Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process

I. PLO-Israel Peace Process

Madrid Conference
After the Gulf War, the US President, George H.W Bush, called for a conference between those nations directly involved in the Palestinian situation. Hosted by the Spanish government, the Madrid Conference began on October 30, 1991. It was attended by the governments of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and by a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, for the Israelis refused to talk with a Palestinian delegation on its own; they still refused to treat the Palestinians as an independent entity.

The aim of the Madrid Conference was two-fold. On the one hand, it was hoped that a lasting peace could be established between the three Arab states and Israel. The second aim of the Conference was to negotiate the initial stages of self-government for Palestine. The main issues raised concentrated on the preconditions for the signature of a peace treaty, the future boundaries of Israel and the future of the Palestinian people and a future Palestinian State.
The Madrid Conference of 1991 had several long-term effects. It was followed by a series of bilateral talks between Israel, a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, Syria and Lebanon. These talks evolved into separate negotiations with the Palestinian delegation and the Jordanian delegation. For the Palestinian group, these separate talks led to further secret negotiations between the PLO and Israel, eventually leading to the Declaration of Principles, represented in the Oslo Accords of 1993. On the Jordanian side, October 26, 1994 saw the signing of a Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty.

Oslo Accords of 1993 (Declaration of Principles)
The Declaration of Principles (DOP) came as a result of secret talks between the PLO and Israel [see map]. The peace talks were initiated in London and were supposed to be held in Zagreb, Croatia, but were later moved to Oslo in Norway.1 The spark was a meeting between Hanan Ashrawi and Ya'ir Hirschfeld, a Middle East expert teaching at Haifa University.2 However, secret channels between PLO members in the West Bank and some Israeli scholars and politicians had been open from as far back as 1987. 3 Of these channels, the most important to the PLO was that conducted with Hirschfeld and Yosi Belen, a Labour party member of the Knesset, through Feisal Al Husaini and the PLO figures in Jerusalem, which started in 1989.4

Ashrawi suggested that Hirschfeld meet with Ahmad Qurai' (Abu Alaa'), a member of Fatah's Central Committee and the PLO's 'Finance Minister', as a result, a meeting was set in London on December 4, 1992 through Terje Rød-Larsen, the Director of the Norwegian Institute for Applied Social Sciences (FOFA), and his wife Mona Juul, a senior Norwegian Foreign Ministry Official.5 Larsen, Juul and Johan Jørgen Holst, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, whom had met with Abu Alaa' in Oslo in January 1992 to set up a PLO-Israeli dialogue, were the main architects of the planned peace talks.6

The negotiations were conducted in total secrecy, for the Israeli legislation banned any dialogue with the PLO, which it considered as a 'terrorist organization'. This was to change on January 19, 1993 when the Knesset changed the law that banned any Israeli-PLO contact. Four further rounds of negotiation took place between February and early May 1993 during which the DOP was formulated.7

In the 1993 Oslo's DOP, the letters exchanged between the then PLO Chairman, Yasser Arafat, and the Israeli Prime Minister of the time, Yitzhak Rabin, laid the framework for future negotiations. On the part of Arafat, he acknowledged the right of Israel to exist 'in peace and security', committed the PLO to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, renounced violence as a political tool and reaffirmed the PLO's commitment to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Rabin, for his part, recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and, as such, agreed to negotiate with them in the peace process.

After this exchange of letters, the DOP on Interim Self-Government for the Palestinians was signed by Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres on September 13, 1993 on the White House lawn in Washington, at US President Clinton's invitation.8 In theory, this agreement was important for it demonstrated that both sides recognized each other's right to exist. This agreement envisaged a situation in which a ten-month timetable was established, a timetable that would eventually lead to elections that would form a Palestinian authority to administer control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This authority would retain control of the Palestinian territories for a period of five years, during which time it was hoped that a lasting peace could be established. It was proposed that within one month of signing the agreement, negotiations between the two parties on troop 'redeployment' from the Gaza Strip and Jericho should commence. In the end, it took until May 1994 for the terms of this withdrawal to be agreed upon. The agreement was signed in Cairo on May 4, 1994, with the actual withdrawal from Jericho and Gaza taking place on May 13 and 18, respectively. 9

The foul of this agreement was that the Palestinians represented by the PLO recognized Israeli's right to exist, whereas the Israelis recognized the PLO's right to exist and there was no mention of the right of existence to a Palestinian State or a Palestinian Government. Furthermore, the word 'withdrawal' was never mentioned in the Accords, and instead the word 'redeployment' was used. After the signing of the Accords, the OPT witnessed the second large scale wave of settlement expansion like the first wave that took place after the signing of Camp David I Agreement with Egypt.

However, the peace initiative was received well among most of the Israeli and Palestinian population. In terms of the consequences of the declaration, while it did, indeed, lead to an interim agreement, final status talks soon ran into trouble. Events such as the Haram Al Ibrahimi Massacre in 1994, continuous harassment by the Israeli occupation authorities, and a rapidly deteriorating economy, caused by constant Israeli settlement expansion and increased blockades, greatly aggrieved many Palestinians and caused frequent clashes throughout the area, witnessing several suicide attacks carried out by the Islamic Jihad and Hamas Movements.

'Oslo II' Accord 1995 (Interim Agreement)
The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, also known as the Interim agreement or Oslo II, was the second phase of the process that had begun with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and Jericho in May 1994 [see map]. It was signed in Washington DC on September 24, 1995 by the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Yasser Arafat. The Agreement was witnessed by the US President Bill Clinton and by representatives of Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Norway, and the European Union.
The Agreement consists of the following five chapters:
Chapter 1: Palestinian Council
Chapter 2: Redeployment and Security Arrangement
Chapter 3: Jurisdiction
Chapter 4: Relations between Israel and the Palestinian Council
Chapter 5: Miscellaneous Provisions
According to the Oslo Interim Agreement, the West Bank was divided into three areas; Area A, which would consist of territory to be placed under direct Palestinian control; Area B, jointly-controlled territory, in which the Palestinians would exercise civil and police authority but Israel would retain security responsibility; and Area C, territory in which Israel would have exclusive control, it consisted mainly of sparsely or unpopulated areas, Israeli military installations and Jewish settlements.

Palestinians gained control over 70% of the Gaza strip and 3% of the West Bank as area A and 24% as area B. The interim self-government was to be implemented in phases. After the Israeli withdrawal from the populated areas, elections would be held so that a Palestinian legislative council and head of the council could be established.10

Consequently, the agreement required the Israel forces to redeploy from the major cities of Jenin, Tulkarm, Qalqilia, Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah (to be included in Area A), and from about 450 Palestinian villages and smaller communities (to be included in Area B). The Israeli forces' evacuation started with Jenin on November 13, 1995, and reached its climax with its withdrawal from Bethlehem on December 21, 1995.However, redeployment from Hebron was postponed, and a final status agreement concerning all issues in Hebron was signed after the Israeli and the Palestinian elections.

Cairo Summit 11
On February 2, 1995, the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, King Hussein of Jordan, the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, met to discuss the peace process in an attempt to restart the stalled negotiations. They issued a joint statement reaffirming their support for the peace process and condemning bloodshed and terror in the region.
Following the Cairo Meeting, Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin agreed to meet at Erez Boarder Terminal in the Gaza Strip to continue negotiations on the bilateral issues, which took place on February 9, 1995. The Rabin-Arafat talks ended without progress as Israel linked all issues to 'Security'. These issues included the questions of settlements, prisoners, Palestinian elections, Israeli withdrawal, and the lifting of closures in the OPT. 

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