Despite PM Binyamin Netanyahu's claims to have plugged up many of the holes in the Oslo Accord, the agreement he returned with from the Wye Plantation may be one of the leakiest accords yet signed by the Israelis.
Its often vague and ambiguous wording made it easy for the Palestinians to claim very different interpretations of its commitments.
One significant example relates to the size of the PA security service--ostensibly a lightly-armed police force, but in reality a dangerous army in the making.
The Oslo II agreement made it clear that the PA was only allowed 24,000 policemen at this stage of the interim process (Annex I, Article IV (3)), and that "the Palestinian side will notify Israel of any candidate for recruitment to the Palestinian police. Should Israel object to the recruitment of any such candidate, that person shall not be recruited."
The actual size of the force quickly exceeded the allowed number (unconfirmed reports said there were up to 60,000). Furthermore, Israel was only given a list of 18,500 names.
But in the Wye agreement, this critically important issue was handled thus: "The Palestinian side will provide a list of its policemen to the Israeli side in conformity with the prior agreements."
There was no reiteration of permitted numbers. Even more remarkably, the words "reduce", "decrease" or "cut back" did not appear. Israel's negotiators presumably thought the reference to "prior agreements" would suffice.
Needing little excuse to flout their agreements, some PA officials said later there was no actual agreement to reduce the size of the force.
The PA's security chief in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan said he had no intention of decreasing the size of the force. "We have no problem providing one list of policemen and a second list of policemen who do administrative work" he told Al-Ayyam just three days after the Washington signing.
The "civil police" chief, Ghazi Jabali, added that fulfilling the Wye commitment with regard to the police force was "not a problem. We will get around it by reallocating policemen so that one who serves in one location can serve in another. We will get around it by adopting a policy of transferring policemen" (Al-Quds, Nov 4).
(An additional slap in Israel's face was the identity of the man making these smirking comments. Before the Wye negotiations, Jabali headed a list of suspected terrorists Israel demanded be arrested by the PA or extradited to Israel to face trial. As late as October 22, the Israeli government said in a statement that Jabali was "suspected of organising terrorist cells within the Palestinian police and issuing instructions to Palestinian policemen to carry out terror attacks against Israelis." But at Wye the demand was dropped, with Netanyahu conceding on October 25 that Jabali, "who did not actually murder" was excluded from the list of those the PA would arrest and charge, although he added that "we hope we will still find a proper solution for him as well".)
It was hardly surprising, then, that commentators were derisive of the Wye achievement. In the words of one, Jeff Jacoby, "The accord that Benjamin Netanyahu brought back from Wye is worse than the deals negotiated by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres."
The Wye Memorandum would once again see Yasser Arafat "paid in land for promises he has broken over and over," Jacoby noted, adding that the agreement's "language is so full of fuzz and loopholes that it makes a farce of the 'reciprocity' Netanyahu insisted would be his irreducible minimum" (Boston Globe, Oct 29).