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Home > Issue 23: Democratic Formation in Palestine Periodic Reports (8) & (9) >

The Palestinian State and the Obligations of the Just Peace

2006-02-11
by Jad Ishaq

Introduction

Observers agree that the final status negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides will soon begin and that these negotiations will be extensive and under the sponsorship of the United States. This is despite the fact that immediately following his victory in the elections, the Israeli Prime Minister-elect expressed his desire for negotiations to be at the bilateral level. At the same time, Arab parties with direct interest in the peace process are moving towards formulating a unified Arab position; however, these moves have not achieved any concrete results so far.

According to the Declaration of Principles and Oslo I, the final-status negotiations should have been concluded on May 4, 1999, after the full implementation of all parts of the interim phase. This was designed to be a period of confidence building between Israelis and Palestinians so they could reach an agreement on the final phase. But, the Israeli government did not honor its commitments and the implementation of the interim phase was disrupted. Moreover, Israeli unilateral measures increased considerably to the point that the Palestinians lost confidence in Israel s desire to achieve a just and comprehensive peace.

The final-status negotiations will be long, difficult and tiresome; they cannot afford any improvised interpretations or hasty decisions. The Palestinian side must be well prepared. While the interim phase agreements suffered some mistakes here and there, final-status negotiations cannot tolerate one mistake. The Palestinian negotiating team is required to be at a high level of professionalism and readiness because the results of those negotiations will determine the future of the Palestinian cause, especially since the final-status issues are the most delicate in the whole process.

Peace and Security

The security aspect played a major role in the Israeli process of formulating their negotiating strategy in all phases of the negotiations; the Israeli side exploited the security issue to enforce its schemes to isolate the Palestinian regions from one another.

Due to the imbalance of powers and the fact that Israel kept control over land, water and crossings, the Palestinian side adopted a position of accepting the liberation of any part of the Palestinian lands and the gradual control over additional lands during the interim phase. This was in preparation for a just and comprehensive solution on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of land for peace.

The Israeli governments did not honor the signed agreements. Former Israeli PM Shimon Peres stalled in implementing the withdrawal from Hebron and the file was re-opened during the Netanyahu government. The last year of Peres rule following by Netanyahu witnessed a vicious settlement assault that swallowed up vast areas of Palestinian lands. The unilateral Israeli measures led to a freeze of the peace process, which lasted over 18 months until the US exerted efforts and revived the peace process. The Wye River agreement was signed in October 1998, but Netanyahu retreated from his promises a few weeks after the signing.

Due to the local and international pressures to abide by the signed agreements, Netanyahu resorted to holding a deal with the Labor Party and announced early elections to be held on May 17, 1999 as means to evade his commitment to the agreements. During that period, the pace of settlement activities escalated, especially when Sharon ordered settlers to occupy the hills. This resulted in the erection of 36 new settlement sites since the signing of Wye in addition to the start of construction works in Ras Al-Amud and Abu Ghneim.

Netanyahu stated in his last election campaign that he was able to lower the ceiling of Palestinian expectations in negotiations with Israel. This is a very important point since the Israeli right wing uses this particular statement to exert pressure on Barak s government to keep it from giving any dues to Palestinians.

This point illustrated itself on the day after elections when Barak declared the four principles that he would adopt in his political platform with Palestinians; they are:

  • No to return to the 1967 borders.
  • No foreign army west of the Jordan River.
  • No concessions over Jerusalem.
  • Most settlements will remain under Israeli sovereignty.

In the face of such declarations, the Palestinians would be under additional pressure to show more flexibility and make major concessions. This is unacceptable to the Palestinian street which has already made many concessions and showed increasing flexibility in the past few years. The interim phase was to be a temporary phase towards a just and comprehensive peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state on Palestinian soil with Arab Jerusalem as its capital.

The demographic and geographic distribution of Palestinian concentrations

Palestinians inside the homeland and in the Diaspora total approximately 7.4 million. Four million live in Palestine while 3.4 million are scattered all over the world, mostly as refugees, with the hope of returning to their homes one day within the context of the implementation of international legitimacy resolutions, in particular resolution 194.

The number of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, according to the 1998 census, is 2.89 million, including 1.87 million living in the West Bank and Jerusalem and 950,000 Palestinians living Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza are characterized by their high rate of natural growth, in addition to more than 45% of the total population being under 15 years of age. The following table shows the population distribution in the West Bank and Gaza Strip according to age group:

There are over 590 Palestinian residential concentrations in the West Bank; these concentrations cover an area of 214 square kms distributed throughout the hilly areas and western hillsides, and to a lesser extent in the Jordan Valley (figure 1). Construction and residential expansion in West Bank is still very limited because of the constraints imposed by the Israeli authorities in terms of issuing construction licenses. The population density in major cities exceeds 5,000 persons per one square km while in the rural areas it reaches 1,300 persons per one square km. The situation in the Gaza Strip it is even worse since there are 50 residential concentrations distributed over 37 square kms with a population density rate considered among the highest in the world.

Both the Declaration of Principles signed on September 13, 1993, which is the basis of the peace process and the Oslo Accords were based on the gradual granting of jurisdictions to the Palestinians on the premise that the West Bank and Gaza Strip is one geographical unit. The Israeli side implemented redeployment in Gaza and Jericho as part of a special agreement signed in Cairo on May 4, 1994 ( Oslo 1). Palestinians took control of 6,130 acres in the Jericho area including the city of Jericho and al-Oja, in addition to 78% of the area in the Gaza Strip. This was followed by the signing of Oslo II where the West Bank was divided into three major regions or zones called (A, B and C). Each letter represents something on the ground. Zone A, which constitutes 3% of the West Bank area, is under total Palestinian security and civil control. Zone B, which constitutes 24% of West Bank area, is under Palestinian civil and administrative supervision while Israelis maintain security control. With the exception of final status issues, the rest of the West Bank is called Zone C, where security and administrative control is in the hands of the Israelis.

Figure 2: A map showing the distribution of Palestinian regions according to Oslo Accord


Hebron Protocol

Because of the special situation in the city due to the minority of settlers living in the heart of Hebron, the city was dealt with as a special case and divided into two zones - H1 and H2. On January 17 1997, it was agreed that 85% of the city would be under the control of the Palestinian National Authority while the remaining 15% would be under Israeli administration.

Today, 450 settlers live in the 15% of Hebron under the protection of 2,000 soldiers while 105,000 Palestinians live in the remaining 85% of the city.

The Wye River Memorandum

After difficult negotiations, Palestinians and Israelis signed a new memorandum in the United States at the Wye River resort in October 1998. According to the agreement, Palestinians would be given control of 40% of the West Bank and redeployment would take place in three phases. At the end of the three phases, the Palestinian regions would be according to the following distribution: Zone A 18%, Zone B 21.8%, Zone C 60.2%.

The distribution of Palestinian areas on the ground is shown in the attached table:

Agreement

Zone A square kms

Zone B square kms

Zone C square kms

Oslo I

61.3 in West Bank

284.7 in Gaza

None

None

Oslo II+ Hebron

97.7 in West Bank

284.7 in Gaza

1339.8

None

4346.2

80.3

Hebron

18 H1

None

4.1 H2

Wye River

349

-287.6

-107

The current area

WB 553.8

G 284.7

1052.2

4239

80.3

As soon as the first and last phases of the agreement were implemented, it became clear that Israel s negotiating methods were not seek for real peace. Rather they were looking for loopholes by which they could evade signed agreements. According to the memo, and for the first time, they used percentages to determine the areas of Israeli withdrawal without disclosing the withdrawal maps. The Israeli side justified this position by a US letter stating that the Israel would define the scope and dates of Israeli redeployment.

The agreement stipulated redeployment from 7% of the West Bank in the first phase. However, after redeployment was completed, it was found that the area of redeployment was not 7%. 11,078 dunums were transferred from Zone C to Zone B while the agreement stipulated the transfer of 16,900 dunums from Zone C to Zone B. Moreover, 393,269 dunums were transferred from Zone B to Zone A while the agreement stipulated the transfer of 414,995 dunums from Zone B to Zone A if the percentages are applied to the area of the West Bank occupied on June 5, 1967, which comes to 5,845,000 dunums.

It was later found that Israel applied these percentages to the area of the West Bank, with the exception of areas declared no-mans land, Jerusalem and the regional waters. The figures on the ground differ with the agreement. According to the Israeli definition, the area of the West Bank is 5,536,000. Implementation of the Wye River agreement according to the Israeli definition thus subtracted 2% of what was agreed upon to the benefit of the Israelis.

The following table shows the areas of regions that have an impact in calculating the total area of the West Bank

Region

Area (square kms)

No mans land

52

Regional waters

195

Jerusalem

71

Remaining West Bank area

5536

Sharm Sheikh Agreement

After a long marathon of Israeli stalling in implementing Wye River on the ground, a new agreement was ratified and signed in the Egyptian town of Sharm Sheikh in the presence of the Egyptian president and the Jordanian monarch and under the sponsorship of the US administration. The new agreement was similar to the Wye agreement, with the following differences:

Issue of comparison

Wye agreement

Sharm Sheikh agreement

Redeployment

Israel withdraws from 13% in three phases, with the implementation of first phase of 2%

Conclude the withdrawal of the two remaining phases according to the Wye agreement in three phases with a total of 11%

Prisoners

The release of 750 prisoners while only 250 prisoners were released

The release of 350 prisoners in two phases; 200 prisoners were released and the rest are to be released on October 1, 1999.

Gaza Seaport

An agreement to form a committee to discuss the issue

To start planning for the seaport with the approval to start work in October

Safe Passage

A committee to discuss the issue

It was agreed to open the southern safe passage, Tarqoumia-Gaza line, on October 1, 1999

Hebron

No mentioning

Re-opening of Shuhada street and redeployment in some regions in the south

Final-status negotiations

No mentioning of a spe- cific date to conclude talks over this issue

Setting the 10 th of September, 2000 as the final date for concluding talks and reaching a final settlement

Although the Palestinian side showed commitment to the peace agreements, Israel continued with its unilateral policy to impose new facts on the ground prior to the start of final-status negotiations. Israel built settlement roads that dissected the Palestinian lands. It erected settlements in an attempt to create a demographic imbalance and demolished houses in an attempt to uproot Palestinians from their land and force them to leave. It also uprooted trees, which are the sole witness of the steadfastness of the Palestinian people. The following table explains the Israeli violations in these areas since the signing of Oslo until March 1999.


District

Lands confiscated in dunums

Trees uprooted

Houses demolished

Jenin

20012

10860

61

Jerusalem

74809

2020

90

Nablus

75204

28785

178

Hebron

38598

14680

121

Tulkarem

41192

2413

68

Bethlehem

24894

12476

127

Ramallah

29873

5880

43

Jericho

10211

--

145

Total

314793

77114

765

Israeli Settlements

The Israeli governments, with their various political faces since the seventies, have adopted a secure plan to spread foreign bodies throughout the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967; these bodies were called settlements. Israel erected 18 settlements in the Gaza Strip with a population of 5,000 settlers; it erected 250 settlements in the West Bank with a total population of 180,000 settlers, in addition to 165,000 settlers in Jerusalem.

The strategy of settlement expansion

During the past three years, settlement expansion was horizontally concentrated in Palestine; many settlement concentrations were connected within one zoning scheme in an attempt to seize as much Palestinian lands as possible. They tried to occupy several hilly areas to connect the settlements. The best example of Israeli schemes is the work in the Efrat settlement in Bethlehem where the settlement is expanding at the expense of lands in the village of Khader; settlement expansion reached the village of Urtas near Bethlehem. This is considered as an official programmed policy which was expressed very clearly in statements made by the former advisor to the Israeli defense minister Mordechai on settlement affairs, who is himself a settler living in Maale Adumim. He gave settlers the green light to expand horizontally at the expense of Palestinian lands within a range of 1 km from the residential area in the settlement.

Israeli settlements are distributed all across Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with more concentration in some areas in order to create changes to the demographic characteristics of the region; settlement expansion is concentrated in the following areas:

  • Jerusalem , where there are 30 settlements distributed in a manner that prohibits any connection between Jerusalem and the rest of West Bank.
  • Connecting areas between Nablus and Ramallah.
  • Bethlehem , especially in the area between Hebron and Jerusalem.
  • The Jordan Valley area where there are 40 settlements extending across the Jordan Valley in order to reinforce control over water resources and deprive the Palestinian people from agricultural lands.
  • The area near the Green Line in Hebron the district where settlers seize lands between the settlements and the Green Line.

Israeli settlements on lands occupied in 1967 is a blatant violation of international conventions, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Article no. 49 which stipulates: "Any occupying country must not transfer or evict any civilian individual from the lands they occupy."

Bypass roads

The construction of settlements is accompanied by other preparations in the region where the settlement is to be located, such as building bypass roads which swallow up more Palestinian agricultural land and serve the purposes of the settlement scheme.

The main objective behind building bypass roads

  • To divide the Palestinian areas into isolated concentrations without any contact except through these roads.
  • To re-demarcate the borders proposed for the Palestinian state and to expand the Green Line at the expense of Palestinian lands.
  • These roads work on isolating the unpopulated Palestinian areas and annexing them to Israeli settlements for purposes of settlement expansion.
  • To limit Palestinian expansion within borders set by Israel; it is not allowed to build in the areas of these roads.

It is noteworthy that building bypass roads led to the destruction of 2% of the total area of the West Bank, mostly agricultural lands, and the demolition of hundreds of Palestinian houses. The roads were indirectly funded by the US government on the basis that they constitute redeployment expenses. Two billion US dollars were spent for this purpose.

House demolition policy

The policy of house demolitions started with the inception of the occupation. This policy was ratified by the Israeli government in 1968. The waves of house demolitions would sometimes recede and then escalate but never ceased. This policy reached its peak during the period between 1992 and 1995 when more than 539 Palestinian homes were demolished in the West Bank and Jerusalem; for example, 141 Palestinian homes, 75 Bedouin tents and one school were demolished between March and August 1998. There are more than 3,400 homes threatened with demolition.

The policy of demolishing Palestinian homes aims to evacuate the Palestinian areas in order to complete settlement plans, far from any justifications made by the Israeli authorities. The declared reasons for house demolition are:

Security violations:

Violation of organizational and zoning plans.

Absence of a building permit.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem , the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the congregation of the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, has become a military compound in the era of peace. It is isolated from the rest of the Palestinian areas; Palestinians cannot move freely to reach Jerusalem while Israel seeks to create a new status quo in the city, which will help it in final-status negotiations.

Israeli measures in Jerusalem violate UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338; they also violate the Oslo accords signed between Israel and the Palestinians, which stipulate that no party has the right to take any unilateral actions prior to the start of final-status negotiations.

Recently, the project "E1" near the settlement of Maale Adumim has been approved. Building a Jewish quarter in Ras Al-Amud has also been approved, along with the continuation of construction at Abu Ghneim to build the "Har Homa" settlement. All this is part of an Israeli campaign to escalate the crisis with the Palestinians. Moreover, Israel started opening the encompassing road (road no. 45) which will re-demarcate the borders of the city.

The Israeli measures aim to make major changes on the reality in Jerusalem. All current development works are focused in the Jewish quarters; the municipality expands the Jewish residential areas and prohibits any development of Arab quarters, which is essential to a healthy environment. The current situation led to densely populated areas along with a depletion of natural resources. Today, there are around 280 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem threatened with demolition under the pretext of unlicensed construction.

Confiscation of Ids from Palestinian Jerusalemites

The idea to confiscate Ids issued by the Jerusalem municipality to Palestinians residing in Jerusalem was yet another part of the ethnic cleansing policy in East Jerusalem.

More than 2,800 Ids were confiscated between 1967 and 1996. In 1996, 689 Ids were confiscated from Palestinians who were deprived of all their rights in the city; 358 Ids were confiscated in 1997. The above-mentioned figures do not include the 10,000 newborn babies who the municipality rejected to register on their parents Ids. A similar policy was adopted with residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip who left their homeland either for higher education or to seek job opportunities abroad. Israel rejects allowing more than 92,000 Palestinians to return to their homeland and consider them displaced persons.

(Haaretz, March 17, 1997).

Israeli proposals on solving the Palestinian cause  

Israelis compete in offering their perception of a final solution. Academics and politicians proposed more than 20 various maps but they all agree on not returning to the 1967 borders, on the annexation of Jerusalem to Israel and on not having any geographical continuity between the West Bank and Gaza. On the other hand, the Palestinian side did not submit any proposals whether official or unofficial, but remain steadfast on the right to return to the 1967 borders.

How just peace can be envisioned  

The Declaration of Principles has very explicitly indicated that the terms of reference for the peace process is the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of land for peace. It is necessary to stress on this position at all stages in final-status negotiations because Israel always seeks to ignore this principle by proposing settlement formulas that are far from the above mentioned terms of reference.

What was signed between the two parties concerning the West Bank and Gaza Strip being one geographical and political unit should also be stressed. It is expected that much international pressure will be exerted on the Palestinians to make concessions regarding these constants. However, Palestinians must hold fast to these positions, based on the positions of Arab masses who support the Palestinian official position, which confirm that the Palestinian cause is the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They also stress that a just solution to the Palestinian cause based on international legitimacy resolutions and relevant UN Security Council resolutions in addition to securing the right of the Palestinian people to self determination on their land and the establishment of the independent state with al-Quds as its capital are the principles towards reaching a just and comprehensive peace in the region.

It is necessary to reaffirm that the Palestinian people have made many concessions until now. They accepted the establishment of their state on 22% of the total area of Mandate Palestine, and recognized the state of Israel on 78% of the total area of Mandate Palestine.

According to statistical figures, we see that the total population of Israel is 6 million in 1999, with a population density of 292 persons per one square km.

Upon full control of their areas, Palestinians who live in the Palestinian lands however, will have a population density of 490 persons per one square km. The issue of population density must be included as a pressure tactic in the negotiations in order to evacuate the settlements and settle displaced Palestinians. Such a premise considers that any rise in the population density in Palestine will not be conducive to real and sustainable characteristics of the Palestinian state.

The current situation will deteriorate upon the return of the refugees and displaced who were evicted from their homes due to occupation if it remains as it is today. Therefore, a new mechanism for the final status must be set, taking into consideration the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people regarding their rights on their land along with a fair distribution of natural resources, such as land and water.

In light of the above-mentioned logic, the final solution must be based on a new platform that takes the demographic growth in all areas in Palestine into consideration. Thus, the areas under Palestinian jurisdiction must be increased, taking into consideration the international legitimacy resolutions and the map of the status quo imposed by the occupation on all parties of the formula. Resolution 181 gives the Palestinians the right to control 11,673 square kms, but if we want to implement it in full, we will find many gaps and facts that make it inapplicable due to the construction and residential distribution that occurred in the region. However, this does not mean that it is not a just basis for solving the conflict or that it offers justice in distribution of natural resources between the two peoples.

There is a need to adopt resolution 181 as a just basis to solve the cause and re-demarcate the borders in a manner that grants independence to both peoples.

We suggested re-demarcating the borders of Palestine based on three findings: the population density, equity in the distribution of natural resources and the map of the status quo; the result is the attached map.

As a result, the area proposed to be added to the area of the West Bank and to be under total Palestinian control is 4,073 square kms; it is divided into two regions:

  • Region A: These are the areas where there are no Israeli residential concentrations and will be an extension of the borders of the Palestinian state; this phase shall be implemented immediately upon signing the agreement.
  • Region B: These are the areas where there are some Israeli concentrations, so a mechanism must be set to provide the residents in those areas freedom of movement, such as safe passages and other means; this phase shall be implemented according to the developments in the peace process.

According to this plan, Palestinians can have a state that enjoys continuity and independence in an area of 10,288 square kms, meaning an area less than that granted by Resolution 181. However, this distribution can provide justice and stability to the region and will preserve the Israeli right to control 17,053 square kms, which is 60% of the area of historical Palestine; it is clear that this plan carries ample justice.

We also see that some areas were added to be included within the borders of the Palestinian state, estimated at 173 square kms and in return the Palestinians yield 1,349 square kms, according to the partition map, to Israeli control.

According to this plan, the Palestinian state will reserve its right to demand compensation for the period of occupation as part of a final settlement. The Israeli state will be forfeited of the right to demand any compensation for losses incurred due to changes on the ground, such as withdrawal from settlements, as stipulated in international law: "The inadmissibility of occupying lands by force".

Far from slogans and signed agreements, a fact must be recognized: On the land of Palestine, there are a people who deserve to live in stability and dignity on their land - this is the only guarantee for the peace process to succeed.

Recommendations  

It is clear that, in principle, Israeli measures in Palestinian lands, especially in the past three years, aimed at dissecting the West Bank and Gaza Strip and transforming them into isolated cantons. This was with the goal of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state with geographical continuity in order to reinforce subordination and Israeli control. Based on those premises, the Palestinian negotiating strategy must be focused on the following:

  • To reject discussing any arrangements on border amendments before the recognition of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which stipulates the inadmissibility of occupying lands by force.
  • The necessity of returning all lands occupied in 1967.
  • To solve the refugees issue, which is the core of the Palestinian cause, since international legitimacy has recognized the rights of refugees to return to their lands while Israel sees resettlement as a solution.
  • To focus on the issue of justice in the distribution of lands in all international arenas.
  • To declare the Palestinian state provided that Palestine be a state for all Palestinians and to stress on the legitimate right of refugees and displaced Palestinians to return.

* Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (Arij)

Source: ATF Shu‘un Tanmawyyeh Issue 23


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