On 29 December 1996, an off-duty Israeli soldier indiscriminately opened fire on
Palestinian civilians in the market of the old city of Al-Khalil (Hebron), wounding at
least 7 Palestinians in what could have been another massacre against the Palestinians in
the city by an Israeli extremist. This heinous crime was condemned worldwide. The incident
recalled the dark images of the massacre which led to the killing of more than 30
Palestinian worshippers in Al-Ibrahimi mosque on 25 February 1994. The two acts, in
addition to the assassination of the late Prime Minister Rabin, raise serious concerns
about terrorist acts committed by Israelis and serve as a new reminder of the danger
created by extreme Israeli tendencies and groups as well as the need to provide protection
for Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
- The United Nations Security Council has been seized with the issue of the Israeli plan
to build a new settlement in Ras al-Amud in Occupied East Jerusalem. The Permanent
Observer of Palestine sent a letter, on 13 December 1996, to the President of the Security
Council in this regard. This was followed by strong Arab support, conveyed in another
letter by the Chairman of the Arab Group to the President of the Council, requesting a
formal meeting of the Council. The President then summoned the Israeli charge' d'affaires
and conveyed the position of the members of the Council in opposition of any settlement
activities, especially the plan in Ras al-Amud. The four European members of the Council
took the initiative of presenting a draft resolution, which was welcomed by the members of
the Council and the Palestinian side. The U.S., however, objected to any action by the
Council, citing the ongoing U.S. efforts with regard to the peace process. Nevertheless,
at the request of Non-Aligned Movement's members of the Council, the issue remains on the
agenda of the Security Council and will be followed during the course of this month.
- A bipartisan group of former high level U.S. officials who had been involved with the
Middle East peace process sent a letter, dated 14 December 1996, to the Prime Minister of
Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to stop settlement activities. In the letter,
they stated, "We write because we are concerned that unilateral actions, such as the
expansion of settlements, would be strongly counterproductive to the goal of a negotiated
solution and, if carried forward, could halt progress made by the peace process over the
last two decades. Such a tragic result would threaten the security of Israel, the
Palestinians, friendly Arab states, and undermine U.S. interests in the Middle East".
The letter was signed by James Baker III, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Lawrence
Eagleburger, Richard Fairbanks, Brent Scowcroft, Robert Strauss and Cyrus Vance.
in the peace process.
- On 21 December 1996, a group of Christian churches, non-governmental organizations and
individuals, forming the coalition of Churches for Middle East Peace, expressed their
position in favor of a shared Jerusalem in a full-page ad in The New York Times.
The basis of this position and their campaign, in general, is the stance that as
Christians committed to working for peace, they support a negotiated solution for
Jerusalem that respects the human and political rights of both Palestinians and Israelis,
as well as the rights of the three religious communities, Jews, Christians and Muslims.
The coalition has strongly urged the U.S. government to support such a position