Background- Note For The Record, Christopher Letter and JP Article

By: Aaron Lerner Date: 7 December, 1997

When the Cabinet met on January 15, 1997 to approve Israel's third withdrawal (the first was Gaza-Jericho, the second withdrawal was from all major West Bank cities with the exception of Hebron, the third withdrawal covered the bulk of Hebron), two issues served as the focus of the heated debate: reciprocity and the Further Redeployments (FRD's). Prime Minister Netanyahu argued that the Ross Note For The Record as well as the Christopher letter justified the withdrawal from Hebron since they established, in clear language, that the United States recognized the linkage between immediate Palestinian compliance on a series of issues - both security and non-security - and Israeli implementation of FRDs.

In the middle of the discussion, Israel Television broadcast a "scoop" that a State Department official maintained that Israel would not be able to unilaterally set the scope of the FRD's. Minister Limor Livnat's father reached her with this information and Netanyahu, seeing that the Cabinet may not approve the Hebron withdrawal, stopped the Cabinet meeting, explaining that he was waiting for clarification from America. The meeting resumed after an American clarification.

A statement by the spokesman for the US State Department issued that day that 'The guarantor's letters which Secretary Christopher intends forwarding to both sides also relate to the process of further redeployments as Israel's responsibility, including its determining the specified military locations.' was included in the documents submitted to the Knesset before the Hebron vote.

NOTE FOR THE RECORD
=====================

The two leaders met on January 15, 1997, in the presence of the U.S. Special Middle East Coordinator. They requested him to prepare this Note for the Record to summarize what they agreed upon at their meeting.

Mutual Undertakings
------------------------------

The two leaders agreed that the Oslo peace process must move forward to succeed. Both parties to the Interim Agreement have concerns and obligations. Accordingly, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Interim Agreement on the basis of reciprocity and, in this context, conveyed the following undertakings to each other:

Israeli Responsibilities
--------------------------------

The Israeli side reaffirms its commitments to the following measures and principles in accordance with the Interim Agreement:

Issues for Implementation

1. Further Redeployment Phases
The first phase of further redeployments will be carried out during the first week of March.

2. Prisoner Release Issues
Prisoner release issues will be dealt with in accordance with the Interim Agreement's provisions and procedures, including AnnexVII.

Issues for Negotiation

3. Outstanding Interim Agreement Issues
Negotiations on the following outstanding issues from the Interim Agreement will be immediately resumed. Negotiations on these issues will be conducted in parallel:
a) Safe Passage
b) Gaza Airport
c) Gaza port
d) Passages
e) Economic, financial, civilian and security issues
f) People-to-people

4. Permanent Status Negotiations
Permanent status negotiations will be resumed within two months after implementation of the Hebron Protocol.

Palestinian Responsibilities
---------------------------------------

The Palestinian side reaffirms its commitments to the following measures and principles in accordance with the Interim Agreement:

1. Complete the process of revising the Palestinian National Charter

2. Fighting terror and preventing violence
a) Strengthening security cooperation
b) Preventing incitement and hostile propaganda, as specified in Article XXII of the Interim Agreement.
c) Combat systematically and effectively terrorist organizations and infrastructure
d) Apprehension, prosecution and punishment of terrorists
e) 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
f) Confiscation of illegal firearms

3. Size of Palestinian Police will be pursuant to the Interim Agreement.

4. Exercise of Palestinian governmental activity, and location of Palestinian governmental offices, will be as specified in the Interim Agreement.

The aforementioned commitments will be dealt with immediately and in parallel.

Other Issues
------------------

Either party is free to raise other issues not specified above related to implementation of the Interim Agreement and obligations of both sides arising from the Interim Agreement.

Prepared by Ambassador Dennis Ross at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ra'ees Yasser Arafat
"Christopher Letter"
(To be provided by U.S. Secretary of State Christopher to Benjamin Netanyahu at the time of signing of the Hebron Protocol)

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

I wanted personally to congratulate you on the successful conclusion of the "Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron." It represents an important step forward in the Oslo peace process and reaffirms my conviction that a just and lasting peace will be established between Israelis and Palestinians in the very near future.

In this connection, I can assure you that it remains the policy of the United States to support and promote full implementation of the Interim Agreement in all of its parts. We intend to continue our efforts to help ensure that all outstanding commitments are carried out by both parties in a cooperative spirit and on the basis of reciprocity.

As part of this process, I have impressed upon Chairman Arafat the imperative need for the Palestinian Authority to make every effort to ensure public order and internal security within the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I have stressed to him that effectively carrying out this major responsibility will be a critical foundation for completing implementation of the Interim Agreement, as well as the peace process as a whole.

I wanted you to know that, in this context, I have advised Chairman Arafat of U.S. views on Israel's process of redeploying its forces, designating specified military locations and transferring additional powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority. In this regard, I have conveyed our belief, that the first phase of further redeployments should take place as soon as possible, and that all three phases of the further redeployments should be completed within twelve months from the implementation of the first phase of the further redeployments but not later than mid-1998.

Mr. Prime Minister, you can be assured that the United States' commitment to Israel's security is ironclad and constitutes the fundamental cornerstone of our special relationship. The key element in our approach to peace, including the negotiation and implementation of agreements between Israel and its Arab partners, has always been a recognition of Israel's security requirements. Moreover, a hallmark of U.S. policy remains our commitment to work cooperatively to seek to meet the security needs that Israel identifies. Finally, I would like to reiterate our position that Israel is entitled to secure and defensible borders, which should be directly negotiated and agreed with its neighbors.

PM: Not all our ideals are within reach any more
By David Makovsky Jon Immanuel and Liat Collins
The Jerusalem Post. Friday, January 17, 1997

...US officials were offended when some Likud MKs suggested that the refusal of the US to disclose the contents of a letter of assurance to Yasser Arafat meant that Washington may be acting duplicitously by giving contradictory letters to the US and the Palestinians on the issue of Israel's designating further IDF pullbacks in the West Bank. "There are no contradictory letters," US Ambassador Martin Indyk said.

The State Department said: "The letters of assurance refers to the process of further redeployment as an Israeli responsibility, which includes its designating specific military locations." Commenting on the US letters, Marwan Kanafani, spokesman for the Hebron negotiations and a close aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, denied on Palestine Radio that Israel can unilaterally decide from which territories to withdraw during the next three phases of redeployment or that the US backs such a unilateral decision. "We raised this in a meeting yesterday [Wednesday] with the American side. We do not agree that any party should be forced by the other party's decision, especially when it is connected with withdrawal. There should be a general understanding that the purpose of the peace process is to end the Israeli occupation. "US Secretary of State Warren Christopher's letter to Netanyahu, which says, "I have advised Chairman Arafat of US views on Israel's process of redeploying its forces" does not say what those US views are.

Kanafani said that in the letter of assurance sent by Christopher to Arafat, Christopher does not say that the US supports a unilateral decision by Israel. "There is no such text. If there would have been we would not have accepted it.
.....

A spokesman for the US State Department even clarified yesterday [Wednesday] in a statement which has also been submitted to the Knesset that 'The guarantor's letters which Secretary Christopher intends forwarding to both sides also relate to the process of further redeployments as Israel's responsibility, including its determining the specified military locations.'


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