Why Israel went
Israel knows from experience its vulnerability to pressure when participating in a US-supervised summit. Under normal circumstances Prime Minister Netanyahu would probably have shied away from the prospect. But the Clinton Administration seized its chance in late September when Netanyahu and Arafat visited New York to address the UN General Assembly.
The trap was laid while both men were in the US, during which time "sources close to the US administration" let it be known that senior officials, including vice-president Al Gore, had begun to see Arafat, rather than Netanyahu, as an "impediment to peace".
The "sources" simultaneously disclosed that President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had developed a "grudging admiration and understanding" for Netanyahu's bargaining position, and sincerely believed it was Arafat who was holding up the deal.
On September 26, Netanyahu expressed confidence that US pressure on the PA had made it likely an agreement on the second troop redeployment could be reached in two weeks.
Two days later, when the US pressured Arafat into not announcing his intention to declare a Palestinian state to the UN, the trap was wide open. Arafat obliged, even though he and his cabinet had sworn that the announcement would be made. Clinton then invited the men to the summit at Wye, and Netanyahu was "forced" to accept.
It was clear that from the moment Netanyahu agreed to go to Wye he would have to agree to a deal. Notwithstanding Gore's denial during the signing ceremony about the outcome having ever been predetermined, Clinton had put far too much on the line to permit the Israelis just to walk away.
What Israel wanted
Netanyahu went to Wye River declaring he would insist on a package deal whereby no redeployment would occur until Israel received clear confirmation that the PA was fulfilling its part of the deal. "Nothing would be agreed upon until everything was agreed," he said.
Israel would demand a range of specific Palestinian security measures, including the arrest of terrorists, an end to incitement, a reduction in the numbers of PA "policemen", the confiscation of illegal weapons. Israel would also demand that the Palestinian National Council change the PLO Charter, a long-overdue step in terms of previous agreements. In addition, Netanyahu said he would insist that the date for starting final status talks be set at the summit; that only Israel would be allowed to decide on the scope of the third redeployment; and that no side should engage in unilateral actions during the final status talks.
What Israel gave:
· To transfer 13 per cent of the land currently part of Area C (exclusively Israel's) to the PA as follows: one per cent to Area A (exclusively the PA's) and 12 per cent to Area B (joint security control). The PA agreed to set apart 3 per cent of the land transferred to Area B as "green areas and/or a nature reserve", over which Israel would maintain overall security control.
· To transfer 14.2 percent from joint control to exclusive PA control.
· That a joint Israeli-PA committee would address the scope of the third and final redeployment while reporting regularly to the US.
What Israel got:
Arafat's commitment to:
· Take all measures necessary to prevent acts of violence against Israeli lives and property, outlaw and combat terror organisations, and arrest, prosecute and punish (under US oversight) suspected terrorists.
· Control weapons' possession and confiscate illegal firearms, with US assistance.
· Provide Israel with a list of its policemen as per previous agreements.
· Prevent incitement against Israel by any organisations, groups or individuals within its jurisdiction.
· Have the Palestinian decision-making bodies reaffirm Arafat's letter to Clinton agreeing to amend clauses in the Palestinian Charter calling for Israel's destruction. Arafat will then "invite" members of the PNC and other bodies to a meeting to be addressed by Clinton, and at which those present will reaffirm their support for the "amendment". [Note: The Charter states that it can only be amended by a two-thirds majority vote of a full session of the PNC. Any other efforts to amend it, including this effort agreed to by Arafat himself, are illegal in terms of the document itself.]
Both parties agreed to carry out their commitments in a "parallel, phased approach … in accordance with the Memorandum and attached time line."
The US, an honest monitor?
An integral part of this agreement included the US undertaking to monitor its implementation. However, former UN weapons inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter, who resigned to protest what he said was America's unwillingness to thoroughly carry out the inspections, told The Jerusalem Post on November 2 not to count on the Clinton administration's fair brokerage of "Wye".
Ritter said that while the accord is to be monitored by the CIA, "the real arbiter will be the State Department, and this is a cause for great worry" because the entire effort had been politicised.
Wye was "the Clinton administration's own Camp David, and they really cannot afford to let it fail [and so] cannot be counted upon to be honest brokers."
The administration's desire to see Wye succeed, together with its efforts to woo moderate Arab countries, Ritter said, meant America was "more than likely to give the Palestinians slack".
"The temptation to gloss over [PA non-compliance] will be too strong to ignore, because to hold the Palestinians strictly accountable would endanger the whole process."
Ritter acknowledged Israel's ability to monitor PA performance itself, and agreed that Netanyahu would not allow himself to be hoodwinked. But he maintained that the Israelis would be faced "with so much pressure from the US and the international community that it will be near impossible to say 'Wait, the US is not being a good monitor.' "