The Year in Review 

The following is a look back at the significant events related to the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East in general, which took place during 1997:

Jan. 1: In Hebron, an Israeli soldier opens fire on Palestinian civilians in the marketplace, wounding 7 people, and precipitating clashes between settlers and Palestinian civilians. The Israeli army injures another 9 people and imposes a curfew on the city.

Jan. 10: Palestinian Airlines begins its operations from El-Arish, Egypt, but its flights are not allowed to operate from Rafah Airport in Gaza because of continuous Israeli delays in concluding the airport agreement.

Jan. 15: Palestinian and Israeli negotiators initial a Hebron Protocol, with an attached U.S. "Note for the Record". Letters of assurances are also exchanged between the U.S. and the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Within 2 days, the Israeli army begins redeploying in Hebron. Also on 15 January, the Israeli army begins the forced eviction of the Jahalin Bedouins in the West Bank, in preparation for the expansion of the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, east of occupied Jerusalem.

Jan. 19: President Arafat goes to Hebron for the first time, where he is welcomed by 60,000 Palestinians.

Feb. 11: After long delays, Israel releases 31 female Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Feb. 13: In accordance with the Hebron protocol, the Israeli army reopens the Hebron central market. Settlers then enter the market and clash with Palestinians, claiming that the market is a security risk to Jewish settlers.

March 2-5: President Arafat visits the U.S., meeting with President Clinton, Secretary of State Albright, and former presidents Bush and Carter. He also visits the U.N., where he meets with the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, and privately with members of the Security Council.

March 4: Israel announces its decision to redeploy from an additional 2% of the West Bank and from another 7% already under Palestinian civil authority (Area B). The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) rejects this decision, as it does not comply with the agreements reached and the Note for the Record of 15 January 1997. Prime Minister (PM) Netanyahu also orders 4 Palestinian offices closed in East Jerusalem and announces Israel’s decision to build a new settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim, to the south of East Jerusalem.

March 7: The U.S. vetoes a Security Council (SC) draft resolution, presented by the four European members of the Security Council regarding the issue of Jerusalem, which calls upon Israel to abandon its impending construction of a new settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim.

March 12-13: The U.N. General Assembly (GA), at the request of the Arab Group, resumes its 51st session to address the situation and passes a resolution bearing the same text as that vetoed in the SC. Resolution 51/223 is adopted by a vote of 130-2 (U.S. and Israel opposed).

March 21: The U.S. again vetoes a SC resolution calling upon Israel to halt the construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim. In a Tel Aviv cafe, a suicide bomber kills himself and 3 Israelis.

March 30: As Palestinians observe Land Day, Israeli troops and tanks surround West Bank towns.

April 24-25: The U.N. GA convenes, for the first time in 15 years, an emergency special session (ESS) to consider "Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory". It overwhelmingly adopts a strong resolution (ES-10/2) condemning Israel’s construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim, demanding cessation of all illegal Israeli actions, recommending collective measures, and establishing mechanisms for follow-up

May 7: The U.N. Committee against Torture in Geneva summons Israel for a hearing to face accusations that it violates the International Convention against Torture. The committee criticizes Israel for being the sole nation to have codified and legalized the use of torture in interrogation.

May 26: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announces that it is technically bankrupt and makes an urgent plea for $25 million to meet its 1997 budget.

June 3: Ehud Barak, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff, wins elections for Labor party leader.

June 4: PM Netanyahu informally presents an outline of his final peace settlement, which includes full Israeli control over "Greater" Jerusalem, clusters of settlements, the Jordan valley, water resources and key roads.

June 5: This day marks the 30th anniversary of the June 1967 War and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. The United Nations holds a solemn meeting on 9 June, organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to commemorate the 30th year of the occupation.

June 10: The U.S. House of Representatives votes (406-17) to approve a nonbinding resolution recognizing Jerusalem as the "undivided capital" of Israel. President Clinton opposes the measure as harmful to the peace process. The vote instigates days of protests and clashes with the Israeli army in Hebron in which tens of Palestinians are injured.

June 13: The U.N. GA votes that Israel should pay $1.7 million to cover the costs of its 18 April 1996 attack on Qana, Lebanon. Israel rejects this decision, which represents the first time a country is held accountable for peacekeeping costs.

June 17: European Union leaders issue the Amsterdam Declaration which, for the first time, urges Israel "to recognize the right of Palestinians to exercise self-determination, without excluding the option of a state."

June 22: At their annual summit, held in Denver, the heads of major industrial nations (the Summit of Eight) issue a communiqué calling for a reinvigoration of the Oslo process and calling upon all sides "to refrain from actions that impede the peace process by preempting permanent status talks."

June 28: An Israeli woman is arrested in Hebron after putting up posters depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed as a pig. This triggers days of protests by Palestinians and clashes with the Israeli army.

July 15: The U.N. GA reconvenes the 10th Emergency Special Session to consider the report of the Secretary-General on the actual situation in the occupied territory; it again overwhelmingly adopts a resolution (ES-10/3) condemning Israeli settlement policy and recommending the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.

July 24: Ehud Olmert gives permission to an American, Irving Moskowitz, to build a new Jewish settlement at Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem.

July 30: 13 Israelis are killed when two suicide bombers detonate explosives in a crowded market in West Jerusalem. Israel imposes a total closure, using troops to seal off the West Bank and Gaza and to prevent inter-town movement. In the days that follow, hundreds of Palestinians are arrested, the Gaza coast is sealed off to fisherman, and Israel refuses to transfer financial revenues owed to the PNA.

July 31: In response to the bombing, PM Netanyahu threatens to send commandos into the PNA areas. Israel continues to arrest dozens of Palestinians and to demolish Palestinian homes.

Aug. 20: A Palestinian National Unity Conference is held in Ramallah and attended by leaders of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other PLO factions.

Sept. 5: Three suicide bombers blow themselves up in an outdoor mall in West Jerusalem, killing 4 Israelis and wounding 180 people.

Sept. 10-12: Secretary Albright makes her first trip to the region and meets with President Arafat and PM Netanyahu.

Sept. 15: Protected by police, three Jewish families move into houses bought by Irving Moskowitz in Ras al-Amud. Days later, the Israeli government announces that they will be replaced by Yeshiva students.

Sept. 26: Israeli Mossad agents botch an attempt to kill a Hamas political leader, Khaled Meshal, in Amman, Jordan. Four days later, Israel releases Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who had been imprisoned since 1989, and flies him to Amman in exchange for the Mossad assassins. He returns home to Gaza on Oct. 6.

Sept. 29: Meeting in New York with Secretary Albright, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators agree to resume talks at a later date in Washington DC; the talks will address security, further redeployment, a time out on unilateral steps, and the acceleration of permanent status talks, as well as already overdue issues, such as the safe passage, the seaport and the airport.

Oct. 8: At the border between Gaza and Israel, President Arafat and PM Netanyahu meet for the first time in eight months to discuss peace negotiations.

Nov. 3-5: Palestinian and Israeli negotiators hold talks in Washington DC with U.S. participation, but fail to reach any agreement.

Nov. 13: For the second time, the 10th ESS is resumed, at the request of the Arab Group. The resumption is convened to follow-up the results of the previous two meetings and to consider the report of the Secretary-General on the issue of convening a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention to enforce Israeli compliance. Resolution ES-10/4 is overwhelmingly adopted, requesting the Swiss government, in its capacity as the depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to undertake the necessary steps in this regard, including the convening of a meeting of experts, with a target date not later than the end of February 1998.

Nov. 14: Secretary Albright meets with PM Netanyahu in London, and then the following day in Geneva with President Arafat. No concrete results come out of the meetings.

Dec. 1: The annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed at the U.N. This day marks the adoption, on 29 November 1947, of U.N. resolution 181 (II), which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, with Jerusalem as a corpus separatum. This year also marks 50 years since the partition of Palestine.

Dec. 9: This day marks the ten-year anniversary of the start of the intifada (uprising). The GA addresses the agenda items on the Question of Palestine and the Situation in the Middle East. During the following days, it adopts a total of 21 resolutions, 19 of which specifically concern Palestine.

Dec. 11: The PNA, in a step towards setting economic and social priorities, conducts its first census to gather data measuring the living conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as East Jerusalem. The survey is carried out in East Jerusalem, despite Israeli protest and legislation banning such activity.

Dec. 18: Secretary Albright meets with PM Netanyahu in Paris and, a few hours later, with President Arafat in London, to discuss the peace process and the delayed Israeli pullback from the West Bank. Netanyahu fails to present her with a detailed plan for an overdue troop withdrawal.

Dec. 19: PM Netanyahu states that the occupied West Bank is "part of Israel proper", an illegal claim that destroys the basis and the aims of the Middle East peace process, one of which is the implementation of SC resolution 242 (1967). Other Israeli officials try to back-pedal from his statement.