Quarterly Updates for (16 Feb 1995 — 15 May 1995)

On 3/9, Israel FM Shimon Peres and PLO Chmn. Yasir Arafat met at Erez and set a target date of 7/1 for reaching a consensus on elections and Israeli withdrawal. They also agreed to open safe passages immediately, halt land confiscation and financing expansion of existing settlements, speed the process at border crossings, increase the number of Palestinian workers in Israel to 21,000, discuss releasing prisoners, and hold regular mtgs. to exchange security information.

Palestinian-Israeli talks were clouded, however, by the continued closure of the self-rule areas, aggravating Palestinian economic conditions; several anti-Israeli attacks (3/19, 4/6, 4/9) and attempted attacks (3/21, 4/2), raising Israeli security concerns and calls for Arafat to crack down; and Israeli land expropriations (3/ 22, 4/27), sparking fears Israel is trying to move the Green Line and predetermine the status of Jerusalem. The focus of talks remained elections, redeployment, and the transfer of authority.


On 2/16, PM Yitzhak Rabin met Chmn. Arafat at Erez checkpoint and offered his "Jenin First" compromise under which the Palestinian Authority (PA) would take over administrative control and financial responsibility of the West Bank town of Jenin, while Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would remain in place. Arafat initially rejected the plan but then said it would be acceptable if Jenin was the first stage in a comprehensive, clearly delineated redeployment and transfer of power. By 3/29, the PA agreed to the principle of a phased process for redeployment-as well as for elections, revision of laws, transfer of authority, and economic powers. 

On 4/26, Rabin unilaterally announced that the IDF would reassign troops from bases in Hebron, Nablus, and Ramallah to bases inside the Green Line in a "pre-redeployment" but gave no timetable. The IDF also said (3/28) it would evacuate its headquarters in Nablus and Jenin by 6/1 and planned to redeploy from stations in Bethlehem and Tulkarm as well. Reduction in troops would be balanced by an increased Israeli police presence.


On 2/21, the PA offered six proposals for an intemational observer presence in the o.t. to help organize and supervise elections. By 3/29, the sides agreed on the composition of the 1,000-member observer group, allowing the PA on 5/2 to send invitations to Canada, the EC, Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Norway, and Russia to join the effort. Also on 5/2, Arafat opened the Palestine Central Elections Committee headquarters in Gaza. 

On 4/4, the sides began talks on updating the census and voter registrations, and Israel turned over the relevant census data, agreeing on 4/26 that the updating process would produce two lists: one of Palestinians with ID cards, one of those without. The actual mechanics of updating the census and voter eligibility of Palestinians without cards and those in East Jerusalem was to be discussed later. In preparation, the PA on 4/28 began training 6,000 teachers to verify the data. The sides also agreed to create 1,500 voting districts.

Israel and the PA began drafting an election proposal on 3/15, but by the end of the quarter, no agreement had been reached. The nature, structure, and jurisdiction of the proposed legislative council also remain under negotiation, with sides agreeing in principle (3/29) to the separation of executive and legislative powers, with subcommittees to follow up on executive activity.

Economic Matters

Following from its "national separation" idea and the continuing import of foreign labor to replace Palestinian workers, Israel announced 2/17 that five industrial zones (in Jenin, Ramallah, Lahav, and two sites in Gaza) would be created in the o.t. to provide jobs for Palestinians outside Israel. The plan calls for international financing of the zones' construction and gives U.S. investors who have at least 25 percent stake in companies located in the zones eligibility for U.S. financing and guarantees from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC; a U.S. federal agency that provides risk insurance to businesses in politically volatile areas). Follow-up meetings were held between Israel and the PA (2/21) and Israel, the PA, and the U.S. (2/26) to draft proposals on the zones' funding and supervision.

On 2/27, the Joint PA-Israeli Economic Comm. met in Jericho to discuss implementation of Paris protocol signed 4/29/ 94; creation of 11 industrial zones; possible expansion of lists A and B of the protocol; the flow of commodities between Israel, the o.t., Jordan, and Egypt; and the establishment of joint subcommittees to address specific problems.

Also of note, on 2/25 the PA approved the establishment of an investment group/ development bank with capital of $250 m. On 2/26, the PA and Israeli delegations met at Erez to discuss the import and export of agricultural goods and allowing Palestinian trucks (virtually banned from Israel since the closure began 1/22) to carry produce into Israel.

Progress Achieved

At 5/7-8 Joint Liaison Committee meeting following the 4/ 27 crisis over the Jerusalem land confiscation issue, Israel made several concessions to keep the PA at the table, including approving plans for a heliport in Gaza, permitting 6,000 additional Palestinian workers into Israel, transferring $3 m. in tax money, improving the flow of trucks through checkpoints into Israel, releasing 250 pro-Fatah prisoners, and setting up an unofficial joint Jerusalem Committee to discuss expropriations. On 5/9, the PA postponed the first meeting of the committee until 5/14 after Israel refused to set an agenda in advance.

On 2/23, the Arab states began accepting Palestinian postage stamps on letters from the self-rule areas. All such mail is to be routed through Egypt. Other states will accept the stamps once 2/3 of Universal Postal Union approve them.

On 3/29, the PA Interior Min. began issuing Palestinian passports. On 4/13 however, Israel began confiscating passports issued to West Bank and Jerusalem Palestinians for travel to Saudi Arabia for the hajj.

jj. On 3/25, the PA approved a plan for a public communications company servicing the self-rule areas. On 5/2, Arafat approved the creation of the Palestine Telecommunications Company, with plans for 600,000 phone lines and 200,000 cellular phones by 2005.

Structure of Negotiations

Aside from the meetings between PM Rabin or FM Peres and Chmn. Arafat, five bodies are directly involved in the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on interim arrangements during the transitional stage, as follows:

Joint Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Committee

Established under Article X of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) to deal with matters requiring coordination and disputes, it was charged under Art. XV of the Gaza-Jericho agreement of 4 May 1994 to "ensure the smooth implementation" of the said agreement. Though not strictly speaking a negotiating body, in fact some of the more delicate negotiations are carried out under its auspices. The committee was originally headed by Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Shimon Peres, though Nabil Shaath had taken over the Palestinian side since difference between Abbas and Arafat led Abbas to resign (12/ 94).

Negotiating Teams

  1. Elections. The Palestinian team is headed by Saeb Erakat and includes Hasan Asfour, Zahira Kemal, Tawfiq Abu Ghazaleh, and Muhammad Ishtayyeh. The Israeli team is headed by Yoel Singer of the foreign office and has the same number of members as the Palestinian team. The negotiations, held most often in Cairo but sometimes elsewhere, including Gaza and Tel Aviv, deal with: how elections will be held; Israeli involvement in elections; the size and nature of the elected council (legislative or administrative); the authority of the council and president; participation of Jerusalemites (eligibility to vote and/or run); and updating the population census.
  2. Transfer of Authority. The Palestinian team is headed by Jamil alTarifi (although negotiations are sometimes led by Shaath or Arafat). The Israeli team is headed by General Oren Shahour (West Bank coordinator for the Defense Ministry) and Uzi Dayan (head of planning in the Army Command). After the transfer of the five spheres mentioned in the DOP, the negotiations, taking place mainly in Cairo and Gaza, began to focus on the transfer of another five spheres: postal matters, industry and trade, labor, energy, and insurance. Recently, three more spheres were added to the agenda: statistics, agriculture, and telecommunication
  3. Redeployment The Palestinian team is headed by 'Abd al-Razak Yahya, the Israeli team by Uzi Dayan. The issues negotiated include: redeployment of Israeli forces; redeployment phasing; personnel to be redeployed (army only or all security personnel); joint patrols; and roads and access. 
  4. Legal Affairs. The negotiations on legal affairs have not yet begun, being linked to talks during the second phase of the transitional period involving transfer of authority to the rest of the West Bank.

On the Palestinian side, the four negotiating teams report to the Higher Committee on the Negotiations, which decides on negotiating strategies and the composition of the negotiating teams. The committee, which meets weekly, is headed by Mahmud Abbas or, in his absence, by Yasir 'Abid Rabbu; the general secretary is Hasan Asfour. Other committee members are: Frayh Abu-Midyan (legal matters), Ziyad al-Atrash (security matters), Saeb Erakat (elections), Faisal Husseini (multilateral negotiations), 'Abd al-Razak Yahya (security), Ahmad Qurai' (economics), Nabil Shaath, and Jamil al-Tarifi (civil matters and liaison).

Coordinating Committees

They make up the other component of the bilateral process as established under the Gaza-Jericho agreement, providing for coordination and cooperation in various domains and monitoring the implementation of whatever agreements are concluded in the negotiations. The three committees are as follows:

  1. Joint Civil Affairs Coordination and Cooperation Committee (CAC), set up by virtue of Art. 111.5 of the 4 May agreement, meets almost daily at the Erez checkpoint on the Green Line between Gaza and Israel. The head of the Palestinian team is Jamil al-Tarifi. The head of the Israeli team is Uri Savir, director general of the Foreign Ministry.
  2. Joint Coordination and Cooperation Committee for Mutual Security Purposes USC), set up under Art. VIII.3 of the 4 May agreement. The head of the Palestinian team is Ziyad al-Atrash (other members: Freij al-Khaytri and Jamal Zaqut), and the head of the Israeli team is Ami Najjar, former head of the Israeli Military Administration.
  3. Joint Economic Committee UEC), set up under Art. II of the 4 May agreement. Unlike the previous two coordinating committees, the JEC's mandate covers not only the self-rule areas of Gaza and Jericho during the transitional phase, but also the rest of the West Bank. The head of the Palestinian team is Ahmad Qurai', while the head of the Israeli team is Avraham Shohat. Meeting in Paris, Jericho, and Gaza, the committee addresses: trade relations, taxes and tax structures, tariffs, ports and border crossings, and free market agreement.

The Palestinian components of the three committees report directly to the PA cabinet.