OPENING STATEMENT BY MR. YOSSI GAL
CHIEF SPOKESMAN OF THE ISRAELI DELEGATION
February 27, 1992
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon again, and welcome to our press briefing. One more meeting to go and we are done for the week.
What I’ll try to in my opening statement is to give you a rundown on the meeting with the heads of our delegations and the one scheduled for this afternoon.
First of all, in the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation negotiations, we had a meeting with the Jordanian track this morning. The meeting lasted for three hours. Most of the meeting was in the form of an informal exchange that was followed by a formal meeting of the track.
The informal exchanges took place both between Dr. Majali and Mr. Rubinstein, and between experts in various fields, who touched upon various subjects of common interest. On the question of committees and working groups, we will be consulting more, early next week, on this idea and on other mechanisms that have been discussed today.
We have also discussed with the Jordanians the possibility of trying to work out a common agenda. You will recall that we presented to them an agenda, they presented an agenda to us. What we will be trying to do now is work out a common agenda based the ideas that were presented by each side to the other, taking into account the concerns each side.
The meeting was conducted in a very friendly and cordial atmosphere.
The next meeting with the Jordanian track will be on Monday, at 10:00 o’clock.
Later today, at 4:00 o’clock, we will be meeting with the other track the interim self-government arrangements track. As you know, Israel presented a very comprehensive document concerning the interim self-government arrangements at the opening session of the talks this week. We described it yesterday at our press briefing. However, we did not stop there.
However, we did not stop there. We have also added to our negotiating team a battery of professionals, experts in their fields, in order to try and facilitate in our negotiations with the Palestinians the detailed negotiation of specific issues.
For example, included in this team and he will be available this afternoon is economics expert Professor Ezra Sadan, who is the former Director- General of Israel’s Ministry of Finance. As I said, he will be available in order to discuss details on Israel’s proposals regarding self-government arrangements in the fields of commerce, industry, trade and other related fields.
Dr. Yitzhak Sever is also on hand, and he is a health expert. He is here in order to deal with issues related to public health, administration of hospitals, maintenance of local and regional clinics, and so on and so forth.
We also have legal experts added to the team in order to be available, if there is a need, to explore the legal details and implications of the issues and proposals.
Israel is also willing to immediately bring in additional experts on particular fields should the need arise. The reason we are doing this is, again, to demonstrate to our Palestinian counterparts the level of seriousness with which we approach these negotiations.
I cannot finish my comments on the Palestinian track, the self-government arrangements track, without really referring to something that we touched upon yesterday that infamous quote on the "neck-breaking".
When confronted with the "neck-breaking" quote, a Palestinian spokesperson reacted rather strangely, I must say.
The Palestinians did not apologize for saying it. They did not even voice regret that it was said.
They, of course, did not deny that the statement was made.
The only reaction that the Palestinians saw fit to release adding insult to injury was that "it’s very unfortunate it was reported." (Reuters, 26 Feb. 1992)
It is noteworthy that the single regret of the Palestinian team was that the statement found its way to print, and nothing else.
A few words about our negotiations with the Syrians and the Lebanese.
On Syria: Unfortunately, there has been not been much of a dialogue in our negotiations with the Syrians, but only Syrian reactions to matters which we have raised with them. Oh yes, there was an exchange of jokes and smiles, and in that set of negotiations, maybe it is significant.
But, rather than engage in dialogue, our Syrian counterparts chose not to respond substantively to our contentions. A few examples:
We raised with them the problem of drug trafficking and drug cultivation in the Beka’a Valley in Lebanon with the sanction of the Syrian army, and the need of all of us to try and take urgent action in that respect. They, of course chose not not to engage in any dialogue on this. Instead of discussing it, they accused us of being drug traffickers ourselves.
Another example, on the question of the Syrian takeover and presence in Lebanon. The head of the Syrian delegation said that Syria’s presence in Lebanon reflects the desire of the Lebanese people.
When we raised the question of Syrian Jewry, rather than entering into a serious discussion of their plight, he tried to "persuade" us how much better they are doing nowadays and that their situation has improved drastically, citing statistics and other data on their professions. In short, not much of a dialogue.
That meeting lasted for about three hours. We agreed to continue with them on Monday at 10:00 o’clock.
A few words about the negotiations with the Lebanese. Just two short comments on that.
Within the framework of our talks with the Lebanese, we held a three-hour long discussion with them on our proposal, and indeed our wish, to try and move forward towards the achievement of a bilateral peace treaty between Israel and Lebanon, independent of any progress made with others in other negotiations. After all, Lebanon is an independent state, and a serious attempt should be made by them in order to arrive at such a treaty. They, of course, prefer to see their negotiations in a comprehensive manner.
We have also raised with the Lebanese the question of terrorist organizations’ presence in Lebanon, including a presentation that brought detailed figures on the number of terrorist, their location, and their terrorist activities against Israel, including specifically that of the Hizbullah the same organization that has stated its intent to continue its terrorist activities against Israel, with Iranian encouragement and direction.
The talks with the Lebanese will resume on Monday at 10:00 o’clock.
So to conclude, we have another meeting this afternoon in the self-government arrangements track with the Palestinians, and that will conclude our first week of negotiations here. All negotiations will resume on Monday at 10:00 o’clock.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
MR. GAL: We’ll take questions. Yes.
Q You made reference to experts in the Jordanian talks… Could you elaborate a little a bit in the Jordanian context? What sort of areas, what sort of subjects?…
MR. GAL: As far as the Jordanian track, I don’t really want to go into more details rather than say that, yes, we have engaged on the level of experts touching on various fields that are fields of mutual concern to both countries. I don’t really think that I should add anything more on that.
Q On the Palestinian dialogue, or lack of dialogue, there’s been a lot of rhetoric in both directions. Unfortunately, we’re having this briefing before you see them again today. Ashrawi is talking that there is a conceptual difference, that there is no real discussion going on. In your comments about them, I don’t believe you’ve ever accused them of stalling. You’ve talked about their trying to (inaudible) at cross purposes with self-rule. But can you give us, at this point, what they want, a characterization of the Palestinian strategy? What do you think they’re doing, what is their intent, so far as dealing with interim self-rule? What are they up to?
MR. GAL: It is my job here to try and describe what we, the Israelis, are trying to do in that track and what we are trying to promote there, and I think that we touched on it yesterday in discussing our detailed proposals, including all the various fields of powers and responsibilities to be delegated in the framework of the negotiations. Because we are very curious about these negotiations, and because we want to promote these negotiations, we brought all of these experts, so that we can touch on each and every specific topic. Unfortunately and this has been the case up until now, and hopefully that won’t be the case this afternoon our counterparts have chosen to concentrate on the question of settlements and the question of human rights human rights and settlements without really any desire to discuss any of the real issues that we tried to present to them.
MR. GAL: The determination of the draft organs of the interim self-government arrangements, or whatever agreement we reach on, should be really done through negotiations including that question that you raised. This should be decided in negotiations between us and the Palestinians, and elections is not the only issue for direct negotiating. The fact that the Palestinians think they want it and (inaudible) it in the negotiations.
Q At the Syrian news conference a few minutes ago, Mr. Allaf said that he felt it was time for the United States to step in and that towards the end of the week when they meet with Ambassador Djerejian that they would indeed probably ask for that. What is your position on that? Do you feel enough progress has been made or not made to justify that?
MR. GAL: Well, we highly appreciate the role of the co-sponsors and that of the United States in facilitating and in bringing all sides into the negotiations, but we’re equally convinced of the need to conduct uninterrupted, bilateral, direct negotiations between the parties. After all, it is the Israelis and the Syrians that have to live with each other, they have to negotiate with each other without the interruption or without the interfering by others.
We believe that it will take some time, a lot of patience is needed, but the fact is that we are sitting across the table, face-to-face with the Syrians, we’re sitting face-to- face with the Lebanese and with the Jordanians and with others, and even if it takes time, ultimately, hopefully it will lead to peace. We do not see any need for any intervention by anybody from the outside.
Q I think you’ve said that settlements and human rights have both been raised by the Palestinians. If those are the basis for their important points with you, would you be willing to discuss a final settlement (audio break) human rights and settlements as a part of your agreement with them?
MR. GAL: Well, let me just make clear again what we are trying to do in the track with the Palestinians, because that is part of the terms of reference under which this whole process is built on which this whole process is built. We are working here in two stages; we are trying now to negotiate an agreement on interim self government arrangements for an interim period that will lead ultimately to discussions with the Palestinians on the final status of these territories. And this interim period is needed in order to try and build confidence and try and bring the two sides closer to each other so that the atmosphere is much better once negotiations on the final status are conducted.
Now, there are certain issues that belong in this set of negotiations that we are conducting now, and there are issues that belong in the negotiations on the final status. All questions of territory do not belong in the self government discussions, but rather later. Settlements, as we said time and time again, belong, because of the territorial dimension of the question, in the negotiations over the final status.
Now on the question of human rights. The Palestinians live with us, we live with them. If they have complaints, if they have questions not only the phone lines of all of our members of delegation, but of everybody else in Israel, are open so that they can bring their complaint directly and try to solve it over there. This is not necessarily an issue for negotiatiare all about. There are ups and is not really that of the atmosphere, the question is really that of the commitment of the parties to the negotiations to proceed seriously. I’ll take another two short questions, please.
Q (Off mike) back to my original question, but in the letter of invitation from the cosponsors it addresses a vehicle for bringing the United States or Russia into this bridging process. Can you explain how the invitation addresses that? Do both parties have to request it? Can one party request it?
MR. GAL: The terms of reference and the letter of invitation and everything else that is related to these negotiations is very clear about bilateral, direct negotiations between the parties. And this is what we are trying to do, and this is what we should try to do. As I said, the United States and the Soviet Union at the time, Russia, the co-sponsors, were very instrumental in bringing the sides together. But once we are there in the negotiating room, we should try and solve our problems bilaterally between us.
One last question, please.
Q Did you make any progress [regarding the venue after] Washington, and if so what?
MR. GAL: Well, again, unfortunately there is no progress to report on that one either. We are still at that point remember, we presented a list of ten countries to the United States, ten possible venues to the United States. We are still waiting for the other partners, for the other sides to present their list. That list can be compared by the United States to find a venue acceptable to all. Yeah, please.