- Israeli-American Pact Against Ballistic Missiles: The U.S. and Israel signed a pact
on 1 November 1998, committing themselves to strengthening Israels strategic defense
and deterrence capacities as a means of safeguarding Israels 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
Israels 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 Israels 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 Israels 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 Authoritys 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
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,