in the Context of the Peace Process
January 15, 1997
The successful conclusion of negotiations leading to the signing of the protocol regarding Hebron marks, once again, Israel’s commitment to the Middle East peace process and the Interim Agreement, and gives testimony to the fact that the peace process continues to move forward. All who truly support peace in the Middle East are called upon to exhibit both patience and faith, especially during crises in the process, and to lend their full support to both sides as they attempt to solve the outstanding issues at hand in the spirit of dialogue and mutual respect.
The Interim Agreement, which was signed in September 1995, contained a separate section entitled "Guidelines for Hebron" (Security Annex 1, Article VII), which delimited two areas in Hebron: H-1 – where all responsibilities are to be transferred to the Palestinians and H-2 – where security responsibilities are to remain in the hands of Israel. The Palestinians, according to the "Guidelines", are to have municipal and civilian responsibilities throughout the entire city. When this section was originally composed, it was formulated in a general manner which made clear the need for further amplification before any actual redeployment could take place.
It should be noted that Israel was to redeploy its forces in Hebron by March 28, 1996. However, the scheduled redeployment was postponed by the Government. The background to this postponement bears repeating. In February and March of this year Israel was subjected to a wave of terrorist attacks in which sixty three (63) Israelis were killed and scores wounded. The Government of Israel was of the opinion that the Palestinian Council had not done its utmost to thwart the terrorist networks of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. These concerns had major implications for the redeployment of IDF forces in Hebron due to the complex nature of the city.
A major cause for the delay in the negotiations was the egregious violation of the DOP and the Interim Agreement by elements of the Palestinian Police who opened fire, without provocation, on IDF and Border Police units as well as on Israeli civilians. The tragic events of this past September not only hindered the negotiations, but also underscored the need to fashion carefully an agreement which would enhance security in Hebron and minimize conflict, incitement and violence.
The Interim Agreement recognizes the presence of Israeli residents in Hebron, and it was, therefore, necessary to agree upon the modalities for safeguarding their security. The Government of Israel, throughout the months of negotiations, has continued to view the security of the Israeli inhabitants of Hebron as its major concern. This arrangement takes into account the special circumstances which exist in Hebron, adding the necessary and mutually agreed adjustments, without deviating from the Interim Agreement.
All stages in the implementation of the Interim Agreement, including the arrangement in Hebron, must be based on reciprocity. Israel will make a supreme effort to ensure that the protocol is both implemented and safeguarded and we expect the Palestinians to do likewise.
The following points, contained in the protocol, are worth noting:
- The redeployment of Israeli forces in Hebron will take place no later than ten days after the signing of the protocol.
- After the redeployment in Hebron only about 50,000 Palestinians – 2% of a total Palestinian population of 2,300,000 in the West Bank and Gaza – will remain under Israeli security jurisdiction. They are mostly the inhabitants of widely dispersed rural villages which are located within Area "C".
- The protocol places an emphasis on appropriate joint security measures in order to safeguard public order and security, while ensuring Israeli responsibility for the security of Jewish inhabitants residing in the "H-2" area. The arrangements include two (2) joint patrols, three (3) Joint Mobile Units (JMUs), four (4) Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) for immediate intervention and a Joint Coordination Center. The Palestinian and Israeli components of the JMUs will be equipped with equivalent weapons (Palestinian police will carry submachine guns while Israeli forces will be armed with M-16 carbines.)
- The main points of the protocol are devoted to minimizing conflict between the two sides and engendering cooperation and mutual trust among the security forces of Israel and the Palestinians.
- The protocol explicitly states that the same directives contained in the Interim Agreement will apply specifically to Hebron. For example:
"Israel shall continue to carry….the responsibility for overall security of Israelis and settlements, for the purpose of safeguarding their internal security and public order, and will have all the powers to take the steps necessary to meet this responsibility."
(Article XII  )
- In H-1, for which the Palestinians have responsibility, as well as in areas adjacent to H-2, a number of "non-friction" areas have been established. The Palestinians have obligated themselves to prevent the entry of armed persons and demonstrators or other people threatening security and public order into these areas, which are officially termed "Agreed Adjacent Areas" (AAA).
- The protocol places emphasis upon joint security activities in those areas of H-1 which dominate the city topographically. Two JMUs and both Israeli troops and Palestinian police will patrol the hills overlooking the city.
- Palestinian police stations will be manned by up to 400 policemen equipped with 20 vehicles and armed with 200 pistols, and 100 rifles for the protection of the police stations.
- The Palestinian Police will ensure that all Palestinian policemen will pass a security check, in order to verify suitability for their assignment, prior to being posted to Hebron.
- Holy Sites – The Palestinian Police will be responsible for security at four (4) Jewish holy places (excluding the Tomb of the Patriarchs). Freedom of access to holy places will be guaranteed to all believers and visitors.
- Both sides emphasize their commitment to safeguarding normal daily life in the city and preventing provocations or discord. (To that end steps will be taken to reopen the wholesale market and to gradually allow vehicular traffic on Shuhada Street.)
It is worth noting that the cooperation between, and joint action by, both Israeli and Palestinian security forces in the wake of the shooting of Palestinian civilians on January 1, 1997 demonstrated, even before the protocol was signed, the importance of coordination between the two sides. The close ties and regular contacts between the two security forces contributed to minimizing the extent of the tragedy. Continued endeavors along these lines, coupled with growing mutual trust, will ensure a safe and regular daily routine for all of the inhabitants of the city after the protocol is signed.
- Both sides reaffirm their commitment to Hebron’s unity. An apportionment of the security responsibilities in Hebron does not entail the city’s division.
- Municipal services will be provided in an orderly fashion, at a level equal in quality and expense for all the inhabitants of the city.
- TIPH – There will be a temporary international presence in the city. On January 8, 1997 both sides requested that Norway extend the mandate of its contingent presently in the city, and that five additional countries participate in the expanded presence which will be established after the redeployment. Both Israel and the Palestinians agreed to the enlargement of the observer force, which is to number 180 observers, whose mission will be to:
- Provide a sense of security to the inhabitants of Hebron.
- Assist in creating stability and an appropriate environment for the benefit and prosperity of the Palestinian residents.
- Aid in the implementation of projects initiated by donor countries.
- Encourage the economic development of Hebron.
- Observe and report.
The Hebron protocol does not "stand alone" and must be viewed within the context of the Middle East peace process. Accompanying the protocol is a "Note for the Record" wherein both sides reaffirm their commitment to the "Oslo peace process" and, on the basis of reciprocity, undertake measures for the implementation of the Interim Agreement.
Israel reaffirmed its commitment to the following measures and principles in accordance with the Interim Agreement:
- The first phase of the further redeployments will be carried out during the first week of March.
- Prisoner release issues will be dealt with in accordance with the Interim Agreement’s provisions and procedures, including Annex VII.
- Negotiations on the following outstanding issues will be resumed immediately and conducted in parallel:
- Safe Passage
- Gaza Airport
- Gaza Port
- Economic, financial, civilian and security issues
- Permanent status negotiations will be resumed within two months after implementation of the Hebron Protocol.
The Palestinian side reaffirmed its commitment to the following measures and principles in accordance with the Interim Agreement:
- Complete the process of revising the Palestinian National Charter.
- Fighting terror and preventing violence, to wit:
- Strengthening security cooperation
- Preventing incitement and hostile propaganda, as specified in Article XXII of the Interim Agreement
- Combat Systematically and effectively terrorist organizations and infrastructure
- Apprehension, prosecution and punishment of terrorists
- Requests for transfer of suspects and defendants will be acted upon in accordance with Article II(7)(f) of Annex IV to the Interim Agreement
- Confiscation of illegal firearms
- Size of the Palestinian Police will be pursuant to the Interim Agreement.
- Exercise of Palestinian governmental activity, and location of Palestinian governmental offices, will be as specified in the Interim Agreement.
With the conclusion of the negotiations regarding Hebron, both sides will have to continue their dialogue. Israel views peace as an interest vital to all of the parties, and therefore all must work diligently to achieve the desired results. The process will be long and arduous and have its share of "ups and downs"; nevertheless, these negotiations have shown that vital interests joined with good faith on the part of all concerned will lead to progress. A corollary derived from this experience is that when good faith and encouragement are replaced by skepticism and veiled threats, then progress will per force be stymied. In order to ensure that negotiations continue in a productive manner, a code of conduct reaffirming the commitment of both sides to the negotiations and detailing the manner in which they are to be pursued is desirable.
The negotiations with the Palestinians, important as they are, cannot be divorced from their regional and social milieu. "People to People" contacts, which are an integral part of the Interim Agreement and are aimed at creating mutual respect and building bridges between Israel and the Palestinians, are of special importance. Progress in the multilateral track is essential, too, for the continued strengthening of the peace process. The multilateral negotiations, especially in the areas of economics, the environment and water resources, hold within them the promise of resolving overarching issues which impact upon all of the inhabitants of the Middle East.