¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Israeli Report Admits Systematic Torture of Palestinian Prisoners: On 9 February 2000, an official Israeli report was finally made public, stating that Israelís security service, the Shin Bet, committed systematic torture of Palestinian prisoners and detainees during interrogations. Moreover, the report stated that Shin Bet agents had lied about such actions in court.¬† The findings detailed in the report covered the period of the Palestinian uprising (intifada), from 1988 to 1992.

Despite its original submission to a parliamentary subcommittee in 1995, the report was kept secret until this time.¬† Only following the recommendation of the Israeli Supreme Court were the findings of the report made public.¬† In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Curt finally banned interrogation methods consistently defined by human rights organizations as torture.¬† Prior to that decision, in 1987, the year in which the uprising began, an Israeli government commission had actually approved such violent means of interrogation as acceptable.¬† These methods included, inter alia, violent and excessive shaking, covering a prisonerís head with an odorous sack, and shackling the prisoner in painful positions for long periods of time.¬† Furthermore, as indicated in the report, Shin Bet agents repeatedly and routinely used even more extreme forms of torture on the Palestinians they had detained or imprisoned.

The reportís findings regarding such systematic Israeli torture and violation of the human rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees all serve to prove what the Palestinian side and many international organizations and human rights groups have constantly asserted over the years: that torture was indeed an official, sanctioned and concealed Israeli policy.¬†

         Ministerial Committee on Displaced Persons Convenes: The quadrilateral Committee on Displaced Persons met in Cairo from 6 to 9 February 2000.  The meeting was attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mousa, Jordanian Foreign Minister Khatib, Israeli Foreign Minister Levy, and Palestinian Minister Shaath.

The displaced persons are considered to be those Palestinians who fled the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 hostilities.  In accordance with the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles of 1993, they should have been allowed to return during the transitional period.  However, Israel has continuously delayed the convening of the Committee at all levels and has tried to avoid the implementation of its obligations in this regard.  This has been possible through the use of various tactics, including the refusal to reach agreement on the definition and the number of the displaced persons.

The above-mentioned Ministerial meeting was convened only after a lot of pressure and the meeting arrived at an agreement that all problems in this regard should be resolved in three months, after which the return of the displaced persons has to begin.  If we are to believe the Israeli side this time, those displace persons might finally be able to go back soon to their homes and properties. 

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† President Arafat Visits Washington: President Arafat, accompanied by a large Palestinian delegation, paid another official visit to Washington, D.C. from 19 to 21 January 2000. During his visit, President Arafat had meetings with President Clinton and with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other U.S. State Department officials.¬† In making the trip, President Arafat was seeking support for the peace process, which has been hampered by difficulties during this critical period prior to the deadline for a ďframework agreementĒ, and to seek U.S. assistance with regard to the final settlement negotiations.

At all of the meetings held, the Palestinian side stressed the need for full American engagement and active participation in the peace process.  In this connection, it was proposed that the negotiations on the final settlement be moved to Washington, D.C. (a proposal that the Israeli side later rejected).  The Palestinian side also emphasized the need for full compliance with all of the agreements reached between the two sides and compliance as well with the delineated time limit. During the meetings, President Clinton and other U.S. officials gave clear assurances with regard to both issues.

Contrary to claims by the Israeli media, the Palestinian side did not present any paper to U.S. officials during the visit.  The decision not to do so was the result of a firm conviction that the Israeli side had in fact not yet decided to proceed seriously and in full speed with the negotiations on this track.