Year in Review

Jan. 22: President Arafat visits Washington, D.C., where he meets with President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Secretary of State Albright. During the visit, President Clinton states, inter alia, that: "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 Israelis can live in security, recognized by all their neighbors; and the Palestinians can realize their aspirations to live as a free people."

Feb. 4: The Israeli Ministry of the Interior authorizes the construction of 132 illegal Jewish housing units in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.

Feb. 26: The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics releases preliminary results of the 1997 census of population, housing and establishments. The estimate of the total population in the Palestinian territory is approximately 2.9 million (2,890,631) persons.

Feb. 24-25: The Conference in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People is held in Brussels, Belgium with the participation of President Arafat and the Foreign Minister of Belgium, Mr. Erik Derycke. The Conference is organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in coordination with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the League of Arab States. Attendance at the Conference included a large number of member states, the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General of the OIC and the Vice-President of Columbia (on behalf of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries [NAM]).

March 10: At least 3 Palestinians are shot and killed and nine are wounded critically when Israeli soldiers open fire on a mini-van at a checkpoint manned by Israeli soldiers near Al-Khalil. In the week that follows, more than 70 Palestinians are wounded in clashes with the Israeli military forces.

March 15-17: The 25th Session of the Foreign Ministers of the OIC convenes in Doha, Qatar and adopts several resolutions reaffirming, inter alia, the OIC’s full support for the Palestinian struggle to end the Israeli occupation, achieve self-determination, and establish their own independent state. They also reaffirm that Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967.

March 17: For the third time, the General Assembly resumes the 10th ESS to address "Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory." It overwhelmingly adopts Resolution ES-10/5, reaffirming the previous resolutions of the ESS, reiterating demands for full Israeli implementation of these resolutions, and reiterating, in specific, the recommendations for 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. The resolution also reiterates the need for the convening of an experts meeting in preparation for the conference and extends the target date for that meeting until the end of April 1998.

That same day, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook surveys the construction site of a Jewish settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim to the south of occupied East Jerusalem from a nearby vantage point, despite protests by the Israeli government.

March 23-24: The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, visits the Palestinian Territory where he is met by President Arafat. Later, he meets with Palestinian leaders in East Jerusalem. The visit is part of a tour of the region, which includes Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Israel.

May 1: At a meeting in Ramallah, the Palestinian cabinet, chaired by PA President Arafat, accepts the U.S. proposal to move the Middle East peace process forward. The proposal calls on Israel to turn over 13.1% of the West Bank to Palestinian civil control and joint security control. Another 14% would move from the area under joint control to total Palestinian control.

May 4: President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu meet with U.S. Secretary of State Albright in London but fail to reach an agreement because of Israel’s refusal to accept the U.S. proposal. Secretary Albright invites both leaders to Washington, D.C., but that visit does not take place.

May 7: U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, addressing a group of Palestinian and Israeli youths, states that "I think that it will be in the long-term interests of the Middle East for Palestine to be a state . . . a functioning modern state that is on the same equal footing as other states." She states further that the creation of an independent Palestinian State is "very important for the Palestinian people" and for the "broader goal of peace in the Middle East."

May 11: A "Bethlehem 2000 Participants Conference" is convened in Brussels, in association with the European Commission, the UNDP, UNESCO, and the World Bank. The purpose of the conference is to increase the participation of various sectors of the international community in the planning and promotion of the Bethlehem 2000 projects.

May 13: The European Commission calls upon the European Union (EU) not to allow imports from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to benefit from trade privileges granted to Israel

May 14: Palestinians commemorate the 50th anniversary of Al-Nakba (the catastrophe), the dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948. Events are held in both the occupied territories and in the Diaspora. Nine Palestinians are killed in the Gaza Strip in confrontations with Israeli troops during the marches. The protests turn violent in the southern Gaza Strip and at the Israel-Gaza border. Demonstrations are also held in Palestinian-ruled cities in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

May 19-20: The Ministerial Meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of NAM convenes in Cartagena, Colombia where the Ministers reiterate their traditional longstanding solidarity with the Palestinian people. They solemnly note the 50th Anniversary of the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land, homes and properties, and call for the implementation of all U.N. resolutions on the question of Palestine, including those related to Palestine refugees. They also reiterate their support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to retain their homeland and to have their own independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.

May 24: Israel stages a military parade in Jerusalem to mark the 31st anniversary of the occupation of Arab East Jerusalem, in flagrant violation of international law and U.N. resolutions.

May 25: Jewish militants are caught illegally laying the foundations for eight new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City. The following day, Israeli police beat Palestinian legislators when they try to tear down illegal makeshift houses erected by the extremist group Ateret Cohanim.

May 28: Jerusalem city workers demolish the sheds set up by Jewish settlers from the extremist group Ateret Cohanim. However, in a compromise negotiated by Israeli Cabinet ministers, the settler group is authorized to maintain a presence on the disputed plot, just inside the Old City.

June 8-10: The Organization of African Unity (OAU) holds its annual Summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. At the Summit, the African nations reiterate their solidarity and support of the Palestinian people through the adoption of a strong resolution. President Arafat attends the summit and delivers a statement.

June 9: The Israeli government officially approves the construction of 58 illegal housing units for Jewish settlers in the area of the Mount of Olives in Occupied East Jerusalem.

June 11: The Israeli army authorizes the creation of "civil defense militias" inside Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which are to work alongside the IDF and other security forces to guard Jewish settlements.

June 11-18: As part of an ongoing campaign of home demolitions, Israeli military authorities demolish 10 Palestinian homes and two apartment complexes in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

June 18: Netanyahu announces the Israeli government’s plans for "the development of Jerusalem," which includes the creation of an "umbrella municipality" with administrative powers over nearby towns in Israel, as well as over some Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The plan includes accelerated construction of roads for those settlements, a multi-year housing investment plan, and new infrastructure.

July 7: The U.N. General Assembly upgrades the representation of Palestine at the U.N. A resolution entitled "Participation of Palestine in the Work of the United Nations" is adopted by a vote of 124 in favor, 4 against, and 10 abstentions.

July 13: After a debate on 30 June, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts a statement calling Israel’s plan to expand Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries "a serious and damaging development" and calling on the Jewish state "not to take any other steps which would prejudice the outcome of the permanent status negotiations."

July 29: The Jerusalem Committee meets under the sponsorship of King Hassan of Morocco, who announces the creation of a special fund for Arab East Jerusalem (Beit al-Mal) which aims at boosting investment in the city and at helping Palestinians buy land.

Sept. 7: The Israeli Interior Ministry announces that the settler population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has grown by 3.3% from 163,881 to 169,339 in the first six months of 1998. By the end of June 1998, there are 163,173 settlers living in the West Bank and 6,166 in the Gaza Strip. According to the report, 86,202 settlers live in nine of the 144 settlements, including "Ma'aleh Adumim", "Ariel", "Givat Ze'ev", "Efrat", "Kiryat Sefer’ and "Betar." These figures do not include the settler population in Arab East Jerusalem.

Sept. 13: This day marks the 5th anniversary since the formal signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (widely known as the "Oslo" Agreement). No big fanfare is organized to commemorate this anniversary given the serious deterioration of the situation on the ground and the dire situation of the Middle East peace process

Sept. 17: Prime Minister Netanyahu approves the ten-fold expansion (600 housing units) in "Yitzhar," a West Bank settlement east of Nablus. The Israeli project, to be built on 165 acres of land belonging to four Palestinian villages, also calls for construction of a major complex of public buildings.

A Jewish settler shoots to death Iyad Hashem, a Palestinian teenager, and wounds four others in a clash near Ramallah. The settler is said to have opened fire without reason at schoolboys near Ein Areek-Beitunia intersection, south west of Ramallah.

Sept. 25: The Palestinian Cabinet issues a statement saying that President Arafat will declare a State on 4 May 1999 - the end of the five-year interim period - with or without Israel's agreement.

Sept. 27: President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu meet with U.S. Secretary of State Albright in New York City. The next day, the two leaders are received by President Clinton at the White House for a meeting, during which they agree to convene a full-scale summit in October.

Sept. 28: Palestine participates, for the first time, in the General Debate of the U.N. General Assembly. President Arafat addresses the plenary during the opening segment of the 53rd session of the GA on behalf of Palestine, marking the first time that an entity that is not a Member State participates in the General Debate.

Oct. 23: The Wye River Memorandum is signed by President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu and witnessed by President Clinton, as well as by King Hussein of Jordan, during a ceremony at the White House. The Memorandum, reached after nearly 10 days of secluded meetings at the Wye Plantation Center in Maryland, provides steps for the long-overdue implementation of the interim agreements between the two sides.

Oct. 29: A suicide bomber tries to blow up a school bus from the Jewish settlement of "Gush Katif" in Gaza, wounding several children and killing a soldier. After the attack, the Palestinian Authority places Hamas leader Sheik Ahmad Yassin under house arrest.

Nov. 4: The Palestinian areas are assigned their own international telephone code (970) at a meeting of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Nov.11: The Israeli cabinet ratifies the Wye River Memorandum. Six days later, it is ratified by the Israeli Knesset.

Nov. 19: Under the terms of the Wye Memorandum, Israeli troops begin to withdraw from areas in the northern West Bank.

Nov. 20: Israel releases the first batch of 250 Palestinians from Israeli jails, as stipulated in the Wye Memorandum. It turns out that the prisoners released are common criminals, rather than political prisoners. In the ensuing few weeks, the issue becomes a source of tension, as widespread demonstrations are held and Palestinian prisoners conduct hunger strikes.

Nov. 24: After much delay, the Gaza International Airport ceremoniously opens with the arrival of seven airplanes. (*In the December issue of the Palestine & the UN, this date was mistakenly cited as Nov. 22.)

Nov. 30: The U.S. State Department hosts a one-day international donor’s conference in Washington, D.C. to aid the Palestinians. Attended by President Clinton, President Arafat and Ministers from European and Arab countries, the conference brings an estimated $3 billion in new pledges of aid for the Palestinians. The largest donations are pledged by the U.S., EU, Japan, Norway, and the Gulf States.

As part of a 3-day visit to Washington, D.C., President Arafat meets with several members of the U.S. government, including with President Clinton at the White House and with Congressional leaders Rep. Bob Livingston and Rep. Richard Gephardt on Capitol Hill. He also meets with Secretary of State Albright in the first meeting of the U.S.-Palestinian Commission in an effort to invigorate the Commission and improve bilateral relations between the American and Palestinian governments.

The United Nations solemnly commemorates the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (29 November) and serves as the host to an annual exhibit devoted to Palestinian culture and heritage. The theme of this year’s exhibit is Bethlehem 2000 and displays pictures, artifacts, and cultural items from the Palestinian town of Bethlehem.

Dec. 10: The Palestinian Central Council meets in Gaza and votes to approve the letter from Chairman Arafat to President Clinton which explains the specific ramifications of the 1996 PNC decision on the Palestine National Charter.

Dec. 14.: U.S. President Clinton flies into Gaza International Airport by helicopter, making history as the first American president ever to visit a Palestinian area. President Clinton is accompanied by the First Lady, their daughter, and by a large official delegation which includes the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor. The next day, the Clintons visit Bethlehem where, after being received by President Arafat and Mrs. Arafat, they tour the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square.

That same day, at the invitation of Chairman Yasser Arafat, the speaker of the PNC, and the speaker of the Palestinian Council, members of the PNC, and members of the Central Council, the Palestinian Legislative Council, Palestinian heads of Ministries, and other personalities convene a meeting in Gaza which is addressed by President Clinton. The participants reaffirm Arafat’s letter to President Clinton on the Charter.

Dec. 15: A trilateral meeting is held at the Erez Checkpoint in Gaza between President Clinton, President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu. The meeting fails to provide concrete results after Mr. Netanyahu refuses to set a date for further troop redeployment.

The General Assembly adopts resolution 53/196, Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, by a vote of 144-2-12. The resolution is the last to be adopted in a package 20 resolutions and one decision dealing specifically with the question of Palestine.

Dec. 20: The Israeli cabinet adopts a decision effectively suspending implementation of the Wye Memorandum and imposing five conditions upon the Palestinian side and upon any further Israeli troop redeployments. The decision provokes much reaction on the part of the international community, including the U.S., Russia and the EU.

Dec. 21: The Israeli parliament passes, by an overwhelming majority, the first reading of a bill calling for early elections after Netanyahu fails to win support for his policies regarding the peace process. Following the decision, which, in effect, dissolves the cabinet and the parliament itself, the new election date is set for 17 May 1999.

Dec. 27: The Palestinian Authority ends the house arrest under which Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin had been placed since October 29th.