Can the Peace Process Be Salvaged?

Palestinians Demand Compliance With Agreements

President Bill Clinton convened an emergency summit to save the Middle East peace process and attempt to set it back on track. President Arafat, Prime Minister Netanyahu and King Hussein attended the meetings, held on 1 and 2 October 1996, but President Mubarak declined, citing lack of preparation and expected Israeli intransigence.

The summit did not produce concrete results, especially with regard to pressing issues such as the closing of the tunnel in Jerusalem and the redeployment of troops from Al-Khalil (Hebron). The parties, however, agreed to hold extensive talks, beginning on Sunday, October 6, at Beit Hanoun on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Some observers also indicated greater readiness on the part of Mr. Arafat and Mr. Netanyahu to deal seriously with each other as one of the results, albeit non-concrete, of the summit.

One thing that all parties agree upon is the fact that the peace process has indeed been in jeopardy and that while the summit, at least for now, prevented further deterioration, the danger is still there threatening the process. Further, every Palestinian believes that the Israeli government of Mr. Netanyahu is responsible for the prevailing situation, basically as a result of a failure to implement overdue provisions of agreements reached and by adopting policies which violate the agreements and render them useless and, moreover, cause greater hardships for the Palestinian people.

What the Palestinian side wants to see then is very concrete and clear: Compliance with the two agreements, the Declaration of Principles of 1993 and the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip of 1995, both signed at the White House in Washington. Compliance, of course, means implementation of the agreements in good faith, on time and without violations, and respect for the fact that all issues of the final settlement will be negotiated.

Under the current circumstances, compliance requires the following by the Israeli side:

  • Restoration of the situation prior to the recent crisis, which requires the closing of the tunnel; ending the siege on Palestinian cities.
  • Immediate implementation of the overdue provisions of the agreements, including the redeployment from Hebron; the redeployment from Area B of the West Bank; release of prisoners and agreement on the airport and other infrastructure projects.
  • Ensuring the freedom of movement of persons and goods, which includes the lifting of the closure; establishment of the safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank; free flow of goods between the Palestinian territory and Israel and the outside world and normal treatment of the Palestinian labor force.
  • Cessation of all actions that may preempt negotiations on the final settlement, including the termination of all settlement activities, whether old or new; the respect of commitments made with regard to Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem; cessation of the confiscation of land and of the building of roads.