ISRAELI DELEGATION PRESS CONFERENCE
OPENING STATEMENT BY MR. YOSSI GAL
CHIEF SPOKESMAN OF THE ISRAELI DELEGATION
February 26, 1992
At the first meeting between Israeli negotiators and the Palestinian team on Monday afternoon, Israel presented to them a ten-page document detailing ideas for interim self-government arrangements for the Palestinian Arabs in the territories. Yesterday, in reaction to this document, a senior member of the Palestinian team, hiding behind anonymity, told Reuters that the Israelis "deserve to have their necks broken".
This verbal abuse and incitement to violence is a direct continuation of the now well-established pattern of Palestinian political violence against both Jews and Arabs which has escalated drastically since the beginning of the bilateral talks in Madrid last October. In our opinion, this kind of language has no place in serious peace negotiations. This kind of language has no place in any negotiations. In fact, it has no place at all, anywhere. And the Palestinians are advised to stop using this type of language. Israel is very serious about advancing the negotiating process, however it cannot and will not tolerate such talk. And those who call to "break our necks" will find that we are truly a stiff-necked people in our pursuit of peace.
In addition to this threat, there has been unfortunately a campaign of ridiculing and downgrading Israel and its proposals. And for that reason I wish to set the record straight and say a few words about our proposal.
We put on the table, on the negotiating table, generous and serious ideas on the interim arrangements, based on the understanding that the wounds inflicted by this long and bitter Arab-Israeli conflict needed time for healing and that trust must be built gradually between the parties. Also, we believe that the deeply differing points of view of the parties concerned cannot be bridged in one comprehensive step, and that this gap can only be bridged through a process of building coexistence through these interim arrangements that we are talking about, to be followed by negotiations and agreement on a final status.
In our opinion, this interim period must present an opportunity, first of all to examine and to test all the agreements and all the arrangements agreed upon for this period, including each side checking the other side for fulfilling all of its commitments. Also, we believe that this period must also accommodate the reality of living together on the same soil. And it is also needed in order to try and build mutual confidence.
That is the reason why, during the interim period, we suggest, or we put on the table the suggestion that the Palestinian Arab inhabitants will be given, in that framework of interim self-government arrangements, the opportunity to run their own affairs in most spheres of life, according to what will be agreed upon. In the negotiations, Israel wanted to propose, and still wants to propose, to negotiate the delegation of powers and responsibilities to the proper organs of that interim self-government arrangement in a long and impressive series of operation.
I know that our counterparts are trying to ridicule this, saying that the Israelis only want to give us sewage and something else. But let me just go through a partial list that is included in that document that we handed to the Palestinians a partial list of those spheres that we are talking about. It includes:
– First of all, the administration of justice, including the supervision of the administration system of local courts in the areas and dealing with all matters of the prosecution system, registration of companies, partnerships, and so on and so forth.
– It includes as another item all administrative matters, including all appointments, all working conditions of employees.
– It includes all spheres of agriculture, including all the various branches of agriculture, fisheries, and so on and so forth.
– Education and culture is another sphere in which we suggest the operation of a network of schools in the region, from nursery to higher education, supervision of all cultural activities, all artistic activities, all other sport activities.
– Fifth, we suggested also in that list all the issues of budget and taxation, such as budgeting of administrative operations, allocation of funds, direct taxation.
– We included health, including all the management of hospitals and clinics, operation of sanitary and other services related to public health.
– We included in the list industry the development of industry, workshops, and so on.
– Commerce, tourism, and all the facilities that are related with that.
– We included labor and social welfare, including the management of welfare services, employment services and labor services.
– We included local police.
And the list goes on and on and on. Local transportation and communication, including the maintenance and coordination of transport, postal services, and everything related to that. Municipal affairs, religious affairs, and I won’t bother you with the list, because it is an impressive list.
It is an impressive list well in line with what we are trying to achieve in this round of negotiations. Because what the other side put on the table is a model that they keep talking about. The proposal, the model, they put forth is really not an outline of interim self-government arrangements, but an outline of a Palestinian state. Because it has in that proposal all the attributes of an independent Palestinian something to which, of course, we are opposed, and we are not the only ones. We know many others that are opposed to an independent Palestinian state.
But the point is that this is yet another attempt by the other side to change the rules of the game. Because we are all here under certain terms of reference, under certain letters of invitation, under a certain process that was developed so carefully by the Secretary of State and others, which states very specifically that we are here to negotiate interim self-government arrangements as a first to stage, to be followed later by discussions, negotiations and agreement on the final status.
Let me conclude these remarks about the Palestinian track in one sentence, saying that we, the Israelis, are here for the very, very serious business of conducting peaceful negotiations. We are here for the serious attempt to try and find a way out of this impasse, so that we can make our lives and their lives much better, and so that we can bring peace to the region. Instead of investing our energies in name-calling and public bashing and disinformation campaigns, we strongly suggest that all of this energy be invested inside the negotiating room.
A few words about the Jordanian track this morning. We had a three-hour meeting in the Jordanian track of the negotiations with the joint Jordanian- Palestinian delegation. Most of the meeting was an informal meeting between Dr. Majali and Mr. Eli Rubinstein. It was then followed by a short meeting of the full track both the Israeli and the Jordanian sides. Most of the informal meeting was on ways and means to promote in an efficient way what we are trying to achieve in that track, and the issue of committees or working groups came up and was discussed intensively. Nothing was concluded yet. We do hope to continue the discussions on this and hopefully reach an agreement on that tomorrow. The atmosphere was very cordial, very businesslike, very good. As far the Jordanian-Palestinian negotiations are concerned, there will be a 4:00 o’clock meeting with the Palestinian track this afternoon, and a meeting with the Jordanian track tomorrow at 10:00 o’clock.
On the Syrian negotiations: We held a meeting, and another one will be held tomorrow. In the meeting today we continued in our efforts to find a common basis on which to build agreement. The Syrians, as you recall we mentioned it here yesterday refused to accept that paper we wanted to present them with, points of commonality. Today we tried to present them with our interpretation of U.N. Resolution 242. But again, unfortunately, no progress was achieved. In responding, the Syrians not only reiterated the position that territories take precedent over everything else and that everything is dependent on the return of the territories, but they even made today Israel’s legitimacy and its right to exist conditional on Israeli withdrawal. We, of course, responded that this is not an issue on the table and we will not bargain over our right to exist as a state. Not much news there, as you can tell. We will resume negotiations with them tomorrow.
On the Lebanese group, again, unfortunately, the Lebanese delegation rejected concrete proposals put on the table yesterday by us to establish two sub-groups to deal with concrete issues and concrete things so that we will be able to move towards peace. The Lebanese delegation remained attached to its position that what they are here to negotiate is implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 425.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q On the Palestinian threat that we spoke of, did Israel confront the Palestinians with that? As you’re making a statement here, did you take it up with the Palestinians in the talks? And secondly, the business about where to go next so far as a location. The State Department today declines to acknowledge that the US asked for suggestions, declines to say whether anybody has produced suggestions. Yesterday, we were told Israel has and no one else had. Has have any of the other parties come forward?
MR. GAL: Okay. On your first question we have not had a chance to respond to that threat because we have not had a meeting with the Palestinians since. We are going to meet the Palestinians this afternoon, as I said, 4:00, and we will, of course, make our position very well known.
On the question of the future location, what is known in our lingo as venue, again unfortunately, to the best of my kowledge I don’t know of any change there. Israel has presented that list and we are still hopeful that all the others will come with their list. As we said yesterday and day before yesterday, we think that this suggestion is a fair one in that no side imposes on the other side its will as to the selection of a future venue. Unfortunately, there is no there’s been no response yet and we are still waiting.
Q I’ve just come from the Syrian briefing, and the question of whether or not you accepted that paper was raised there, and the briefer said very adamantly that they had accepted the paper. It seems to me is it a fact that you can’t even agree on whether or not they accepted a paper? Did they or didn’t they?
MR. GAL: Well, I stick by what we said yesterday and by what we said today. We tried to present them yesterday with paper. They are not willing to accept it.
Yes, please. Hamvi (ph).
Q When you have spoken about neck breaking and so on, was it said in Arabic or in English? And do you know what does it mean in Arabic? And then when you discussed this problem with the Palestinians did you ever mention anything about withdrawal of Israeli troops? Did you mention about withdrawal of security forces as included in the Camp David agreements?
MR. GAL: The Reuters story was in English, of course. Now, if somebody in the Palestinian delegation or a member of the Palestinian group thinks this should have another interpretation, we have not seen anything from the Palestinian side. We have not heard anything from the Palestinians to take this statement. To me, it is clear and loud. They deserve to have their necks broken I don’t
MR. GAL: Well, I don’t really think that there is room for too much interpretation here. "Those Israeli who presented this deserve to have their necks broken". I mean, this is plain English to me, and I don’t know of any interpretation in any other language of what this is all about.
The other part of your question was about can you repeat it?
Q About this proposal you presented to the Palestinians, does it include withdrawal of forces, withdrawal of security forces, all what has been envisaged in the Camp David agreements?
MR. GAL: Well, I must say that first of all the Palestinians cannot really have it both ways, on the one hand reject totally Camp David and then try to go back to Camp David every time there’s something they like at Camp David. This is one thing.
Number two: They cannot really have the cake and eat it. They cannot go out publicly and ridicule our proposals and say that it is an insult to the intelligence and then at the same time go and criticize elements that are in there or not in there. You either are seroius about negotiations and then you can put forth or you can put on the table whatever you want and you can discuss it or you ridicule it and you don’t want to touch it.
Yes, please. Yes.
Q One of the main complaints made by the Palestinians about your proposal is that in their opinion it will lead to create what they call a regime of apartheid in a territory where two different peoples where two different laws will be applied to two different people. Is that the way you envision the future of the territories?
MR. GAL: Well, again, another piece of misinformation. They, I guess, are referring to the settlements in the territories, saying that Jews in the territories have a different criteria to be judged upon. We believe that the whole issue of settlements, due to the territorial nature of that issue, belongs in the negotiations over the final status of the territories and does not belong at this present stage this is again to remind you we are talking about interim self-rule arrangements for a period of time that will lead afterwards to negotiations over the final status. If they want to discuss this, this should be discussed at a later stage. But there’s a lot more in our proposal. Again, I’m not in the business of distributing this, but there’s a lot more, and if they are serious, they can come up with whatever reservation they have or they do not have about this proposal.
Q Can you tell us if your proposal includes anything for setting general elections of any kind for the Palestinians, and if the judicial system they will be in charge of and internal security within the territories, will this also apply on the Jewish inhabitants of the territories or just the Arab inhabitants?
MR. GAL: I don’t really wish to go into the detailed analysis. I strongly believe that this should be done in the framework of negotiations and around the negotiating table. I will only say that part of the things that we are suggesting here is that those administrative organs that will run the interim self-government arrangements will be determined in negotiations. Now, there are several ways to determine or to get at those organs, so there’s a lot in here that needs to be negotiated.
Q The (Financial ?) Times came out today with the headline that Israel demands full rights to (inaudible word) with the settlements. First of all, is that true? Second, does the Israeli proposal refer in any way to the issue of controlling the lands, and particularly the state lands, or does it ignore this issue?
MR. GAL: On the issue of settlements, again, so that there is no misunderstanding, I’ll repeat what I said earlier and I’ll add to that certain things. We believe that because the settlements involve territory, and that because there is a territorial nature to the question of settlements, the whole discussion of this issue belongs in the negotiations on the final status of the territory and not at this stage. We also say we also say that the presence of Jews in towns and villages and settlements or what have you in the in Judaea and Samaria and the EWest BankF does not prejudice the outcome of future negotiations on the final status.
But at the same time, let me make clear so that again there is no misunderstanding, we maintain that Jews have the right to live anywhere they want, including, of course, in Judaea, Samaria, and EGazaF. Jews have had a continuous presence in those territories over three millenia, save for the 19 years 19-year period under Jordanian rule. Again so that there is no misunderstanding, we maintain that we have the full right to settle there.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. GAL: I went through a partial list. I don’t really want to go into more details of this. I mean, that was again, as much as we hate to indulge in negotiating in public, an erroneous impression was created here by the other side that Israel is not suggesting anything, that Israel is suggesting only sports and sewage. And I we felt the need to answer this point, but I’m not going to go beyond that because I don’t think that it belongs in a press conference. Rather, it belongs at the negotiating table.
Q I understand that the list that you read was just a sort of a list of examples from the whole list of issues in that list. My question is, is the list that you presented the Palestinians, is it a comprehensive list of all the areas, all the issues, which will be included in the interim self-arrangement, or only a few ideas concerning just a partial list?
MR. GAL: No, no, it is a comprehensive list, yes. No question about that.
Q Can you tell us what’s your main objection to the Palestinian proposal, why do you reject it, and if there are certain items there that you refuse to talk about at all? Thank you.
MR. GAL: Well, I did say that the proposal the Palestinians put on the table was a Palestinian state an outline of the Palestinian state, all but the name. I mean, since they made public their document I don’t have any problems of telling to to that document. They speak there about all the three branches of government that should accompany this interim self-government the legislative, the executive, the judiciary. They talk about a transfer of all the authorities, military, civilian or otherwise, from any agency acting on behalf acting for or on behalf of the Israeli government, a total transfer of everything. They also talk about the source of authority that emanates from the Palestinian people.
In fact, this is a prescription for a Palestinian state. This is not what we are negotiating here. We are not negotiating the final status of the territories. And when the negotiations on the final status come, they’ll be entitled to put their positions and we’ll put our positions and we’ll negotiate it. For now, we are engaged in a discussion and negotiations over an interim self-government arrangements that will lead, after a certain period, interim period, to negotiations over the final status.
Since we have to rush back to the State Department, I’ll take two more.
Q Yeah, I don’t know if someone asked it before, but well, two questions. One, does your current proposal include any suggestion of the election of a self-governing authority among the Palestinians? And well
MR. GAL: Let me answer this. I did respond to the question saying that as part of our document we say that those organs of the ISGA, those administrative organs of the interim self-government arrangement, should be determined in negotiations.
Q And the second question is, a couple days ago Yosef Ben- Aharon explained to us that you had a very particular approach to suggest things point by point, and now you are discussing here with us a total plan which you presented to the Palestinians. What is the change?
MR. GAL: Oh, there’s no contradiction whatsoever between the two. While presenting our ideas and thoughts, we think that at the same time we can go to those agreed areas. They presented an agenda, we presented an agenda, there’s a lot we disagree upon, but there are few things that we do agree upon. And it is our approach that on those things that we do agree we can start working out all the practical elements of such a future agreement. So I don’t really see any contradiction between the two.
Last question, Mr. (inaudible).
Q Yossi, have you got any new instructions from Jerusalem about the possibility of staying here in Washington until the March 11th?
MR. GAL: No, I don’t think so. The whole March 11th thing came as a suggestion by one element in the negotiations. We were invited to Washington, to stay here until March 4th, because of a number of reasons. If we stay here until March 4th and there’s no reason in the world why not to, then it will be after seven or eight days of hectic negotiations. We strongly believe that by that time it will be time to go back to our government to consult, to get instructions, so that we can move ahead to the next stage.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much, and we’ll see you tomorrow at 3:00.
Q Thank you.