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Israel-Palestinian Negotiations:
History & Overview

NegotiationsTable of Contents | Oslo Accords | Annapolis Conference

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Israel-PLO Recognition

In September 1993, following intense behind-the-scenes contacts between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Oslo, an agreement was achieved between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. OnSeptember 9, 1993, Arafat sent a letter to Prime Minister Rabin, in which he stated unequivocally that the PLO:
  • Recognizes the right of Israel to exist in peace and security;
  • Accepts UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338;
  • Commits itself to a peaceful resolution of the conflict;
  • Renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence;
  • Assumes responsibility over all PLO elements o ensure their compliance, prevent violations, and discipline violators;
  • Affirms that those articles of the PLO Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist are now inoperative and no longer valid;
  • Undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes to the Covenant.
In reply, Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians in the peace negotiations.
On September 13, 1993, a joint Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (DOP), based on the agreement worked out in Oslo, was signed by the two parties in Washington, outlining the proposed interim self-government arrangements, as envisioned and agreed by both sides. The arrangements contained in the DOP include immediate Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and Jericho, early empowerment for the Palestinians in West Bank, and an agreement on self-government and the election of a Palestinian council. Additionally, extensive economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians plays an important role in the DOP.

The Interim Agreement

Shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Principles, negotiations commenced between Israeli and PLO delegations on the implementation of the interim agreement, which was accomplished in three stages:
1. The Gaza-Jericho Agreement was signed in Cairo on May 4, 1994, and applies to the Gaza Strip and to a defined area of about 65 square kilometers including Jericho and its environs. While the Declaration of Principles is a short document, consisting of approximately 20 pages, the Gaza-Jericho Agreement is a document containing almost 300 pages (the agreement itself and four annexes) with six maps attached. The Gaza-Jericho agreement addresses four main issues -- security arrangements, civil affairs, legal matters, and economic relations. The document includes agreement to a withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Gaza and Jericho, a transfer of authority from the Israeli Civil Administration to a Palestinian Authority, the structure and composition of the Palestinian Authority, its jurisdiction and legislative powers, a Palestinian police force, and relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
2. On August 29, 1994, the Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities was signed by Israel and the Palestinians. The Agreement puts into effect the next phase (early empowerment) of the Declaration of Principles.
In accordance with the DOP, the Agreement provides for the transfer of powers to the Palestinian Authority within five specified spheres:
  1. Education & Culture (carried out on August 29, 1994);
  2. Social Welfare;
  3. Tourism (both carried out on November 13-14, 1994);
  4. Health;
  5. Taxation (both carried out on December 1, 1994).
On August 27, 1995, an protocol was signed transferring additional spheres to the Palestinian Authority: labor, trade and industry, gas and gasoline, insurance, postal services, statistics, agriculture, and local government.
3. On September 28, 1995, the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was signed in Washington, D.C. This agreement, which marks the conclusion of the first stage in negotiations between Israel and the PLO, incorporates and supersedes the Gaza-Jericho and Early Empowerment agreements.
The main object of the Interim Agreement is to broaden Palestinian self-government in the West Bank by means of an elected self-governing authority -- the Palestinian Council -- for an interim period not to exceed five years from the signing of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement (i.e. no later than May 1999). This will allow the Palestinians to conduct their own internal affairs, reduce points of friction between Israelis and Palestinians, and open a new era of cooperation and co-existence based on common interest, dignity and mutual respect. At the same time it protects Israel's vital interests, and in particular its security interests, both with regard to external security as well as the personal security of its citizens in the West Bank.
The Interim Agreement sets forth the future relations between Israel and the Palestinians. To the main body of the agreement are appended seven annexes dealing with: security arrangements, elections, civil affairs (transfer of powers), legal matters, economic relations, Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Milestones in the Implementation of the Interim Agreement

On January 20, 1996, following completion of the first stage of IDF redeployment (with the exception of Hebron), elections were held to the Palestinian Council and for the Head of the Palestinian Authority. Yasser Arafat was elected Ra'ees (head) of the Authority.
On April 24, 1996, the Palestinian National Council, convening in Gaza, voted 504 to 54, with 14 abstentions, as follows:
  1. "The Palestinian National Charter is hereby amended by canceling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the P.L.O. and the Government of Israel 9-10 September 1993.
  2. Assigns its legal committee with the task of redrafting the Palestinian National Charter in order to present it to the first session of the Palestinian central council." (24/04/96)
On December 14, 1998, the Palestinian National Council, in accordance with the Wye River Memorandum, convened in Gaza in the presence of U.S. President Clinton and voted to reaffirm this decision.
An agreement on a Temporary International Presence in Hebron was signed on May 9, 1996.
The Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron was signed on January 17, 1997. The Protocol was accompanied by a Note for the Record prepared by the US Special Middle East Coordinator, confirming a series of agreements between the sides on non-Hebron issues and reaffirming their commitment to implement the Interim Agreement on the basis of reciprocity.
On October 23, 1998, The Wye River Memorandum was signed at the White House, Washington D.C., between Israel and the PLO, following a nine-day summit hosted by U.S. President Mr. Bill Clinton in Wye Plantation, Maryland.
On September 4, 1999, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum was signed by representatives of Israel and the PLO. Restating the commitment of the two sides to full implementation of all agreements reached since September 1993, the Memorandum sets out to resolve the outstanding issues of the present interim status, in particular those set out in theWye River Memorandum of October 23, 1998.
The sides also restated their commitment to the Interim Agreement's prohibition regarding initiating or taking any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip prior to the conclusion of the permanent status agreement.
Stages of Sharm el-Sheikh implementation:
Release of prisoners: Sep 9, 1999; Oct 15, 1999.
Additional prisoners released for Ramadan: Dec 1999Jan 2000.
Further redeployments: Sep 10, 1999 (7%); Jan 5-7, 2000 (5%); Mar 21, 2000 (6.1%)
Safe passage: southern route Oct 25, 1999; Shuhada Street Oct 31, 1999
Displaced persons committee convenes: February 6, 2000

Permanent Status Negotiations

The negotiations on the permanent status arrangements commenced in Taba on May 5, 1996. These negotiations will deal with the remaining issues to be resolved, including Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with neighboring countries.
In a joint communique issued on May 6 at the close of the first session of talks, the two sides reaffirmed the principles guiding these negotiations.
In the Wye Memorandum of October 23, 1998 both sides agreed to immediately resume permanent status negotiations on an accelerated basis and to make a determined effort to reach agreement by May 4, 1999. A first meeting between Foreign Minister Sharon and Abu Mazen took place on November 18, 1998.

Following the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, the permanent status negotiations were formally resumed onSeptember 13, 1999, at the Erez checkpoint. Foreign Minister David Levy was appointed to head the Israeli negotiating team with the Palestinians, and Abu-Mazen heads the Palestinian team.
In his speech at the opening of the talks, Foreign Minister Levy summarized the basic principles by which Israel will be guided up in negotiating a permanent status agreement: we will not return to the 1967 lines; united Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel; settlement blocs in the territories will remain under Israeli sovereignty; there will be no foreign army west of the Jordan River.
Talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, headed by Oded Eran and Yasser Abed Rabbo, were resumed at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2000.


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