• South Africa and Namibia join the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People: South Africa and Namibia officially participated for the first time as members of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, elevating the total membership of the Committee to twenty-five member states. The meeting, which was the first of the Committee in 1998, was held on 5 February 1998, and was chaired by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan. The Committee reelected the Ambassador of Senegal, H.E. Mr. Ibra Deguene Ka, as the Chairman of the Committee and reelected the Ambassadors of Cuba and Afghanistan as Vice-Chairmen, as well as the Ambassador of Malta as the Rapporteur of the Committee.

The Observer of Palestine warmly welcomed both South Africa and Namibia to membership in the Committee and expressed appreciation for the role of the Chairman and other members of the Bureau of the Committee as did other members who spoke at the meeting. Presiding over the meeting after his reelection, the Chairman reported on the preparations for the Conference in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which is to be held in Brussels, Belgium from 24 to 25 February 1998. The Conference is being organized by the Committee in cooperation with the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference and is expected to draw considerable political attention and to have high-level representation.

  • President Clinton and the Palestinian People: When President Yasser Arafat visited Washington, D.C. on 22 January 1998, he met with President Bill Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, Secretary of State Madeline Albright and other U.S. officials. It is significant that, during the visit of President Arafat, President Clinton stated, inter alia, the following: "I also would like to take just a second to underline the principles of the peace process: mutual obligations and the concept of land for peace, so that Israeli can live in security, recognized by all their neighbors; and the Palestinians can realize their aspirations to live as a free people." This is as close as Mr. Clinton has ever come to endorsing the concept of the Palestinian right to self-determination and statehood.

The visit of President Arafat was preceded by a visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu. During his visit, Mr. Netanyahu made yet another dangerous statement when he said that if the Palestinians really wanted 80 or 90 percent of the territory, then it would not be possible to achieve peace. The Prime Minister also expressed various other positions inconsistent with the agreements reached, and as a result, the two visits did not lead to any progress in the deadlocked Middle East peace process.

  • 2.9 Million Palestinians in the Palestinian Territory: The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released preliminary results based on the enumerator summary, pending the availability of the machine-readable data of the 1997 Census of population, housing and establishments. The results include a count of population by sex, place of residence and governorate, as well as a count of households, buildings and housing units. The estimate of the total population in the Palestinian territory was 2,890,631 persons on census night. (This total has been adjusted for census net under count of 2.4%.) Of these persons, 1,869,818 are in the West Bank, including the illegally annexed Jerusalem, and 1,020,813 are in the Gaza Strip. A direct count in East Jerusalem was forcefully prevented by the occupying authorities, but through a variety of means, an estimate of about 210,209 persons living in that area was reached.