Palestinian Leaders Advocate Unilateral Steps to Declare an Independent State

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry)
Jerusalem, December 29, 1998

Israel views with great concern the repeated declarations made by the Palestinian leadership of their intention to take the unilateral step of declaring on May 4th 1999 an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Such unilateral action constitutes a flagrant violation of the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement, which clearly prohibits either party from changing the status of the West Bank and Gaza prior to the conclusion of the permanent status negotiations between the sides. This principle was among the basic foundations of the peace process as enumerated in the letter sent by Yasser Arafat to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on 9 September 1993. Furthermore, this principle was reiterated in the all the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians since Oslo, and most recently reaffirmed in the Wye River Memorandum of October 1998.

However, despite the centrality of this principle to the negotiating process, Palestinian leaders have repeatedly made public statements regarding their intention to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state on May 4, 1999, which was envisioned as the original target date for the achievement of a negotiated permanent status arrangements.

An example of these statements can be seen in the words of the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Assembly, Ahmed Qurreia (Abu Ala). In a recent article appearing in the December 21 edition of the Gaza daily Al Hayat Al Jedida, Abu Ala wrote:

"We must constantly reiterate that we will not, under any circumstance, renege on our strategic promise to establish a Palestinian state with the holy city of Jerusalem as its capital.

… On May 4, 1999, a political, legal and administrative vacuum will be created in the territories, and it will then be incumbent upon the Palestinian Authority and its institutions to declare the Palestinian state, which will fill this vacuum.

… The May 4th declaration of a Palestinian state is a fait accompli, in the sense that the legitimacy which enables this has already been achieved in accordance with international law, meaning that the Palestinian state already exists in practical terms.

… It is also appropriate to stress that this state already has borders which have been internationally recognized, and these are the borders determined by the 1947 UN Partition Resolution.

… Our people has gathered up the links of sovereignty one by one, in order to realize the statement which encapsulates all our dreams: "The independent Palestinian state with the holy city of Jerusalem as its capital". The question is whether we will declare it after an exhaustive negotiation, which is preferable, or whether we’ll declare it unilaterally, as an expression of loyalty to our people and our martyrs, which we must fulfill. The coming months will provide the answer for this question. The 4th of May is approaching."

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Israel, for its part, remains committed to the achievement of peace as a paramount goal. Notwithstanding the recent internal political developments in the country, Israel will fulfill its commitments under the Wye River Memorandum in accordance with the agreed timetable, including the further redeployment, this subsequent to the complete Palestinian fulfillment of their appropriate obligations at every phase of the agreement’s implementation.