In recent weeks documents have been distributed by the Palestinian side purporting to list "Israeli violations of the Palestinian-Israeli Agreements". These documents are part of a concerted attempt to try to bring international pressure to bear on one side of the current negotiations and to avoid dealing with the practical resolution of outstanding issues through the mechanisms established as part of the current peace process. It is notable that many of the issues raised in these documents had already been resolved, or were in the process of being resolved, even before the date of distribution.
Israel feels that outstanding issues can and should be settled directly between the two sides and only through the agreed channels. Attempts to politicise these issues and generate international pressure can only damage the trust between the parties and be counterproductive. However, in view of the significant number of inaccuracies in the Palestinian allegations, Israel feels obliged to clarify the issues raised. As regards other outstanding matters, and in particular those areas in which Israel still waits for Palestinian compliance with the peace agreements, Israel proposes to raise these directly with the Palestinian side in the appropriate fora.
Allegations raised in the Palestinian document:
1. Article 1 – Non-Withdrawal of the Civil Administration and Non-Dissolution of the Civil Administration:
The military government has been withdrawn from all areas in which redeployment has taken place. As regards the dissolution of the Civil Administration, the central elements of the Civil Administration have, in practice, been transferred into the overall liaison mechanisms with the Palestinian Authority regarding civil affairs.
2. Article 2 – Continued Usage by Israel of the Term "Judea and Samaria" in the place of the "West Bank":
The Agreement contains no prohibition against using the term "Judea and Samaria". Nevertheless, it is clear that both sides make use of the term the "West Bank" in the agreements between them and in their bilateral relationship.
3. Article 3 – Non-Recognition by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a Single Territorial Entity:
The provision of the Agreement cited in the Palestinian document is intended to ensure that the integrity and status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip shall not be affected by the provisions of the Agreement, i.e., by the transfer of responsibilities to the Council and the establishment of different security regimes in various areas. It also underlines the fact that the status of these areas is not to be changed during the interim period and that any attempt to do so, such as, for example, through annexation or a declaration of statehood, would be a breach of the Agreement.
4. Article 4 – Lack of Full Respect to the Provisions of Annex III, the Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs:
This is a claim which is far too general and lacks concrete details. We are prepared to discuss all issues relating to this in detail in the Civil Affairs Committee (CAC) which meets on a regular basis, and through which all pertinent civil issues may be dealt with.
5. Article 5 – Non-Implementation of the Provision Relating to the Complete Redeployment and the Transfer of Authority to Palestinians in Area B:
Israel has fulfilled its obligations to redeploy from all of Area B and has transferred to the Palestinians the responsibilities pertaining to public order in these areas. In cases where there is a conflict between the Palestinian responsibility for public order and Israel’s security responsibility in these areas, the Agreement provides that Israel’s security responsibility is "overriding".
6. Article 6 – Non-Adherence to the Commitment to Review the Movement of Palestinian Police Along Certain Roads in Area B Following Notification to Israel:
This Article is phrased as a non-binding option ("may decide"). Israel is willing to discuss this issue once the situation on the ground has stabilised.
7. Article 7 – The Need to Implement the Further Redeployment:
In the Note for the Record attached to the Hebron Protocol, Israel reaffirmed its commitment to implementation of the first phase of the further redeployment. In accordance with that commitment, Israel has declared its willingness to transfer a total of 9% of the West Bank to Palestinian authority as the first phase of the further redeployment process. This redeployment is to be implemented imminently.
8. Article 8 – Official Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Against the Palestinian Authority:
This claim is general and comes without any evidence or examples. However, Israel has strong claims against the Palestinian authorities with respect to the fact that they have not done enough to prevent incitement against Israel (even in the official media).
9. Article 9 – The Need to Move Forward on the Issue of Displaced Persons:
This subject is being dealt with by the Continuing Committee (Israel, Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt) which was formed following the DOP. Within this framework, there are numerous complex issues, with respect to some of which there exist legitimate disputes between the sides. In any case, though, it should be emphasised that no time-table has been set regarding this issue.
10. Article 10 – Lack of Safe Passage:
In order to be implemented, the issue of Safe Passage requires a series of issues to be resolved between the two sides. The two sides agreed that these would be addressed in a special Protocol and have conducted extensive negotiations which have led to a draft document in which almost all of these issues were resolved. A small number remain outstanding, and negotiations to resolve these final issues are currently in progress.
11. Article 11 – The Need to Immediately Resume Permanent Status Negotiations:
In the Note for the Record attached to the Hebron Protocol, the two sides agreed that permanent status negotiations would resume within two months from the signing of the Protocol (i.e., by 17 March 1997).
12. Article 12 – Creating Facts on the Ground Which Could Affect the Permanent Status Negotiations on the Subject of Settlements:
In the Declaration of Principles as well as in the Interim Agreement, there is nothing which limits Israel regarding Israeli settlement. The status of the settlements is to be discussed within the framework of the permanent status negotiations. The Article cited (Article XXXI) is intended to prevent unilateral activities which would change the political status of the territories (for example, annexation or declaration of a Palestinian state), and is not relevant to the question of settlement.
13. Article 13 – The Need to Consider the Inclusion of the Jiftlik Area Within the Framework of the Further Redeployment:
Israel committed itself to consider this issue within the framework of the further redeployment. The issue will become pertinent in discussions relating to the further redeployment.
14. Articles 14 and 15 – The Need to Respect the Obligations Relating to Normal and Free Movement of People, Vehicles and Goods within the Territories and between them, and Cancelling the Closure:
Israel’s authority to declare a closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip is specifically recognised in the Security Annex to the Interim Agreement (Article IX, paragraph 1.d). The paragraph cited by the Palestinian document (paragraph 2) is subordinate to paragraph 7 of the same Article (Article 1) in the Security Annex, which states that nothing in this Article will detract from Israel’s responsibility and authority according to the Agreement. It should be remembered that the closure was put in force in the wake of a spate of suicide bombings which claimed the lives of over sixty people, Israelis and others, including Palestinians. Moreover these bombings occurred as previous restrictions on the movement of Palestinians into Israel were being relaxed and one was the specific result of the exploitation of a transfer point for goods from Gaza to Israel. At present time there is in fact no closure per se. Approximately 62,000 Palestinians have received permits to enter Israel. This number continues to increase each month, and the flow of goods to and from the Palestinian areas is unimpeded. Security checks have become more efficient, enabling trucks carrying commercial cargo to load, unload and move on the roads without any undue delay or hindrance.
15. Article 16 – Non-Respect for the Unity of the Palestinian People in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and for its Exclusive Accountability to the Palestinian Authority:
The Palestinian claim is too general and needs to be specified.
16. Article 17 – Non-Implementation of the Agreement Concerning the Jewish Holy Sites in Areas under the Palestinian Authority’s Jurisdiction:
The Palestinian complaint on this issue fails to detail how Israel is not implementing the Agreement on this issue. The Agreement defines two such sites – "Joseph’s Tomb" in Nablus and the "Shalom Al Israel" Synagogue in Jericho – and determines that these sites will be protected externally by the Palestinians while Israeli guards in civilian attire will protect them from inside. As a rule, this is indeed the situation on the ground. During the recent violent clashes, the Palestinian side has flagrantly violated these provisions in Joseph’s Tomb.
17. Article 18 – Extension of Joint Patrol Activity to Areas B and C
According to the Agreement, Israel undertook to consider such an extension by the relevant DCO 3 months after the redeployment in each district. This was not realised because the Palestinian obligation to fight terrorism was not sufficiently fulfilled.
18. Article 19 – The Need to Implement the Provisions in Respect to the Operation of the Joint Mobile Units in Area B:
The essence of the Palestinian complaint on this issue is not clear since the provisions regarding the movement of the Joint Mobile Units in Area B are being implemented.
19. Article 20 – Terminating all Building Activities in and around Rachel’s Tomb:
- According to the Agreement (Article V, paragraph 7 of the Security Annex), Rachel’s Tomb is defined as a "special case" during the "Interim Period", that is – under the security responsibility of Israel with the free movement of Palestinians on the main road leading from Jerusalem.
- In view of the security powers it retains in the Tomb area, Israel has the authority to undertake any security measures deemed necessary, excluding steps that are explicitly forbidden in the Agreement and those which would not preserve existing arrangements for worship in the Tomb. Accordingly, security measures, including construction, in the Tomb area that do not interfere with arrangements for worship do not contradict the provisions of the Interim Agreement. The Agreement only limits the number of Israeli guard posts and its authority to restrict free movement to the site and to change existing worship arrangements.
- It should be noted that all Israeli construction in the vicinity of the Tomb has been coordinated with the Palestinian authorities.
20. Article 21 – The Need to Implement the Provision Concerning the Mawasi Beach:
The Palestinian claim is too general and lacks specific details of Israeli violations.
21. Article 22 – Non-Implementation of the redeployment in the City of Hebron:
The redeployment in Hebron was negotiated between the two sides, agreed in the Hebron Protocol dated January 17, 1997, and implemented immediately thereafter.
22. Article 23 – Non-Conclusion of Arrangements for the Passage of Privately Owned Palestinian Vehicles through the Allenby and Rafah Terminals:
Indeed such arrangements have yet to be concluded. The passage of private vehicles, as well as buses and trucks, exacerbates security problems that hinder agreement on passage arrangements as required. In the Note for the Record attached to the Hebron Protocol the two sides agreed to resume negotiations on outstanding issues relating to Passages.
23. Article 24 – The Non-Operation of the Allenby Bridge Terminal According to Appointed Times Determined in the Agreement:
The Palestinian claim has been checked and found to be groundless – the Allenby Bridge terminal operates according to the hours and timetable stipulated in the Agreement.
24. Article 25 – The Failure to Relocate the Erez Crossing to Israel’s Side:
According to the Interim Agreement, Israel promised to make every effort to transfer the crossing as soon as possible in accordance with a timetable to be agreed upon by a joint council. Israel did not commit itself to any specific date. In practice, this is an ongoing project that will not be completed before Summer 1997.
25. Article 26 – The Free Movement of People, Vehicles and Goods in the West Bank:
The provision of the agreement cited in the Palestinian document dealing with free movement of people, vehicles and goods is subject to a specific proviso: "without derogating from Israel’s security powers and responsibilities".
26. Article 27 – the Need to Enter Immediate Negotiations to Review the Protocol on the Passages:
According to the Agreement, Israel committed itself to review the Protocol on the passages within the framework of the CAC. Indeed, Israel is willing to discuss it within this framework.
27. Article 28 – Non-Implementation of the Agreement Regarding the Security of the Airspace:
The Palestinian claim is very general and lacks details of Israeli violations. It would appear that the Palestinians are referring primarily to the Dahaniya Airport and Palestinian helicopters. It should be noted that many of the issues determined by the Article quoted by the Palestinians require discussion and agreement within the framework of the JAC (Aviation subcommittee). In practice, some of these issues are the subject of ongoing negotiations (Dehaniya Airport, helicopters, etc.).
28. Article 29 – Imposing Closures on the Sea of Gaza:
- The limitations effected by Israel, for security reasons, do not amount to the imposition of a maritime closure.
- It should be noted that according to Article XIV to the Security Annex, paragraph 1b(4), in those activity zones permitted to the Palestinians in the Sea of Gaza, Israeli Navy vessels may sail without limitation and may take any measures necessary against vessels suspected of being used for terrorist and illegal activities.
29. Article 30 – The Need to Implement the Provision Relating to the Establishment of the Gaza Sea Port:
The Interim Agreement provides that all aspects relating to the establishment of a port in the Gaza Strip are to be discussed and agreed between the two sides. Accordingly the two sides commenced negotiations on this issue, and an initial feasibility survey was carried out in Sheikh Ajalin – the site earmarked for the proposed port. However, at the ignoring the need to resolve bilateral issues relating to the port, the Palestinians commenced construction work on an old wharf in the Gaza Strip with the declared intention of making this into a port. Only after an order issued by Israel prohibited the entry of construction materials to this area, did the Palestinian side refrain from acting in violation of the agreement. Pursuant to the Note for the Record attached to the Hebron Protocol the two sides have resumed negotiations on the issue.
30. Article 31 – The Demand to Honour the Provisions of the Protocol Concerning Legal Matters:
The Palestinian claim is general and fails to detail concrete Israeli violations. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that, to date, the Palestinians have failed to implement any of the provisions of the Annex (the most glaring example being non-transfer of suspects). The Legal Committee established by the Interim Agreement is due to meet in the coming days to commence work on implementing the provisions of the Legal Annex of the Interim Agreement.
31. Article 32 – Israeli Violation of the Protocol on Economic Relations:
- The general intent of the Protocol on economic relations is to enable the free movement of people, vehicles and goods between the West Bank and Gaza and Israel. However, not only is Israel’s right to determine certain limitations on the movement of people, vehicles and goods recognised in this Protocol, but Israel’s right, for reasons of security and safety, to place the West Bank and Gaza Strip under a full or partial closure is specifically recognised by Article IX.1.d of the Security Annex of the Agreement. This paragraph states clearly that this right shall not be prejudiced by any other provisions of the Agreement.
- According to the Economic Annex, each side is indeed permitted to review this Annex within the framework of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC). This committee has renewed its activities only recently.
32. Article 33 – The Non-Release of Prisoners and Detainees:
Israel has fulfilled all of its commitments on the issue of releasing prisoners and detainees, including the release of the female prisoners which took place following the signing of the Hebron Protocol. The Interim Agreement provides for the release of prisoners in three stages – the first with the signing of the Interim Agreement, the second prior to the election of the Palestinian Council, and the third stage to take place during the permanent status negotiations (no specific date mentioned) – from among agreed categories of prisoners.
33. Article 34 – Israeli Commitment to Enlarge the Size of the Jericho Area:
Israel committed itself to consider the enlargement of the Jericho area in the context of the first phase of the further redeployment.
In addition to the Palestinian charges of Israeli "violations" outlined above, there are a number of additional allegations which are frequently raised by the Palestinian leadership. Among the most recurrent of these charges are the following:
34. Israel is confiscating the identity cards of Palestinians living in Jerusalem and "expelling" Palestinians
Israel has not revoked the residency of any Palestinian who is legally resident in Jerusalem. These Palestinians, like any other individual who has lived in Israel continuously can continue to do so without loss of any benefit to which he or she is entitled.
It should be noted that Israel, like other countries, has both citizens and permanent residents (who do not hold citizenship). Permanent residents may request citizenship in accordance with the provisions set forth in the citizenship law. Those who have not sought citizenship are subject to the normal rules which apply to all other permanent residents living in Israel.
The Supreme Court has determined, in accordance with the Entry to Israel Law and its regulations, that permanent residence is a matter of "presence". Therefore, when a person uproots the centre of his life from Israel and establishes it elsewhere, the right to permanent residency is lost.
It must be emphasised that these provisions apply equally to all permanent residents of the State of Israel and not just to residents of Eastern Jerusalem. These provisions have been in effect for many years and no change has been made in them recently.
The reason that this issue has recently arisen is that since the peace agreements have been signed, people who left Israel years ago are coming back. In accordance with the above provisions, those individuals who established the centre of their lives elsewhere, for example by acquiring permanent residency or citizenship in another country, are no longer entitled to permanent resident status in Israel.
35. Israel has prevented ambulances from being brought into the Gaza Strip and not released medical and food supplies from Israeli ports
The ambulances in question were transferred to the Palestinian authorities after they had undergone the necessary inspection to determine that they met the standards of Israel’s Ministry of Transportation. This was necessary as the models which were shipped from Japan are not in use in Israel and the ambulances are allowed to be used for the transport of the sick and injured to hospital in Israel, should the need arise. Motor vehicles which may use Israeli roads must either be models which are approved by the Transportation Ministry or, in the case of vehicles which are not marketed in Israel, must undergo clearance model by model upon their importation.
Medical and food supplies are cleared through customs as fast as possible. Even in the midst of the violent clashes in September 1996 Israeli checkpoints were specifically instructed not to impede medical shipments. On that occasion the Palestinian side refused to allow its drivers to obtain the necessary permits from Co-ordination and Liaison office in order to bring these shipments in. In this case the cause for unfortunate delay is not Israel’s responsibility and lies elsewhere.
It should be noted that both donated food and medicine which were intended for the Palestinians has, at times, found its way to Israeli vendors in violation of the Interim Agreement. On one occasion a Palestinian ambulance driver was stopped on his way to Israel with an ambulance loaded with medical supplies and medicine. He conceded that the merchandise was "surplus" and he was on his way to sell it.
36. Israel has deported Palestinians from areas of the territories under Israeli jurisdiction
The Palestinian The charge is disingenuous since the only "deportations" to have been effected to date have been of individuals permitted to outstay the agreed visitation periods by the Palestinian side.
The Interim Agreement provides that visitors to the territories require a visitor’s permit which permits them to remain for up to three months. The Palestinian side may extend this period for an additional period of up to four months. Any further extension requires Israeli approval. The Agreement further provides that the Palestinian side shall ensure that these visitors "shall not overstay the duration of their entry permit and authorized extensions".
Notwithstanding these provisions the Palestinian side has taken no steps to ensure that visitors who have outstayed their permitted period of visitation are required to leave the territory. In those cases in which the issue falls within areas under Israel’s authority, Israel has sent back those whose visitor’s permit has expired. Israel awaits similar compliance with the Agreement in the areas under Palestinian jurisdiction.