Press Release (2 August 1999)

Mr. Barak and the Wye River Memorandum

While claiming commitment to the Wye River Memorandum, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is nevertheless proposing to forego the third stage of Israeli redeployment in the West Bank and consequently the third phase of redeployment in accordance with the existing agreements. The proposals or “ideas” are being presented as small adjustments to the Wye Memorandum, when in fact they abrogate the Memorandum and negate one of the basic tenets of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of 1995, as well as of the Declaration of Principles of 1993 itself (also known as the Oslo Accords).

To refresh our memory, the Wye River Memorandum was signed on 23 October 1998 by President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu and also signed personally by the President of the United States, Mr. Bill Clinton. The Memorandum is simply comprised of steps to facilitate implementation of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of 1995 and other interim agreements, including the Note for the Record of 1997. These steps are to be carried out in a parallel phased approach, in accordance with an attached time line, which extends for 12 weeks. Prime Minister Netanyahu froze the implementation of the Memorandum before Stage 2 of the Israeli redeployment and in spite of the personal involvement of the U.S. President and his trip to Gaza in December 1998 to witness the Palestinian meeting relating to the PLO Charter.

Stage 2 involves the redeployment from 5% of the West Bank from total Israeli control in Area C to shared control – Area B – which should be effected without delay the moment that implementation of the Memorandum is resumed. The third stage of further redeployment, which should be effected in 6 weeks, involves a 6% Israeli withdrawal from Area C, 5% of which will be to Area B and 1% to Area A. In addition, 7.1% of Area B, which is under shared control, should be transferred to Area A. The third stage comprises about half of the 13% area from which Israel should redeploy in accordance with the Memorandum.

This is the stage that Mr. Barak wants to avoid, which of course means that the third phase, which is supposed to be negotiated in a special committee established under the Memorandum, will also not be effected. In reality, Mr. Barak wants to negate the whole concept of “further redeployment” during the transitional period and move directly to final settlement negotiations. This is precisely what the former Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu, wanted to do before the conclusion of the Wye River Memorandum, when he called for accelerated negotiations on a final settlement instead of implementing agreed upon transitional steps. The difference is that Mr. Barak is proposing this after the conclusion of the Wye Agreement and not before its existence, which is even worse.

Mr. Barak might try another maneuver if he concludes that this one is too extreme and insulting for any Palestinian to accept. He might try to “postpone” only the transfer of the 7.1% from Area B to Area A. He might invent a new time line or attempt to negotiate the existing time line, all coupled with statements of a threatening tone regarding Palestinian obligations and about future difficulties or stumbling blocks that may arise if full implementation were to be pursued. All of the above is outrageous. Mr. Barak seems to want it all – to appear committed to the Wye Memorandum, knowing its status, but simultaneously abrogating it. At the same time, he wants the Palestinian side to be happy and accommodating.

The Wye River Memorandum must be implemented in full and it cannot be renegotiated, neither in substance nor with regard to the time line. It must be implemented as a matter of principle and it must be implemented because it is the right thing. We hope that this will be the Israeli position so that the Middle East peace process can be brought back on track towards its intended goals.