Peace process in the Middle East

REPORT

Doc. 6916

16 September 1993

Rapporteur: Mrs BAARVELD-SCHLAMAN, Netherlands, Socialist

[link to addendum]


Summary

            A just and durable peace in the Middle East is of vital importance to all Council of Europe member states, because Europe's political stability depends on that of the Mediterranean area.

            The recent favourable change in atmosphere around the peace process and the agreement signed in Washington on 13 September 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation on a declaration of principles on Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, deserve the Assembly's full support.

            The Assembly believes that the Council of Europe may contribute to the fostering of the peace process itself and, in addition, provide the basis for a dialogue between Europe and the countries of the Middle East.

            The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

-           discuss with the Israeli government the modalities of its participation in some activities of the Council of Europe and establish contacts with the League of Arab States to identify fields of co-operation between this organisation and the Council of Europe,

-           urge the governments of member states to play an active political role in encouraging the parties involved in the Middle East peace process to bring the recent round of negotiations to a successful end, and to support economic assistance programmes in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

I. Draft Recommendation [link to adopted text]

1.         The Assembly continues to support attempts to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict, including the Palestinian issue, on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

2.         Europe's political stability also depends on that of the Mediterranean area, including the Middle East. A just and lasting peace in this region is therefore vitally important for all Council of Europe member states. 

3.         The Assembly welcomes the agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation on a declaration of principles on Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

4.         Initiatives, such as efforts to foster a climate of confidence between the parties, aimed at demonstrating Europe's full commitment to the peace process initiated in Madrid in October 1991, need to be promoted. 

5.         Arab leaders have renewed their wish for greater European involvment in the peace process. European states and the European Community are the main suppliers of aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip but their humanitarian action is not accompanied by a similar level of political activity.

6.         Israel, whose parliament enjoys observer status with the Assembly, is interested to participate in certain intergovernmental activities of the Council of Europe.

7.         The Secretary General of the League of Arab States has expressed his readiness to consider ways of establishing co-operation between his organisation and the Council of Europe.

8.         The Assembly believes that the Council of Europe could provide the basis for a dialogue between Europe and the countries of the Middle East, in particular in the field of education and culture.

9.         The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i.          discuss with the Israeli government the modalities of its participation in some activities of the Council of Europe;

ii.          establish contacts with the League of Arab States to identify fields of co-operation between this organisation and the Council of Europe;

iii.         urge the governments of member states and the Commission of the European Communities:

a.         to play an active political role in encouraging the parties involved in the Middle East peace process to bring the fresh start of negotiations, currently being held in Washington, to a successful end;

b.         to respond positively to the appeals of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other international governmental and non- governmental organisations for funding of assistance programmes in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza Strip;

c.         to support economic development programmes in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and to promote trade arrangements with local enterprises.

II. Draft Resolution [link to adopted text]

1.         The fact that the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) enjoys observer status with the Assembly, implies that matters relating to Israel are of direct interest to the Assembly.

2.         The Assembly repeats its position in favour of a Conference on security and co-operation in the Mediterranean (CSCM) which would contribute to creating a climate of confidence between Mediterranean states.

3.         It also declares its will to put forward specific proposals for action in the fields where its expertise and experience are recognised, namely promotion and establishment of democratic institutions, protection of human rights and recognition of the rights of minorities.

4.         The Assembly condemns the violations by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 relating to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.  It also condemns terrorist attacks against Israel.

5.         It condemns the violations of human rights as well as religious and political extremism in the Arab countries which constitute a threat to the region's stability and an obstacle to the peace process.

6.         Accordingly, the Assembly:

i.          decides to invite:

a.         Arab and Israeli personalities involved in the peace process to come to Strasbourg to state their positions;

b.         representatives and/or parliamentarians from all parties to the peace process to attend meetings which it organises (conferences, colloquies and seminars) on certain matters of common interest;

ii.          asks the Steering Committee of the Strasbourg Conference on Parliamentary Democracy to convene a regional seminar in the Middle East similar to those held in Central America and Australia;

iii.         encourages its members to gain a fuller understanding of the reality of the Middle East, particularly by visiting the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

III. Explanatory memorandum

by Mrs BAARVELD-SCHLAMAN

Contents

                                                                                                                                      Paragraphs

I.          INTRODUCTION                                                                                                   1 - 10

II.         THE ONGOING PEACE PROCESS                                                                               

a.         The Madrid Conference                                                                                           11 - 17

b.         The bilateral rounds                                                                                                 18 - 36

c.         The multilateral rounds                                                                                             37 - 44

d.         Difficulties encountered in the peace process                                                            45 - 58

III. POSITION OF THE PARTIES                                                                                            59

a.         Egypt                                                                                                                      60 - 61

b.         Lebanon                                                                                                                  62 - 65

c.         Jordan                                                                                                                     66 - 69

d.         Syria                                                                                                                       70 - 71

e.         The Palestinian position                                                                                            72 - 79

f.          Israel                                                                                                                       80 - 84

IV.       THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND THE PEACE PROCESS

a.         The new United States administration                                                                       85 - 93

b.         The United Nations                                                                                                94 - 101

c.         The League of Arab States                                                                                  102 - 105

d.         Europe                                                                                                                106 - 111

V.        MAIN FINDINGS OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE                                              112 - 127

VI.       CONCLUSIONS                                                                                               128 - 139

Appendix 1:      Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) of the United Nations Security Council

Appendix 2:      Recent Assembly work concerning the Middle East

Appendix 3:      Programme of the Sub-Committee visits to the region

I.          INTRODUCTION

1.         In Resolution 963 (1991) on Europe's role in a future "new world order" after the Gulf War, adopted in April 1991, the Assembly issued an urgent appeal to reactivate Euro-Arab dialogue, particularly to reduce tension in the Middle East.  In the same text it also asked governments and parliaments of member states, observers and special guests to support any action aimed at resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict, including the Palestinian problem, on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242(1967) and 338(1973).  These two resolutions are reproduced in Appendix 1.

2.         Some months after the adoption of the resolution, the then United States Secretary of State, Mr. Baker, was chiefly responsible for the convening of the Middle East Peace Conference on 30 and 31 October 1991 in Madrid under the auspices of the United States and the former Soviet Union, with Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and the European Community attending.

3.         The conference was followed by two rounds of negotiations.  In the "bilateral" talks, the Israeli negotiators conferred with Syrian and Lebanese representatives and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.  The "multilateral" talks involved, alongside the parties to the conflict, several Arab countries, the industrialised countries and countries such as China and India.

4.         The bilateral talks beginning on 3 November 1991 in Madrid subsequently continued in Washington.  Nine further rounds followed. The tenth round opened on 15 June 1993.  The multilateral talks, which opened on 28 January 1992 in Moscow, deal with general problems of concern to all countries in the region.

5.         The provision of backing and incentive for this peace process is a crucial responsibility of the Assembly. In the past it unremittingly advocated the convening of an international conference as the most suitable way of bringing the various opposing parties together and establishing the dialogue which is to bring about a just and lasting settlement of the conflict.  The President of the Assembly issued a reminder in these terms to the Israeli government and parliament when visiting Israel from 25 to 27 January 1993.  The Assembly's interest in the Middle East is illustrated by a list of its recent activities concerning this region (Appendix 2).

6.         The decision by the Sub-Committee on the Situation in the Middle East to visit the region was therefore in keeping with the aim of demonstrating the Assembly's full commitment to the peace process initiated in Madrid, and its desire to help to resolve the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours and to find a satisfactory solution for the Palestinian people.

7.         The visit also enabled the sub-committee members and the rapporteur to obtain from governmental and parliamentary sources detailed information on the progress of the bilateral and multilateral talks and to gain a more exact idea of the various parties' positions.

8.         The sub-committee toured Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan from 13 to 17 April 1993.  The visit to Syria, scheduled for 18 April 1993, was postponed at the request of the Syrian authorities.  From 3 to 6 May 1993 the sub-committee visited Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  The full programmes of the visits are given in Appendix 2.

9.         The rapporteur wishes to thank the United Kingdom Chair of the Committee of Ministers for the assistance rendered to the sub-committee by its embassies in the region during the two visits.  The sub-committee is also grateful to the authorities of the host countries, the delegations of the Commission of the European Communities in the countries visited and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for their co-operation, both at the preparatory stage and in the course of the visits.  It especially appreciated the help of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in organising the visit to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

10.       The atmosphere around the peace process has changed favourably since the first drafting of this report, which takes into account recent developments and also reflects the situation in the region in April and May 1993, during the visit of the sub-committee. When this report was discussed by the committee (on 10 September 1993) the eleventh round of bilateral talks in Washington were still in progress. On 30 August 1993, and after secret negotiations in Norway, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) announced that they agreed on a declaration of principles on Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under this agreement, foreseen to be signed in Washington on 13 September 1993, Israel would withdraw from Gaza and the town of Jericho, in the West Bank, as the first stage of a five-year interim period of self-rule. The Rapporteur intends to prepare a brief addendum to this report, before the Assembly's debate, to take into account the most recent events having occurred since the report's adoption by the committee.

II.        THE ONGOING PEACE PROCESS

a.         The Madrid Conference (30-31 October 1991)

11.       In the wake of the Gulf War, all the right conditions for building a new world order had been achieved.  Confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union had given way to co-operation. In this altered context fresh attempts could be made for a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

12.       All through the spring and summer of 1991 the US Secretary of State Mr. Baker endeavoured to persuade the parties that a new peace initiative would be worthwhile.  In spite of the new international situation, it proved extremely difficult to bring the Israelis and Arabs together at the negotiating table.  The main stumbling blocks were the subject-matter of discussion concerning the future of the occupied territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) and arrangements for Palestinian participation in the negotiations.

13.       After lengthy discussions it was agreed that the conference would be held in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) calling for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories and the recognition of Israel by its Arab neighbours and 338 (1973) advocating negotiations to implement the foregoing resolution.

14.       As already mentioned in paragraph 2, the conference opened on 30 october 1991 in Madrid with Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation present.  Delegations from the United States, the former Soviet Union and the European Community also attended.

15.       The Madrid meeting radically altered relations between Arabs and Israelis and initiated a peace process which so far none of the participants has seen fit to abandon.

16.       The Madrid meeting concluded with the decision to carry on negotiations by means of bilateral and multilateral talks based on Resolutions 242 and 338.  The bilateral talks were designed to allow direct discussions between Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon and Israel and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.  The multilateral talks would deal with regional problems and be open not only to those participating in the bilateral talks but to other Arab countries and to industrialised countries. 

17.       With the support of the international community, the peace process commenced in Madrid gained momentum.  Negotiators from the countries involved began to appreciate the position of the other side, and the psychological barriers gradually fell.  The commitment made to enter into negotiations became just as important as the basic issues. 

b.         The bilateral rounds

i.          Madrid (3 November 1991)

18.       These talks held just after the conference represented a first encounter between the parties.  The meeting between the Israeli delegation and the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation ended with the adoption of a joint statement to the effect that subsequent negotiations would be conducted along two tracks, one for addressing Israeli-Palestinian problems and the other Israeli-Jordanian problems.

ii.          Washington (10-18 December 1991)

19.       These talks were the first to be held in Washington, where all the subsequent bilateral talks have taken place.  Although none of the parties could report any significant progress, the Israeli and Lebanese sides asserted that a constructive dialogue had been established and Israel had offered to sign a peace treaty with Lebanon.  The talks between Israel and Syria concentrated on the future status of the Golan Heights and would appear to have taken place in an atmosphere of some tension and hostility.

iii.         Washington (13-16 January 1992)

20.       This round of talks got off to a promising start after the Israeli delegation accepted to a separate Palestinian representation within the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.  However, no agreement was reached on the basic issues.

iv.         Washington (24 February-4 March 1992)

21.       The Jordanian and Israeli delegations raised the question of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the interpretation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, but without reaching an agreement.  Nor was any progress recorded in the other bilateral talks.  The delegations were not even able to agree on a date for resumption of  negotiations.

v.         Washington (27-30 April 1992)

22.       Despite the brevity of this round of talks, the delegations succeeded in finalising procedural questions and declared that for the first time that they had began to tackle the real underlying issues.

23.       However, the impending parliamentary elections in Israel which took place in June 1992 indubitably prevented significant progress from being made because of the negotiators' uncertainty over the outcome.

24.       The four months following this fifth round of talks formed a hiatus in the peace process.  The Labour victory in the Israeli elections and Mr Rabin's appointment as Head of Government were interpreted as expressing the will of Israel's electorate to expedite the peace process.

vi.         Washington (24 August-3 September and 14-24 September 1992)

25.       At the start of these talks a certain optimism seemed to prevail but on 27 August the Palestinian delegation expressed disappointment at the detailed proposals presented by the new Israeli Labour Government concerning autonomy in the occupied territories.  In return for an end to violence in the territories, the document put forward by Israel proposed the formation of an independent Palestinian council holding administrative authority for an interim period in respect of health, education, justice and transport.  There nevertheless remained to be determined the role of a possible Palestinian police force, the extent of the Israeli military withdrawal, the territorial demarcation of the Palestinian entity and the legal status of the Israeli settlements.  The Palestinian delegation held out for an assembly of 180 elected members with legislative powers.

26.       On 17 September, the Syrian Delegation broke off discussions, claiming that talks were pointless as long as Israel persisted in refusing to discuss a full withdrawal of its forces from the Golan Heights.  This decision disproved claims of a decisive improvement in relations between Syria and Israel at the start of the round following Mr Rabin's assumption of leadership.

vii.        Washington (29 October-19 November 1992)

27.       At the start of this round, Israel and Jordan announced that the two delegations were about to agree on an agenda covering all the issues.  The agenda stated that the two parties aimed to work towards a peace treaty and indicated their wish to discuss items such as water-sharing, territorial claims, the status of Palestinian refugees in Jordan and arms control.

28.       The defeat of Mr Bush by Mr Clinton in the United States presidential elections, with the possible changes in United States policy, encouraged something of a wait-and-see attitude among the delegations.  When the round ended on 19 November, assessments of the talks were generally pessimistic.  Arab leaders spoke of a deadlock in the negotiations and Mr Arafat, President of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) even said that there had been a regrettable lack of progress from the outset of the peace process.  The Israeli leaders for their part felt that the Arab delegations intended to mark time until the intentions of the new American administrations were disclosed.  All parties except the Palestinians nevertheless agreed to attend an eighth round of talks scheduled to open in Washington on 7 December.

viii.       Washington (7-18 December 1992)

29.       The very moderate progress achieved during this eighth round of talks was largely overshadowed by the events which took place in the occupied territories in mid-December.  After the murder of an Israeli border guard by Palestinian extremists, the Israeli Government on 16 December ordered the deportation from the occupied territories to South Lebanon of 415 Palestinians, most of whom belong to the Hamas movement and the Islamic Jihad.  The next day, the Arab delegations withdrew from the talks in protest and no date was set for a ninth round.  The Palestinian delegation declared that it would not return to the negotiating table until Israel reversed its decision on the deportations.

30.       Israel's decision came close to wrecking the peace process.  Four long months elapsed until the resumption of the bilateral talks in Washington after the Arab and Israeli sides responded to an appeal by the new United States Secretary of State Mr Christopher.

ix.         Washington (27 April-13 May 1993)

31.       Thus it was chiefly as a result of American diplomatic efforts that the talks were resumed.  Certain concessions by Israel (return of former deportees from 1967 to the occupied territories, inclusion of Palestinian leaders from East Jerusalem in the negotiating delegation) made it possible for the Arab delegations to come to Washington.  However, very limited progress was achieved despite better feeling among the various parties.

32.       The Palestinian and Israeli negotiators parted without reaching agreement on a declaration of principle concerning the autonomy of the occupied territories.  A document setting out a compromise which the United States submitted to the negotiators was rejected by the Palestinians who felt that the text merely reflected the Israeli government's stance and evaded the question of Jerusalem and Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.

x.         Washington (15 June - 2 July 1993)

33.       This tenth round of talks opened in an atmosphere which all parties described as "serious, calm and relaxed".

34.       At the start of proceedings, Israel suggested to Syria that they discuss their mutual security problems, particularly with regard to the Golan Heights.  The Syrian delegation stated that it was unable to address the security issue before an agreement on full withdrawal of Israeli forces had been reached.

35.       As for Israel and the Palestinians, the two parties announced the formation of a working group to finalise a declaration of principle on Palestinian autonomy in the occupied territories.  It was also agreed that a commission on human rights in the occupied territories would be set up.  A new working document presented by the United States was rejected by the Palestinian negotiators.

36.       At the resumption of the peace talks and as a continuation of their secret contacts in Norway, Israel and the PLO negotiated mutual recognition. This would precede the formal signature of the declaration of principles on Palestinian autonomy agreed by Israel and the PLO. The agreement, called "a conceptual breakthrough" by Mr Christopher, US Secretary of State, was welcomed by the United States, Russia, the European Community and Council of Europe member states. If the first reaction of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon was to express some reservations since they were not involved in the Israel-PLO talks, their negotiators in Washington hope that the signature of the agreement between Israel and the PLO would boost peace talks between Israel and the other Arab states. Iran denounced the agreement and some political and other groups in the West bank, Gaza Strip and Israel accused their leaders, and respectively, their government, of betrayal.

c.         The multilateral rounds

37.       As mentioned in paragraph 4, these multilateral talks are intended to deal with practical regional matters.  They bring together the largest gathering of Arab states ever to sit at the same table with Israel.  However, Syria and Lebanon have decided not to take part until significant progress is achieved at the bilateral level.  The industrialised countries and countries such as India and China also take part in the multilateral talks.

38.       Their purpose is to work out common solutions to the problems facing all peoples in the region.  Economic development, environmental protection, management of water resources, refugees and arms control are the subjects of discussion of the five committees formed by the participants in the talks.

39.       The first round was held in Moscow on 28 and 29 January 1992.  The session was marred by Israel's objection to the attendance of Palestinians from the "diaspora" and Jerusalem.  Those present at the Moscow meeting nonetheless expressed interest in having these representatives admitted to the committee on refugees and economic development.

40.       A further series of multilateral sessions took place in

mid-May 1992:

-           In Brussels, on economic co-operation (chaired by Portugal, at that time holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Communities);

-           In Washington on arms control (chaired by Russia);

-           In Ottawa on refugees (chaired by Canada);

-           In Vienna on water-sharing questions (chaired by Austria);

-           In Tokyo on environmental protection (chaired by Japan).

41.       On 29 and 30 October 1992 in Paris there was a multilateral meeting on economic co-operation attended by representatives of some 40 countries and international banks.

42.       On 11 and 12 November 1992 in Ottawa some 35 countries and certain international organisations were involved in talks concerning refugees.  The main item of discussion was family reunification, but no progress was recorded.

43.       Israel took part in the Ottawa talks, thereby ending its boycott of the refugee negotiations.  On the first day, the Israeli representatives walked out in protest against the presence of a member of the Palestine National Council (PNC) as head of the Palestinian delegation.  They subsequently rejoined the talks after receiving written United States assurances that the PNC member would not be involved in the meetings.

44.       On 3 and 4 December 1992 the steering committee responsible for the coherence and progress of the multilateral talks met in London.  The committee, meeting under the auspices of the United States and Russia, took stock of the meetings held by the five working groups which had been set up in Moscow in January in 1992.  Progress appears rather small. 

d.         Difficulties encountered in the peace process

45.       The development of the bilateral and multilateral talks in itself clearly illustrates the complexity of the peace process and highlights the obstacles standing in the way of the negotiators.  Firstly, there are the understandable difficulties which arise from the differing positions of the parties.  However, since the process began, outside events have adversely affected its progress.

46.       The Israeli elections in June 1992 were the cause of a break in the multilateral talks lasting nearly 4 months.  The early hopes aroused in most Arab capitals by the Labour victory gave way to pessimism when some weeks after resumption of the bilateral talks the record remained very poor.

47.       In November 1992 Mr Clinton's election as President of the United States prompted the parties to await the appointment of the new United States administration following the investiture of the President.  This was nevertheless a reasonable attitude considering the past and ongoing role of American diplomacy in the peace process.

48.       Yet the event which came close to causing the collapse of the peace process was probably the Israeli Government's decision on 16 December 1992 to deport 415 Palestinians from the occupied territories to South    Lebanon (cf. para 28).  This move by the Israeli Government in breach of international law attracted strong criticism from the international community, resulting, on 18 December 1992, in the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 799. This text condemns Israel's action, demands that it ensure the immediate and safe return of all deportees to the occupied territories, and calls upon the Secretary General to assign a representative to the region to investigate the matter in consultation with the Israeli authorities.

49.       Israel's refusal to act upon Resolution 799 prompted the Arab countries to demand sanctions against Israel from the United Nations Security Council. However, these demands were not successful.

50.       However, in the early weeks of 1993, as a reaction to the attitude of the Palestinian deportees, activists in extremist organisations hostile to the peace process, refusing all compromise and insisting on the return of the group as a whole, more and more Arab political leaders took the view that the continuation of the peace process outweighed the resolution of the deportation crisis.  Furthermore, Israel showed readiness to make certain concessions so that the bilateral talks might resume. 

51.       Unfortunately, the decision of the Israeli authorities to seal off the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as from 30 March 1993 following the murder of two police officers in Israel by no means lightened the mood between Arabs and Israelis.  Although from mid 1992 onwards the worsening state of security in the occupied territories had compelled the Israeli authorities to order successive closures of the Gaza Strip - already under curfew lasting from a few days to several weeks - the extension of the measure to the West Bank and its permanence have brought about a deterioration of social and economic conditions in the occupied territories.  In addition, the methods used by the Israeli military authorities have accentuated the climate of political insecurity.  This state of affairs, particularly in the Gaza Strip, has fostered the growth of Palestinian movements hostile to the peace process.

52.       Opposition by these groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and also in the Arab countries was the very factor which raised and continues to raise one of the main obstacles to the peace process.  Lack of progress in the negotiations strengthens their position and broadens their popular support.  After so many years of conflict, many Palestinians have last all hope to obtain a peaceful settlement. While extremists contesting the peace process are admittedly present in Israel too, they have limited influence which is exercised in accordance with the democratic standards upheld by Israeli society.

53.       On Sunday, 25 July 1993, Israel started a series of attacks on positions of the Hizbollah (a pro-Iranian Shiite militia) in South Lebanon and in the Beeka Valley. This action ("Operation Accountability") was argued to have been launched as a reprisal for the attacks by the Hizbollah in the previous weeks against Israeli soldiers stationed in the Israeli-controlled "security-zone" in South Lebanon and against villages in Northern Galilee.

54.       In retaliation, the Hizbollah guerillas fired rockets on Northern Galilee. They vowed to keep fighting whatever the cost until Israel abandoned its "security-zone" in South Lebanon.

55.       On 27 July, the Israeli government changed its strategy and the Israeli army started firing on villages in Southern Lebanon, with the aim of driving the villagers from their homes in areas used by the guerillas, and so hoping that the resulting flood of refugees seeking shelter in Beirut would put pressure on the Lebanese government to put an end to attacks by the Hizbollah guerillas.

56.       On 1 August 1993, one week after the bombardments began, a ceasefire negotiated by Mr Christopher, US Secretary of State, through talks with Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese authorities, came into effect. The Israeli offensive was halted on the "understanding"  that the Hizbollah would stop firing rockets on Northern Israel. The final death toll of the week's fighting was 130 Lebanese, most of them civilians, 3 Israeli civilians and 3 Syrian soldiers. Over 600 people on both sides were said to be wounded, and an estimated 250.000 Lebanese villagers and Palestinian refugees were forced to flee their homes. 

57.       On 2 August 1993, the Lebanese government decided to send troops to villages bordering Israel in a first move to control guerrilla activities and restore law and order in South Lebanon. The army was deployed in the vicinity of the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL). In the following days, most of the civilians displaced by the Israeli attacks returned to where they had been living before the fighting broke out.

58.       On 9 August, a long-brewing crisis between the Palestinian negotiators from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the leadership of the PLO on the management of the peace talks came to a head, resulting in the handing-in of resignations of the three most prominent negotiators from the occupied territories. Subsequently, the resignations were rejected by the PLO Executive Committee which appointed these three negotiators and four other members of the Palestinian negotiating delegation to senior PLO positions. This crisis threw light on a softened position the Israelian authorities were taking on the categorical ruling-out of direct talks between Israel and the PLO.

III.       POSITION OF THE PARTIES

59.       In the following paragraphs the rapporteur will endeavour to state succinctly the position of the various parties as presented by the various informants who spoke with the sub-committee on the situation in the Middle-East during its visits to the region.  It should be pointed out that between the first visit (13-17 April 1993) and the second visit (3-6 May 1993) the bilateral talks resumed in Washington (27 April 1993). 

a.         Egypt

60.       As was emphasised by Mr Moussa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Egypt is the sole Arab state which has signed a peace treaty with Israel and where such an agreement has plain advantages in the eyes of public opinion.  The Egyptian Government considers that the three major problems confronting the Middle East are the Arab-Israeli conflict, the repercussions of the Gulf War, and Islamic extremism.  The settlement of the first problem depends on giving priority to the peace process, and in order to keep it moving forward the autonomy of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip should be accepted by the parties as a provisional measure leaving room for later consideration of a final settlement.  The situation in the Gulf remains tense owing to the situation caused in Iraq by its defeat and Iran's policy of regional supremacy. The problem of Islamic extremism has links with Iranian policy which sets out to exploit the genuine economic difficulties of certain Arab countries for the purpose of infiltrating extremists into their territory.  This is a menace to stability not only for Egypt but for the entire region and therefore threatens the peace process. 

61.       The two Egyptian Houses of Parliament, the Peoples' Assembly and the Shura Assembly, have stated their full backing for the government in its efforts to press ahead with the peace process. The sub-committee's contacts felt that Israel should show co-operativeness and recognise the rights of the Palestinians.  In their opinion, the bilateral agreements will soon make it possible to achieve lasting peace in the region and will be followed by multilateral agreements later on. 

b.         Lebanon

62.       Mr Hrawi, President of the Republic, pointed out that Lebanon has at no time declared war on Israel and the latter country is currently occupying almost 12% of Lebanese territory in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 condemning the occupation.  American efforts, he said, had failed to secure Israel's signature of peace terms and its withdrawal from the occupied territory.  This is causing a resurgence of religious fanaticism in the Arab countries which may have disastrous consequences for stability and peace.  Mr Hrawi pointed out to the sub-committee that as the Syrian army's presence in Lebanon follows from the Taef agreements, its withdrawal from the country is unrelated to an Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon.

63.       Mr Boueiz, Minister for Foreign Affairs, stressed that the peace process was founded on a new political spirit.  After the Gulf conflict, American policy moved towards respect for the Palestinians' rights although there was no question of placing the state of Israel at risk.  The Madrid Conference was made possible by United States assurances to the parties that the negotiations would end in a just, real and lasting peace.  The Lebanese government feels that throughout the negotiations Israel has taken a disruptive and dilatory line, using the pretext of first the Israeli and then the American elections.  Israel, he said, did not seem to realise that the course of peace did not have time in its favour. According to the Minister, Arab states had opted for moderation instead of extremism.

64.       Ever since the negotiations started the Lebanese Government has been in favour of more extensive United Nations and European Community involvement in the peace process.  The Arab states, while conscious of having made little progress, are ready to conclude a final peace treaty with Israel on the basis of Resolution 242.  Lebanon views the peace process machinery as the most suitable for achieving a settlement of the Arab Israeli conflict and has always rejected parallel bilateral negotiations.

65.       The Moslem and Maronite parliamentarians contacted by the sub-committee stressed the need for Israel to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 stipulating the withdrawal of the Israel army from South Lebanon.  The violence committed against the occupation force stemmed from the population's universal right of resistance.  The parliamentarians reiterated that the Syrian presence in Lebanon was unrelated to the Israeli army's presence in South Lebanon.  Notwithstanding the crisis caused by the deportations of Palestinians, Lebanon has always been in favour of resuming the bilateral talks as negotiations represent its only chance of eventually regaining control over the whole of its territory.  According to the Lebanese parliamentarians, their country wishes to perform a function of moderation and conciliation among the Arab countries.

c.         Jordan

66.       At a private audience with the members of the sub-committee, Crown Prince Hassan stressed Jordan's commitment to peace in the region.  It was the first Arab country to accept Resolutions 242 and 338.  The most convincing demonstration of its sincerity was its readiness to find means of representation for the Palestinian people in the peace process.  Jordan has always been in favour of negotiations but wants them to proceed in a climate ensuring progress towards peace, for they are not to be regarded as an end in themselves.

67.       The members of the Jordanian Senate regard the peace process simply as an application of international law founded on United Nations resolutions.  So far the United States has done no more than convene the various parties without endeavouring to enforce the Security Council resolutions.  For peace to be achieved, Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories and the Palestinian people's right of self-determination must be recognised.  Unless the Palestinian question is settled no Arab state will sign a separate peace with Israel.

68.       In the Jordanian House of Representatives most members are in favour of the peace process and the application of all United Nations Security Council resolutions including Resolution 799.  The problem of Israel's recognition by Jordan will solve itself once the peace settlement is signed.  However, the representative of the Islamic Action Front, a party holding 20 of the 80 seats in the House, expressed approval of immediate application of all the United Nations Security Council resolutions, but rejected Israel's existence, and consequently, all negotiations.

69.       Mr Hammami, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reminded the sub-committee that next to the Palestinians the Jordanians were the heaviest losers in the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Jordan received a large number of Palestinian refugees and had to commit much of its resources to defence rather than economic development.  Success in the bilateral negotiations could only be achieved on the basis of Resolution 242.  The multilateral talks hinged on the creation of a new climate in the region, where security issues were closely associated with economic development issues.  Any progress made in bilateral negotiations would enhance the prospects of progress in the multilateral negotiations, and vice versa.  The Jordanian authorities also consider that Europe, which is involved in the multilateral negotiations, should play a more prominent part in the peace process because it has a direct interest in stability in the regions.  Furthermore, for historical reasons Europe is more aware than others of Middle Eastern realities.

d.         Syria

70.       As stated in paragraph 8, the sub-committee was unable to visit Syria during its tour of Arab capitals.  On three subsequent occasions Syrian diplomatic representatives were invited to attend sub-committee meetings in order to explain Syria's position, but the suggested dates during the May and June-July part sessions of the Assembly were not convenient for the Syrian authorities, they were also informed of the meeting of the Sub-Committee in Paris on 16 July 1993.

71.       Talks with the other parties nevertheless enabled the rapporteur to form an idea of Syria's position.  At present, the Israeli army's withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the restoration of the area to Syria seem to be the precondition for Syria's signing a peace agreement with and recognising Israel.  It is nevertheless hard to envisage Syria reaching a separate agreement with Israel unless there is a simultaneous settlement of the Palestinian question.

e.         The Palestinian position

i.          Palestine National Council

72.       The members of the Palestine National Council (PNC) whom the sub-committee met in Amman recalled that since 1988 the PNC had been in favour of a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict founded on Resolutions 242 and 338.  These resolutions make it clear that land cannot be acquired by force and must revert to its owners when a settlement is reached.  The status of Jerusalem was another very difficult question.  The PNC reiterated that no Palestinian would ever accept that  East Jerusalem be part of Israel.

73.       During the sub-committee's visit, ie before the resumption of the bilateral talks, the PNC representatives declared that within their organisation the PLO was distinctly in favour of carrying on negotiations with Israel to secure lasting peace.  They also explained that failing significant progress it would become increasingly difficult for the Palestinian people to see any point in the negotiations, especially at a time of great hardship in their day-to-day life due to the virtual state of seige imposed in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and the human rights violations.  The sub-committees' talking-partners said that the Palestinian negotiating delegation had to take account at all times of the trend of public opinion in the occupied territories.

ii.          West Bank

74.       The Palestinian leaders interviewed by the sub-committee in East Jerusalem firstly pointed out how difficult it had been for the Palestinian delegation to take part in the negotiations after the lack of progress towards peace in the first eight rounds of talks.

75.       According to the sub-committee's informants, most Palestinians living in the West Bank are in favour of peace and want a final settlement of the conflict.  First of all, however, they need to know whether they are living in occupied or unoccupied territories.  Israeli extremists with visions or a Greater Israel wish to annex the territories, replace the Palestinians with Israeli settlers and obliterate all traces of Palestinian identity.  The Israeli settlements in the West Bank are proof of the intention to redraw the map of the territory.  Yet in spite of all this the Palestinians are prepared to accept an interim period of autonomy on the condition that a link is established with the implementation of Resolution 242, a complete halt is called to Israeli settlement, and some indication is given of the ways in which the final settlement is to be achieved.  As to Jerusalem, both parties acknowledge that it must remain united, but for the time being no agreement on its future status seems possible.  The Palestinians wish the city to be united under two municipal councils, on the understanding, however, that East Jerusalem must not be annexed by Israel.

76.       Regarding security in the West Bank, the Palestinian representatives stressed the Palestinian peoples right to resist Israeli occupation. The violence in the West Bank is the result of this occupation which will prevent peace for as long as it lasts.

iii.         Gaza Strip

77.       The Palestinian political, social and religious authorities meeting with the sub-committee on 6 May in Gaza all agreed that their endorsement of the Palestinian delegation's decision to return to the Washington negotiations on 27 April had been difficult and painful.  Although the Palestinians in Gaza are mainly in favour of the peace process, they are incensed by the discrepancy between the Israeli declarations in Washington and the habitual conduct of the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip which de facto became a huge prison after it was sealed off on 30 March 1993 (cf. paragraph 49).

78.       The closure is construed by the Palestinian leaders as a move by Mr Rabin's government to win the Israeli public's acceptance that Israel can dispense with the occupied territories; the Israelis want to retain sovereignty for the duration of the negotiations but would be ready to trade the territories for peace in the event of an agreement being signed. 

79.       Meanwhile the Israeli occupation of Gaza is causing the Palestinians untold suffering as the Israeli forces are reportedly conducting a systematic campaign of intimidation.  The Israelis know that they will eventually have to withdraw from Gaza but at the same time want to convince public opinion that they are still in command of the situation, even as the negotiations proceed.

f.          Israel

80.       The sub-committee met Mr Peres, Minister of Foreign Affairs, after the resumption of the bilateral talks in Washington on 27 April.  According to the Israeli Minister, Israel had made numerous concessions to that effect: authorising the return of former deportees; promoting family reunion; improving the situation in the territories.  In Washington the Israelis and Palestinians agreed to set up three working groups dealing respectively with land and water matters, human rights in the territories and the concept of self determination.  Israel is about to reach an agreement with Jordan and there is no major problem with Lebanon.  Mr Peres said that to solve the Palestinian problem it must be borne in mind that the crux of the matter is the Palestinian population and not the territories.  The Israeli Government has informed the Syrians and Palestinians that under a permanent settlement based on Resolutions 242 and 338 Israel would be prepared to give up a considerable part of the territories but would retain areas essential to its defence.  During the current bilateral talks, military matters will be discussed by a group of experts responsible for working out measures to guarantee Israel' security.  Israel is unable to dissociate its immediate concerns, such as security, from those which may be settled in the longer term. 

81.       Mr Weiss, Speaker of the Knesset and former member of the Israeli observer delegation to the Assembly, drew attention to the crucial importance of security to Israel for historical reasons.  The present Labour Government is doing its utmost to bring the peace talks to a successful conclusion and reach a compromise with the Palestinians over the territories.  The Likud's position is that Israel should retain control over all territories and that Palestinian autonomy, based on observance of human rights, should be developed under Israeli control.  The Government is also endeavouring to convince the public that peace is possible because the government is capable of taking the requisite measures to guarantee the security and defence of Israel.

82.       Mr Orr, Chairman of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, stressed the demographic problem now affecting the Middle East.  In Gaza the population has more than doubled since the Six-Day War.  In his opinion, Israel should let the Palestinians set up their own organisational structures in Gaza.  The gravity of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians lies in its ideological nature and deep division of Israeli as well as Palestinian society.  Mutual hatred and distrust are so great that it will take a long time to bring about a change in attitudes.  According to Mr Orr, the challenge facing the present Israeli Government is to further the peace process while also combating terrorism. 

83.       The talks with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials revealed various shifts in Israel's stance.  For instance, its relations with the United Nations are reportedly characterised by increasing co-operation instead of hostility as was the case in the cold war period.  Regarding the occupied territories, the previous government was for annexation while the present government is talking about withdrawal.  Israel does not want and cannot afford to be regarded as an occupant.  Israel has offered the Palestinians an interim agreement on the autonomy of territories which would take immediate effect for 5 years.  After 3 years further negotiations would be opened to reach a final agreement. 

84.       The Ministry of Foreign Affairs representatives also explained that the temporary expulsions of Palestinians, more of whom belong to the Hamas terrorist organisation to South Lebanon did not constitute an element of Israeli Government policy but rather an exception.  The decision to seam off the territories had been imperative as a counter-measure to the terrorist campaign which caused 15 Israeli fatalities in March 1993.  However, the present Israeli Government is not guided by considerations of security alone.  It has made major concessions by stopping the influx of settlers, releasing prisoners and acknowledging the applicability of Resolution 242 both during the interim period and upon the permanent settlement.  Any advance in the peace process would depend on a show of good will by all parties.

IV.       THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND THE PEACE PROCESS

a.         The new United States administration

85.       Pursuit of peace in the Middle-East has been a major item in the United States foreign policy for the last quarter century.  Over this time significant objectives have been achieved, including the 1974 and 1975 disengagement agreements and the 1978 Camp David Accords.

86.       As Mr Fourré augured quite some time ago in his report on peace prospects in the Middle-East (Doc 6116), the former Secretary of State Mr Baker's role in the region was decisive and the Madrid Conference was the outcome of his endeavours, replacing the 1973 Geneva Conferences on the Middle East as a frame of reference and establishing a new modus operandi for continued negotiations which will indubitably form the bench-mark for all future discussions on peace in the region.

87.       President Clinton's choice of the Middle East to commence his diplomatic activities highlighted the new US administration's interest in finding a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  This choice also bore witness to the repercussions of the Middle East crisis on the world situation in general.

88.       A few weeks after his appointment, on 18 February 1993, the US Secretary of State Mr Christopher arrived in Cairo at the start of a regional tour during which he also visited Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel.  At that time, the crisis over Israel's deportation of Palestinians was the main hindrance to resumption of the bilateral talks.  Mr Christopher tried to convince his opposite numbers of the need to find a way out of the crisis.  The visit was received with considerable scepticism in the Arab capitals and Egypt even warned Mr Christopher that the failure of attempts to resolve the crisis was strengthening the position of Islamic extremists in the occupied territories and elsewhere in the Middle East.

89.       On 25 February 1993 in Geneva, Mr Christopher met the Russian Foreign Minister Mr Kozyrev who had welcomed the initiative of Mr Christopher's Middle Eastern tour.  At the Geneva encounter both sides decided to maintain their sponsorship of the peace process and co-ordination of their activities on this problem.  They also expressed the hope that the Arabs and Israelis might succeed in finding a solution to the crisis over the deportations.  On that occasion, Mr Christopher issued an appeal to the parties to resume the bilateral talks in Washington on 20 April 1993. 

90.       Since then the new US Administration has received political leaders from both sides in Washington, firstly Mr Peres, the Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister in February and most recently President Mubarak of Egypt in April.

91.       The United States have been very diligent in furthering the negotiations.  At the 9th round of bilateral talks (see paragraphs 30 and 31) there was an American diplomatic effort to secure Israeli and Palestinian acceptance of a declaration of principles, a scheme previously rejected by the Palestinians.

92.       At the start of the 10th round of bilateral talks (see paragraphs 32 to 34) the United States again expressed their readiness to act as mediator between various parties, eg by volunteering to guarantee the safety of the Golan Heights if Syria and Israel reached an agreement on this area.

93.       The US administration, especially the US Secretary of State Mr Christopher, were important mediators in the 1 August ceasefire between Israel and the Arab guerrillas in South Lebanon. In the subsequent five days of intensive "shuttle diplomacy" in the Middle East, Mr Christopher met Egyptian, Israeli, Syrian, Jordanian and Lebanese leaders to salvage the peace process. On 13 August, all parties to the peace process received an invitation from the US administration to resume the bilateral talks in Washington on 30 August.

b.         The United Nations

94.       The United Nations Security Council and General Assembly have consistently and closely monitored the development of the situation in the Middle East.  Apart from the resolutions adopted, the most recent being Resolution 799 (1992) on the Palestinian deportees, the Security Council regularly receives situation reports from the United Nations Secretary General.  In the course of 1992 the Secretary General was in regular contact with all parties involved and stated the readiness of the United Nations to assist the peace process.  The organisation is no doubt fitted by its experience in peace-keeping and humanitarian relief to play a bigger part in the Middle East.  At the end of 1992 it received a formal invitation to take part in the multilateral talks.

95.       However, the most significant contribution of the United Nations to the peace process consisted of Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which form the basis for the current negotiations.

96.       In addition, the United Nations is carrying on three peace keeping operations in the region; the forces monitoring the agreements reached in 1974 between Israel and Syria (UNDOF), the forces deployed in South Lebanon, (UNIFIL) and the mission of observers responsible for supervising the 1949 cease-fire agreement (UNTSEO).

97.       However, the most meaningful action on the ground by a United Nations agency is the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  Set up in 1948, the office provides humanitarian relief and vital community services for 2.42 million Palestinian refugees now resident in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As Mr Atkinson's outstanding reports on the situation of the Palestine refugees (Docs. 5936 and 6402) give a very complete overview of UNRWA activities, they need not be recapitulated. The rapporteur, very much impressed by their work, wishes to commend for their dedication the international and Palestinian officials of the UNRWA in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip at a time of serious deterioration in the social and economic state of the occupied territories. 

98.       The closure of the occupied territories has also affected the operation of UNRWA as two-thirds of the Palestinian staff are unable to commute freely to the organisation's headquarters in East Jerusalem. 

99.       The UNRWA is regarded by a majority of Palestinians as a parallel administration directly assisting them; in fact the UNRWA's mandate is confined to humanitarian relief for Palestinian refugees, so that the office can perform no function as regards development or infrastructures.  The Israeli authorities often accuse the UNRWA of neglecting to help refugees leave the camps and settle down. 

100.     The refugees, however, feel that their position is only temporary and that they will eventually be able to return to their homes.  The extreme complexity of the refugee problem means that it will probably not be dealt with until the final stage of the peace negotiations.  According to the UNRWA, certain Palestinian leaders are nevertheless aware that many refugees will never return home. 

101.     In 1978, the United Nations General Assembly asked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist the development of the occupied territories through schemes subject to approval by Israel and the PLO.  There were very few operations for 1981 to 1986 but there has been a marked improvement in terms of quantity and content since 1986.  While the initial activities concentrated on economic matters and infrastructures, since the Madrid Conference the UNDP has adjusted to the new situation by putting human resources first.  With the help of Palestinian consultants it has pinpointed the requirements of the occupied territories as regards institutional consolidation, managerial training, technical skills, development services, etc.  The work of the UNDP is appreciated by Israel and the Palestinians alike. 

c.         The League of Arab States

102.     While in Cairo the sub-committee had talks with Mr Meguid, Secretary General of the League of Arab States.  This intergovernmental organisation set up in 1945 now has 21 member states.  Its Council is formed by the Foreign Ministers of the member countries.  Prior to the Madrid Conference, the Council of the League of Arab States took a definite stand in favour of the peace process, reaffirming that the settlement of the conflict must be founded on the principles embodied in the various United Nations Security Council resolutions, in particular Resolutions 242 and 338.

103.     In January 1993 the Council of the League of Arab States considered the matter of the deportation of Palestinians to South Lebanon.  The Ministers rejected a PLO request to hold up the peace talks until the deportees were allowed to return home, but they did agree to make strong representations to the United Nations for sanctions against Israel should it refuse to implement Security Council Resolution 799.  The Ministers also observed that the reactions of the international community differed when it came to securing compliance with the United Resolutions by Israel as opposed to Iraq, which they considered tantamount to applying "double standards".

104.     On 17 April 1993, during the sub-committee's tour of the region, the Ministers came out in favour of resumed bilateral talks while acknowledging that the question of deportees was an impediment to negotiations. 

105.     On a number of occasions the League of Arab States has reiterated its wish for recognition of the Palestinians' rights and an end to the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, South Lebanon and the Golan Heights.  It considers that only a political solution to the conflict will secure peace.  This will create a new context in the region and will make it possible to reallocate resources currently spent on defence to development.  Europe, which has historical links with the region, should concentrate more on bringing peace. The European states and the European Community might make efforts to persuade Israel to adopt a more flexible policy towards the Palestinians founded on scrupulous respect for human rights in the occupied territories.  Mr Meguid said that the Council of Europe, being universally recognised as the prime human rights institution, could bring pressure to bear on Israel in the matter. 

d.         Europe

106.     The situation in the Middle East has long been central to the external policy of the European Community and its member states.  It is founded on the Venice Declaration of June 1980, and the broad principles have been recurrently asserted by the European Councils.

107.     A representative of the European Community took part in the Madrid Conference.  The principles underlying the position of the Twelve are compliance with United Nations Security Councils Resolutions 242 and 338, the peace for territories principle, the right of all states in the region, Israel included, to exist within secure and recognised frontiers, and adequate expression of the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people.  The Community has also repeatedly stressed that the suspension of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, the lifting of the Arab boycott on Israel and the respect for human rights in the occupied territories would substantially assist the furtherance of the peace process.

108.     The European Community is actively involved in four of the five working groups set up during the multilateral talks. It participates in the security and disarmament working group strictly as an extra-regional party.  The European Community has set up in the framework of  European political co-operation a special high level co-ordination group in order to monitor progress in the bilateral talks and prepare its contribution to the multilateral talks.  The Community "Troika" (the current, previous and subsequent Presidency of the Council, and the Commission of the Communities) periodically visits the region to explore prospects for regional cooperation and urge all parties to be active in the bilateral and multilateral talks.

109.     At the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly has paid the closest attention to the situation in the Middle East.  The reports by the Political Affairs Committee on Europe's role in a future "new world order" after the Gulf war (Doc. 6418), and on peace prospects in the Middle East (Doc. 6116) and by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography on the situation of the Palestine refugees (Docs. 6402 and 5936) demonstrate the Assembly's commitment to peace in the region.

110.     The recent exchange of letters between the Secretary General of the League of Arab States and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe portends the establishment of close relations between the two organisations. 

111.     Regarding the position of the European states on the peace process, the European Community member states have founded their policy on the principles embodied in the 1980 Venice Declaration.  The other states have reasserted their attachment to the primacy of international law and declared that any settlement of the conflict entails compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

V.        MAIN FINDINGS OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE

112.     In this section, the rapporteur will briefly review the main developments observed on the spot by the sub-committee and directly affecting the peace process.

113.     The parties' interpretations of Resolutions 242 and 338 are divergent.  The Arab view is that the peace process must lead to the implementation of the resolutions, ie reversion to the 1967 frontiers. 

For Israel, the peace process is based on these Resolutions but their implementation does not automatically presuppose restoring the 1967 frontiers.

114.     The autonomy of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is also a cause of disagreement as regards both its substance and its attainment.  Israel sees it as an administrative autonomy excluding all issues which affect Israel's security and the Israeli settlements in the territories.  The Palestinians consider that autonomy should enable them to elect a legislative body with extensive powers.  Israel wishes to reach an agreement on autonomy for an interim period of five years and, after three years of operation, to discuss the final status of the territories.  The Palestinians want to discuss the interim peace agreement and the final settlement agreement simultaneously. 

115.     The Israelis and Arabs agree on the need to preserve a united Jerusalem.  Israel, however, says that Jerusalem will continue to be the capital of Israel whereas the Arab states oppose the annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel.  The sub-committee was able to observe that at present Jerusalem is surrounded by new Israeli settlements which are completely altering the city's character.

116.     The present Israeli government is determined to achieve a just and lasting peace, an attitude which stems from a more general approach to the situation in the region.  Israel has no need of more territory or population, hence the decision to halt further entry of settlers and envisage their withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  The Israeli authorities nevertheless appreciate that there are limits to the time available (the peace negotiations must reach a speedy conclusion) as well as to Israeli public opinion's tolerance of a compromise.  Fortunately, the "peace for territories" attitude is more and more widespread among the Israeli people.

117.     Some Arab governments have taken the course of moderation in the face of extremism but are deeply concerned over the "double standard" used by the international community in enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolutions.  They believe that the international community is capable of mobilising against Iraq or Libya but not against Israel.  This double standard favours the emergence of not only religious but also political extremism in the Arab countries, raising a threat to the region's stability  and a tangible obstacle to the peace process. 

118.     To some of the Arabs whom the sub-committee met, this extremism arises from 40 years of helplessness, the duration of the international community's inability to enforce the United Nations resolutions concerning Israel.  Without contradicting this argument, the rapporteur considers that the economic deterioration in the Arab countries of the region favours the spread of religious extremism among the most underprivileged classes.  Furthermore, extremism is encouraged by the policy of the Iranian government which has made the propagation of the Islamic revolution one of its objectives. This extremism is perceived by Egyptians as one of the most serious dangers for the stability of the region.

119.     During their visit to the region, the members of the sub-committee found out that Israel's deportation of 415 Palestinians to South Lebanon represented a major obstacle to the resumption of the bilateral talks.  Since then the Israeli decision to allow the return of former deportees, assist family reunification and agree to the attendance of Mr Husseini, a Palestinian leader from East Jerusalem, at the bilateral talks and to the involvement of exiled Palestinians in the proceedings of the sub-committee set up in Washington, have made it possible to overcome this obstacle and resume the peace negotiations.  The uncompromising stance of the deportees, mainly Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants, has obstructed their return.  The Israeli authorities now assert that their expulsion is only a temporary measure which should lapse within the next few months. 

120.     Israel, within its internationally recognised boundaries, is the only state in the region which can be regarded as a law-based state securing human rights and fundamental freedoms. However, this assertion has to be treated with reservation because while few criticisms can be levelled at the Israeli authorities as regards the rights of Israelis, the same does not apply to the rights of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

121.     Some of Israel's neighbours are moving towards democracy but  others still have a very long way to go.  This accounts for the great difference in the degree of human rights observance between countries, Egypt probably being the most respectful and Syria the least.

122.     The sub-committee was also able to ascertain that in the occupied territories Israel, as occupying power and signatory to the 4th Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, did not respect its commitments under the Convention.  This is especially true of the treatment meted out by the security forces to the civilian population, the treatment of prisoners - in particular Palestinians in Israeli prisons - , the deportation policy, and the Israeli settlements and their repercussions.

123.     The sub-committee noted that the Israeli government has decided to stop the new settlements in the occupied territories but also found that all the schemes approved before the Labour rise to power are being carried out.  Although no new settlement has been authorised, it is obvious that the operations in progress have not been brought to a standstill.  According to Israeli sources the number of settlers in the occupied territories has grown from 5,000 in 1982 to the present figure of 100,000.  Their presence raises an added difficulty for current negotiation.

124.     The situation in the occupied territories now that they have been sealed off is most dramatic, especially in the Gaza Strip.  A gulf exists between the peace-loving declarations of the Israeli authorities and the day-to-day conduct of the Israeli defence forces in the occupied territories.  According to information supplied by the UNRWA, between December 1992 and March 1993 in the Gaza Strip, 57 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers; the victims included 17 young people under 16 years of age, and over 400 children had been treated for gunshot wounds inflicted by live ammunition.  Over the same period, 31 Palestinians including 5 children were killed in the West Bank.  In March and April 1993 the figures continued to rise. 

125.     The worsening security position has increased the social and economic problems in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.  The unemployment rate has reached about 40% in the Gaza Strip and 25% in the West Bank. A growing number of families are applying for the UNRWA relief reserved for cases of extreme destitution.  Since the closure of the territories the Palestinians have been living in a state of emergency. In Lebanon poverty is ever more widespread among Palestinian refugees. Moreover, it seems that the relations between the Palestinian refugees and the Lebanon authorities are going through a delicate phase.

126.     The sub-committee's informants unanimously acknowledged that only the United States is playing a significant part in the peace process as things stand.  Most Arab leaders expressed the wish for greater European involvement in the process, recalling that the European states and the European Community are the chief suppliers of aid to the occupied territories via the UNRWA but that their humanitarian action is not backed by a similar level of political activity.

127.     Regarding co-operation with the Council of Europe, Israel has asked to participate in certain intergovernmental activities.  For their part, all the Arab parliaments visited by the sub-committee have expressed the wish to enhance their co-operation with the Assembly.  The Secretary General of the League of Arab States has expressed readiness to consider ways of establishing co-operation between his organisation and the Council of Europe. 

VI.       CONCLUSIONS

128.     Before drawing conclusions from the foregoing, which are shared by the Sub-Committee, the rapporteur wishes to comment on the reasons why, in her opinion, the Assembly should adopt a stance on the situation in the Middle East.  Firstly, there is the fact that the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) has observer status with our Assembly.  Matters of concern to Israel are of direct interest to the Assembly.  Next, as the President of the Assembly told the Knesset on 27 January 1993, Europe needs to have at its borders countries and peoples sharing the same democratic values and a high standard of prosperity. 

129.     It is therefore vitally important for Europe to end the conflict in the Middle East so that the countries in the region may enjoy stability and security.  This requires a commitment which the Assembly must be prepared to make.  It must also be borne in mind that Europe's political stability depends on that of the Mediterranean area.  Without a just and lasting peace in the Middle East there can be no security and stability in the Mediterranean area.

130.     European parliamentary support for the peace process therefore needs to be increased.  Both the Assembly and national parliaments must consider what specific contributions can be made.

131.     As far as the Assembly is concerned, it must make an effort to foster a climate of confidence between the parties with due regard to the Council of Europe's unique role. This means putting forward specific proposals for action in fields where the organisation's expertise and experience are universally recognised, viz human rights, protection of minorities and establishment of democratic institutions.

132.     The Assembly might accordingly organise encounters with all parties on matters of common interest (human rights protection machinery, assessment of requirements regarding education, environmental protection, etc).  It might also invite parliamentarians from all sides to attend some of the meetings which it organises (conferences, colloquies and seminars).  The Assembly must try to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to state their respective viewpoints.  For the sake of balance, Arab personalities from the Middle East should be invited to address the Assembly. 

133.     The Assembly might subsequently invite young parliamentarians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and staff members of the administrations serving the elected bodies to come to Strasbourg and attend training courses like those organised for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. 

134.     The Strasbourg Conference on Parliamentary Democracy also offers prospects for furthering dialogue between Europe and the Middle East.  A regional seminar like those held in Central America or Australia could also be convened in the region. 

135.     In addition to these initiatives the Assembly members should try to gain a fuller understanding of the regional realities, particularly the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  When members of the Assembly go to Israel, a visit to the occupied territories would also be advisable.

136.     The human rights situation in the occupied territories could also be kept under close watch by an appropriate Council of Europe body.  The proposals in Recommendation 1204 (1993) on the creation of a transitional mechanism for the protection of human rights in European non-member states of the Council of Europe could act as a guide for setting up a body of this kind.  The rapporteur points out that in Recommendation 1152 (1991) on the situation of the Palestine refugees and the emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel, the Assembly instructed its Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography to report on the human rights situation for Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories.  The sub-committee's Palestinian contacts were all in favour of such an initiative.

137.     Finally, the rapporteur would also point out that when the peace process continues, free and democratic elections will be held in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  At this stage the Assembly should undertake to help with the organisation of these future elections and send a delegation of observers in due course to observe their conduct.

138.     Meanwhile, pending the advent of peace, the governments of the Council of Europe member states should give more help to the UNRWA in meeting the funding requirements of the programmes of emergency measures on behalf of Lebanon and the occupied territories.

139.     These conclusions were drafted before the agreement between Israel and the PLO was known. However, the Rapporteur considers that the new atmosphere it has created makes it easier to implement the proposals listed above, thus contributing to the setting up of conditions for a lasting solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.


APPENDIX 1


APPENDIX 2

Recent Assembly's work concerning the Middle East

(1987-1993)

I.          Assembly debates, reports submitted and texts adopted

1992

AS (43) CR 22            Assembly's official report (05.02.92)

                        The President of the State of Israel, Mr Chaim Herzog, adressed the Assembly

1991

Doc 6497         Report on the contribution of the Islamic civilisation to European culture

                        (Recommendation 1162 (1991) adopted on 19.09.91)

                        Rapporteur: Mr de Puig, Spain, Socialist

Doc 6489         Report on the general policy of the Council of Europe (Part III) -                                               Prospects for European integration and détente in the Mediterranean

                        (Recommendation 1166 (1991) adopted on 24.09.1991)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Soares Costa, Portugal, Social Democrat

Doc 6462         Report on demographic imbalances between the countries of the Mediterranean basin

                        (Recommendation 1164 (1991) adopted on 23.09.91)

                        Rapporteurs: Mr Mota Torres, Portugal, Socialist, and Mr Vazquez, Spain, United Left 

Doc 6418         Report on the general policy of the Council of Europe after the Gulf War:

                        Europe's role in a future "new world order". 

                        (Resolution 963 (1991) adopted on 25.04.1991)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Soares Costa,Portugal,Social Democrat

Doc 6414         Opinion on refugee flows after the Gulf War

                        (Resolution 963 (1991) adopted on 25.04.1991)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Cucó, Spain, Socialist

                                   

Doc 6402         Report on the situation of the Palestine refugees and the immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel

                        (Recommendation 1152 (1991) adopted on 24.04.1991)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Atkinson, United Kingdom, Conservative

1990

Doc 6155         Report on the situation of the Lebanese civilian population fleeing the country

                        (Resolution 940 (1990) adopted on 02.02.1990)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Flückiger, Switzerland, Liberal

1989

Doc 6116         Report on peace prospects in the Middle East

                        (Resolution 923 (1989) adopted on 22.09.1989)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Fourré, France, Socialist

Doc 6049         Report on the situation in Lebanon

                        (Resolution 918 (1989) adopted on 11.04.1989)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Martínez, Spain, Socialist

Doc 6045         Information report on the situation on the Middle East and the peace process

                        Rapporteur: Mr Fourré, France, Socialist   

1988

Doc 5936         Report on the situation of the Palestine refugees

                        (Recommmendation 1090 (1988) adopted on 07.10.1988)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Atkinson, United Kingdom, Conservative

Doc 5911         Report on the prospects for an international Middle East Peace Conference

                        (Resolution 902 (1988) adopted on 30.06.1988)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Fourré, France, Socialist

Doc 5868         Report on the situation of the Jews in the Soviet Union 

                        (Resolution 898 (1988) adopted on 03.04.1988)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Hassler, Liechtenstein

1987

Doc 5778         Report on the Jewish contribution to European culture  

                        (Resolution 885 (1987) adopted on 05.10.1987)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Martínez, Spain, Socialist

Doc 5712         Report on Egypt's role in the Middle East today

                        (Resolution 877 (1987) adopted on 07.04.1987)

                        Rapporteur: Mr Martínez, Spain, Socialist 

II.         Visits to the region

31.05-02.06.93            The Committee on Science and Technology met in Israel

03-06.05.93     The Sub-Committee on the situation in the Middle East Met in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip

13-17.04.93     The Sub-Committee on the situation in the Middle East met in Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan

   27.01.93       In East Jerusalem, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Mr Miguel Angel Martínez met members of the Palestinian Delegation to the peace negotiations

25-27.01.93     President Martínez visited Israel

16-19.03.92     The Committee on Culture and Education met in Israel

08-16.01.89     The Contact Group on the situation in the Middle East (of the Political Affairs Committee) visited Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Israel

02-06.06.88     The Committee on Science and Technology met in Israel

01-03.03.88     The Committee on the Budget and the Intergovernmental Work Programme met in Israel

   15.01.88       The Contact Group on the situation in the Middle East met in Israel

30.03-01.04.87            The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography met in Israel and Gaza Strip

02-03.02.87     The Sub-Committee on the situation in the Middle East met in Egypt


APPENDIX 3

A. Programme of the visit to Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan

(13-17 April 1993)

Tuesday 13 April 1993: EGYPT

10.15               Meeting with Ambassadors of member States

20.00               Meeting with Mr Moussa, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Wednesday 14 April 1993: Egypt

10.00               Meeting with Mr Hamady, Vice-President, and members of the People's Assembly

12.00               Meeting with Mr Meguid, Secretary General of the League of Arab States

13.30               Meeting with Mr Helmy, Chairman, and members of the Assembly of the Shura

19.00               Reception hosted by the Ambassador of the United Kingdom

Thursday 15 April 1993

                        Travel from Cairo to Beirut

Friday 16 April 1993: Lebanon

09.30               Visit of Beirut

11.00               Meeting with Mr El-Assaad and Mr Al-Saad, members of the National Assembly

12.30               Meeting with Mr Boueiz, Minister for Foreign Affairs

17.00               Meeting with H.E. the President of the Republic

20.50               Departure for Amman

Saturday 17 April 1993: Jordan

09.00               Meeting with Mr Hammami, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

10.00               Meeting with Mr Al-Louzi, President, and members of the Senate

12.00               Meeting with Mr Zaben, Vice-President, and members of the House of Representatives

17.00               Private audience by Crown Prince Hassan

18.00               Meeting with the Palestine National Council

 B. Programme of the visit to

Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

(3-6 May 1993)

Monday 3 May 1993: ISRAEL

 9.15                Visit to "Yad Vashem" memorial

10.45               Meeting with Mr Peres, Minister of Foreign Affairs

12.30               Meeting with Mr Weiss, Speaker of the Knesset

13.30               Working lunch with the Israeli observers to the Assembly

15.00               Meeting with Mr Orr, Chairman, and Mr Begin, member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence

16.00               Attendance at the opening sitting of the summer session of the Knesset

20.00               Dinner hosted by Mr Dinitz, President of the Jewish Agency

Tuesday 4 May 1993: ISRAEL AND EAST JERUSALEM

 9.30                Visit to an immigrants absorption centre

11.00               Meeting with Mr Padon, Diplomatic Adviser to the Mayor of Jerusalem

12.00               Meeting with Mr Bein, Deputy Director General for the United Nations and international organisations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

13.30               Working lunch with Mr Raviv, Deputy Director General for Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

15.00               Visit to the old city of Jerusalem

17.30               Departure from the hotel

                        Meeting with Mr Guarda, Special Representative of the Administration of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

20.00               Working dinner with professors of Jerusalem University

Wednesday 5 May 1993: WEST BANK AND GAZA STRIP

 8.00                Departure from the Sheraton Plaza Hotel

 8.30                Meeting with Mr Mitchell, Deputy Director of UNRWA in the West Bank

 9.30                Departure for a visit to Palestinian refugee camp, via Shu'fat

                        Observation of settlements

10.30               Visit to the refugee camp of Kalandia and UNRWA installations

11.25               Departure for the Aqabat Jabr camp

12.00               Visit to the Aqabat Jabr camp and an income-generating project

13.00               Lunch hosted by UNRWA at the "American Colony", Jerusalem

15.00               Departure from the "American Colony"

15.30               Meeting with Palestinian representatives

                        Departure for Gaza

19.30               Dinner hosted by Mr Worm, Director of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip

                        Overnight at the Marna House Hotel, Gaza

Thursday 6 May 1993: GAZA STRIP AND ISRAEL

 9.00                Departure from the Marna House Hotel

 9.30                Meeting with Palestinian representatives

11.00               Visit to Gaza, a refugee camp (Beach Camp) and UNRWA installations

15.00               Departure from Gaza to Tel Aviv

18.00               Meeting with the Ambassadors of the United Kingdom and Greece


Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none.

References to committee: Doc. 6575 and Reference No. 1776 of 11 March 1992 and Doc. 6758 and Reference No. 1845 of 5 February 1993.

Draft recommendation adopted by the committee on 10 September 1993 with 31 votes to 0 and 5 abstentions.

Draft resolution adopted by the committee on 10 September 1993 with 35 votes to 0 and 1 abstention.

Members of the committee: MM Reddemann (Chairman), Sir Dudley Smith (Vice-Chairman), Mrs Baarveld-Schlaman (Vice-Chairperson), MM Agnelli, Alvarez-Cascos (Alternate: Fabra), Andreotti, Antretter, Baumel, Björn Bjarnason, Bokov, Bratinka, Cimoszewicz, Efraimoglou, Espersen, Lord Finsberg, MM Fiorini, Flückiger, Galanos (Alternate: Hadjidemetriou), Gricius, Mrs Haller, Mrs Halonen, MM Hardy (Alternate: Banks), Hellström, Irmer, Kaspereit, Kelam, Kelchtermans, Kenneally, König (Alternate: Schwimmer), Mrs Lentz-Cornette, MM van der Linden (Alternate: Verbeek), Machete, Martins, Maruflu, Masseret, Mimaroglu, Moya (Alternate: de Puig), Oehry, Pahor, Pangalos, Panov, Psaila Savona, Schieder, Seeuws, Mrs Suchocka (Alternate: Koslowski), MM Szent-Ivanyi, Tarschys, Thoresen, Trabacchini, N... (Alternate: Mrs Janu).

NB. The names of those members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretary of the committee: Mr Sorinas, Mr Kleijssen and Mrs Kleinsorge.