Highlights

  • Israeli-American Pact Against Ballistic Missiles: The U.S. and Israel signed a pact on 1 November 1998, committing themselves to strengthening Israel’s strategic defense and deterrence capacities as a means of safeguarding Israel’s security. The agreement states that, considering the "developing regional threats emanating from the acquisition of ballistic missile capabilities and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," the two countries have decided to cooperate towards "enhancing Israel’s defensive and deterrent capabilities and upgrading the framework of the U.S.-Israel strategic and military relationship." Obviously, the word ‘deterrent’ goes beyond the development of Israel’s defensive capabilities and actually covers offensive capabilities as well.

The perceived missile threat from Iran, as well as that from Iraq, is said to have been the impetus for the enhancement of the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Israel. In this regard, the document states that "the United States Government would view with particular gravity direct threats to Israel’s security arising from the regional development of ballistic missiles of intermediate range or greater." Moreover, there have been rumors that this pact might have been part of the American-Israeli deal to facilitate Israeli acceptance of the Wye River Memorandum. Further, the establishment of this relationship is to be accompanied by defense aid to Israel, which President Clinton has specifically stated cannot be used by Israel for military investment in the occupied territory.

  • Palestinians Get Their Own International Telephone Code: On 5 November 1998, it was announced that the Palestinian Authority had obtained an international telephone code for the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Until this recent development, the occupied territories have had to use the same code as Israel, namely 972. According to the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Posts and Communications, this change in the telephone code "carries a deep meaning because it is one of the basic steps on the road to announcing an independent Palestinian State in all areas."

It was at a meeting held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 4 November 1998, that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) voted by a large majority to give the Palestinians the code 970. It is not yet clear however exactly what areas the new code will cover. A joint Palestinian-Israeli telecommunications committee, which was established following the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993, will soon meet to discuss implementation of this change.

  • Meeting of Experts on the 4th Geneva Convention Convened: At the invitation of Switzerland, in its capacity as depository of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, a meeting of experts of High Contracting Parties to the Convention was held from 27 to 29 October 1998 in Geneva to consider general problems concerning the 4th Geneva Convention and seek possible remedies which would contribute to respect for the Convention in general, and in particular in occupied territories. Experts from 148 States participated, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and U.N. agencies. Palestine participated as an observer, while objecting to the Swiss formulation for such participation.

The exact relationship between the meeting of experts and the resolutions of the 10th Emergency Special Session, however, was not clear enough. The same applies to the outcome of the meeting, which is to be put forth by the Chairman of the meeting in his report to the High Contracting Parties and the U.N. Secretary-General. While the meeting was useful, the main issue, of course, remains the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention on the enforcement of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.