuters)

27

Norway’s Foreign Minister Kurt Vollebaek told Norwegian radio NRK Dagsnytt that he will travel to the Middle East next week to mediate in the stalled peace process. (AFP, Reuters)

29

According to a year-end report prepared by Orient House. Israel greatly stepped up its settlement activity in 1997, expanding and building new homes in more than 50 settlements. Twelve new settlements or settlement neighbourhoods were created in the West Bank during 1997. Six of the new areas were created by placing caravans at the site to elude the requirement of government approval for any building of housing units, although later the Government supplied water and electricity to the “unauthorized” settlements, the report said. The Government also authorized or began building over 4,110 housing units in 41 existing settlements. It confiscated more than 1,639 hectares (4,089 acres) in the West Bank during 1997, over 411 hectares to expand the borders of 14 settlements, 745 hectares to build bypass roads connecting the settlements, and 483 hectares for industrial areas. (AFP)

30

The Israeli army tore down 22 olive trees and flattened farmland owned by Palestinian families to expand the nearby settlement of Kiryat Sefer. (AFP)

The Israeli organization Gush Shalom, or the Peace Bloc, urged consumers around the world to boycott produce from settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan, which Israel occupied in 1967. A petition in support of the boycott was signed by several politicians, including Labour MP Yael Dayan. (AFP)

31

According to Israel Radio, Israel's Shin Beth security service has for the first time admitted to using interrogation methods that Palestinian prisoners complain are torture. Israel and army radio, in similar reports, cited court documents in which the state admitted denying a prisoner sleep for long periods, covering his head with a sack and forcing him to listen to loud music while waiting to be interrogated. Shin Beth admitted to the methods in answer to a High Court of Justice request in the case of Fouad Awad Qor’an, a Palestinian from the West Bank town of Al-Bireh, suspected of being active in Hamas. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development announced that Israel would open its borders to Palestinian farm products starting on 1 January 1998. The new rules are introduced in implementation of the Protocol on Economic Relations signed by Israel and the PLO on 29 April 1994. (Reuters)

Israeli Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai laid the first stone in the expansion of the Jewish settlement of Beit El north of Ramallah. Work is expected to begin on the new section in 10 months with the construction of 40 homes in this settlement. (AFP)

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