Palestine Responds to Israeli Foreign Minister’s Letter to U.N. Secretary-General 

On 2 November 1998, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N. addressed two letters to the Secretary-General of the U.N. and the President of the Security Council, in response to two letters that had been sent, on 30 October 1998, to the Secretary-General from the Foreign Minister of Israel and the Permanent Representative of Israel to the U.N. The letter of the Foreign Minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon, regarded the recently concluded Wye River Memorandum, while the second letter dealt with events on the ground following the signing of the Memorandum.

The Foreign Minister’s letter basically presented Israel’s flawed interpretation of the Wye Memorandum, prejudicial language, and various distortions regarding the provisions of the Memorandum and the present involvement and responsibility of the U.N. with regard to the question of Palestine. Among other matters, including remarks about the PLO Charter and Israel's desire for membership in a regional group at the U.N., these issues were directly addressed in Palestine’s letter.

With regard to the general tone and nature of the Israeli letter, the Permanent Observer of Palestine stated, "It is unfortunate that the Israeli side chose to present a flawed interpretation of the Wye River Memorandum of 23 October 1998 in a United Nations document, rather than choosing to present, jointly with the Palestinian side, the text of the Memorandum for the information of Member States, as was the case with previous agreements, in an effort to nurture a common understanding of such an important agreement."

Further, with regard to Mr. Sharon’s use of archaic and prejudicial language, the letter stated that, "It is shocking that the Foreign Minister, while speaking of the agreement, uses a phrase like "Judea and Samaria" to describe the West Bank, in flagrant violation of the Wye River Memorandum and other existing agreements between the two sides. The use of such a term is indicative of an expansionist ideology and policies."

As for Israel’s call for the General Assembly to refrain from adopting traditional resolutions on the question of Palestine "that prejudge the outcome of the final status negotiations, including the issue of statehood", Palestine firmly rejected Israel’s inaccurate depiction of the role and responsibilities of the U.N. in this new era of agreements between the two sides. The Permanent Observer stated in the letter, "We once more reiterate that the existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements do not, cannot and should not negate international law or relevant United Nations resolutions. It is the right and the duty of the United Nations, given its permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine, to reaffirm its resolutions. Further, it was reaffirmed that, "the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to a State, do not stem from the existing agreements; they are natural rights congruous with the Charter of the United Nations and established positions of the international community."

The second letter sent by Palestine responded to comments made in another letter by the Israeli side regarding a bombing attempt on an Israeli bus on 29 October 1998, which had been unequivocally condemned by Palestinian officials. The Israeli letter also contained distorted interpretations of commitments detailed in the Wye Memorandum, which were clarified in the Palestinian letter, particularly those concerning the halting of violence by extremists on both sides.

Furthermore, the letter sent by Palestine addressed the issue of continuing illegal Israeli settlement activities, particularly the action by Jewish settlers, with the Government’s permission, to resume work at Ras al-Amud in Occupied East Jerusalem and the announcement regarding the building of 200 units on the edge of a Jewish settlement in Al-Khalil, in violation of the international law and the bilateral agreements between the two sides as well.

In this connection, although the outset following the signing of the Wye Memorandum has not appeared optimistic, the Permanent Observer expressed the strong hope that all violations would be brought to an end and that both sides could proceed with the implementation of the Memorandum towards the required and urgent implementation of the existing agreements as a whole.