11 April 2001
Middle East conflict
Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Mr John D. Taylor, United Kingdom, Group of the European People’s Party
Both parties of the conflict (Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority) must stop immediately all forms of violence and get back to the negotiation table without any prior conditions, in order to achieve a peaceful solution in the spirit of the Oslo Agreements.
Both sides should show a more flexible attitude in resolving the key issues and should refrain from outdated declarative rhetoric.
The basically sound starting point of the peace process: “ land for peace” can be achieved provided parties do not indulge in provocative acts such as terrorism, the excessive use of force or a disregard of internationally recognised boundaries.
Europe could and should play a political role in the peace process and later in consolidating security and co-operation.
I. Draft resolution
1. The Assembly is deeply concerned by the collapse of the Camp David Summit in July 2000, which was meant to reach a final status agreement. It deplores the politically irresponsible and provocative acts which sparked an upsurge of violence and hampered efforts to restart negotiations.
2. It reiterates its conviction that the resumption of the negotiations represents the only chance to reach a lasting political settlement in the Middle East. The opportunity to work towards a historic compromise of two sovereign, secure and viable states must be seized before the escalation of events undermines it.
3. The Assembly calls on the two parties to pursue the security co-operation to pave the way for further negotiations.
4. Albeit, international mediation efforts can continue to contribute to the political peace process and settlement, but in the end only direct negotiations between the parties could lead to a final agreement. The Assembly therefore calls on political leaders on both sides to show a high degree of responsibility and to put their historic mission above their own political and personal aims.
5. The Assembly welcomes the withdrawal of Israel from South Lebanon as a positive decision and calls upon Syria to reciprocate by withdrawing its army from Lebanon and condemns Hizballah for continuing terrorist attacks on northern Israel.
6. The Assembly condemns all acts of violence. This includes the current wave of “Intifada”, as well as the disproportionate use of force by Israeli army, the unjustified destruction of property, collective economic punishments against the civilian population and the plans involving a “policy of liquidation” against leading Palestinian officials.
7. Palestinian leaders must show their determination to follow a policy of peaceful co-existence with Israel and to respect its insistence on “security”, which is determined by past sufferings and several wars with its neighbours. Palestinian authority must do its utmost to establish and maintain the rule of law in the Territories under its control and not encourage anti-Israeli propaganda in the media and in schools.
8. The Assembly is convinced that the peace process is closely linked to the gradual democratisation of Palestinian society and its institutions. The Basic Law (Palestinian Constitution) under examination and the recent development of civil society organisations are encouraging signs. The Venice Commission (European Commission for Democracy Through Law) in a recent report (March 2001) made a positive appraisal of the evolution of the institutional framework of the Palestinian Authority, although the effective protection of human rights leaves room for improvements.
9. However, full democracy implies full sovereignty, which could only be achieved in the final phase of statehood. Moreover, at present the Palestinian territory is scattered and parts of it are sealed off. The Palestinian Legislative Council is more often than not hindered from attending the sessions. These circumstances are not conducive to a speedy development of parliamentary democracy.
10. Both Israel and Palestine, in particular, would benefit from greater involvement in international organisations.
11. If and when the peace process starts again, the negotiators will be facing the same three main areas of dispute: The status of Jerusalem and the Holy Sites; the Jewish settlements and the refugee problem. The Assembly firmly believes that unless the parties move beyond the outdated declarative rhetoric and inflexible traditional positions, no progress can be achieved.
12. As for the settlements, it has been repeatedly acknowledged in UN resolutions, as well as other international documents that their ongoing expansion has damaging effects on confidence building and future relations between the two sides. It is not consistent with a genuine two-State solution, with continuous and defendable borders, nor with the principle of “land for peace” that was the starting point of the Oslo process. And yet, the outgoing Israeli government voted a budget of 300 million USD for the further development of settlements in 2001.
13. The Assembly is of the opinion that member countries of the Council of Europe could and should play a political role in the peace process. This role should not be limited to activities such as financial aid. Though European countries and European institutions and the United States may have different approaches to the peace process, they have similar interests and burden sharing is inevitable in the long run. Europe in general, because of its historical and cultural ties with the Middle East, has a better understanding of regional dynamics and sensitivities. Europe has a long experience in complex, multilateral institution-building and it must therefore complement the major role played by the United States in peace-making, by taking a leading role in peace-building.
14. The Assembly therefore, in the light of these considerations and recalling its previous texts, namely Resolution 1013 (1993), Recommendation 1221 (1993), Resolution 1103 (1996), Resolution 1156 (1998) and Resolution 1183 (1999):
A. Calls upon the Israeli government:
i. to gradually relax closures and similar measures which have a devastating impact on the economic life in the Palestinian territories and suspend collective punishments which serve no useful purpose and are not worthy of a democratic state;
ii. to cease, as a matter of urgency, the expansion of settlements in the Palestinian territories, and start plans for the dismantlement of settlements, especially those in Gaza and Hebron. A possibility is that settlements near Jerusalem could be incorporated in revised boundaries of Israel in exchange of Israeli land to the future Palestinian State;
iii. to refrain from the excessive use of force or any provocation which might jeopardize future talks and to investigate and bring to justice all cases of human rights abuses and illegal shootings and to confiscate illegal weapons ;
iv. to improve the living conditions of the Israeli-Arab citizens, especially in areas such as employment, professional training, infrastructure of their villages and neighbourhoods;
v. to pay tax payments owed to the Palestinian Authority which were withheld as a result of the upsurge of violence last autumn;
vi. to pursue the reform of school books, as an attempt to comply with the Oslo agreements, and with a view to contributing to peace through the educational system;
vii. to ensure freedom of media in Palestinian territories controlled by Israeli forces and grant journalists the necessary papers to this effect;
viii. to initiate proposals in order to keep the peace process alive and to avoid acts or declarations which might lead to despair amongst the Palestinian population, in particular, youths who may otherwise be tempted to follow the example of radical movements such as Hizbollah;
ix. to make it possible for the Palestinian Legislative Council to have their plenary sessions by abolishing the travel restrictions of its members;
B. Calls upon the Palestinian Authority:
i. to condemn terrorism, outlaw terrorist organisations, confiscate illegal weapons and to investigate into allegations that members of Palestinian security forces are involved in assassination attempts against Israelis or in incitement to violence campaigns;
ii. to focus their efforts on political initiatives in support of the resumption of peace negotiations and to lead the public opinion towards this gaol by emphasising that negotiations for the final status can be better pursued in an atmosphere of calm and serenity;
iii. to proceed with the promulgation of the Basic Law, despite current difficulties, and to provide the Palestinian society with a modern constitutional text based on democratic principles and the protection of human rights, and to abolish the death penalty;
iv. to show a more flexible attitude in resolving the problem of Palestinian refugees by trying to absorb part of the refugee population in the future Palestinian state, in other parts of the world or by way of compensation. The absorption by Israel of a massive Palestinian refugee population is politically unrealistic;
v. to pursue the reform of school books, as an attempt to comply with the Oslo agreements, and with a view to contributing to peace through the educational system;
C. Calls upon the EU:
i. to pursue its efforts in bridging differences of opinion between Palestinians and Israelis through educational programmes and regional co-operation, and to continue its financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, in a targeted way in order to encourage transparency, accountability and a culture of participation;
D. Calls upon the League of Arab States:
i. to honour the financial aid for economic development previously promised to the Palestinian Authority;
E. Invites member governments of the Council of Europe:
i. to give their full support to peace efforts and in this context to observation initiatives such as the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) consisting of a small group of unarmed observers, and to the conclusions of the international fact-finding commission, chaired by US Senator Mitchell, set up to examine the causes of the outbreak of violence;
ii. to promote the concept of an Organisation for Security and Co-operation in the Middle East (OSCME), as previously suggested by the Assembly, in particular, in the post-negotiation phase, to consolidate peace and to transform non-belligerency into stable co-operation;
i. to invite representatives of the Palestinian Legislative Council to participate in the Parliamentary Assembly and its committee meetings whenever the Middle East issue appears on the agenda;
ii; to continue to closely observe the situation through its competent committees and hold periodical debates in the plenary as well as colloquies, seminars, and conferences on specific topics;
G. Appeals to both parties of the conflict (Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority) to stop immediately all forms of violence and get back to the negotiation table without any prior conditions, in order to conclude a peaceful solution in the spirit of the Oslo Agreements.
II. Draft recommendation
1. The Assembly, recalling its previous texts, namely Resolution 1013 (1993), Recommendation 1221 (1993), Resolution 1103 (1996), Resolution 1156 (1998), Resolution 1183 (1999) and Resolution …..(2001) on the Middle East conflict, asks the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to invite member governments of the Council of Europe:
i. to give their full support to peace efforts and in this context to observation initiatives such as the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) consisting of a small group of unarmed observers, and to the conclusions of the international fact-finding commission, chaired by US Senator Mitchell, set up to examine the causes of the outbreak of violence;
ii. to promote the concept of an Organisation for Security and Co-operation in the Middle East (OSCME), as previously suggested by the Assembly, in particular, in the post-negotiation phase, to consolidate peace and to transform non-belligerency into stable co-operation.
III. Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur
II. Recapitulation of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since 1999
III. The present situation
i. violence and human rights
iii. functioning of institutions
iv. education programmes and mass psychology
IV. Major issues
V. Future prospects
Appendix I Israeli government
Appendix II The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) : distribution of seats
Appendix III Map of Jewish settlements
Appendix IV Programme of the visit (19 – 24 March 2001)
Appendix V List of participants
1. The Middle East peace process is in crisis after an upsurge of violence between Israelis and Palestinians during the autumn of 2000 and continues to be in turmoil to this day. Hundreds of people have died and thousands have been injured, most of the victims are Palestinian.
2. The crisis emerged when the Camp David Summit in July 2000 ended without an agreement. The focus was on the “final status” of Jerusalem, the Jewish settlements, the Palestinian refugees and the territory of a future Palestinian state. Although the Summit concentrated on the Israeli-Palestinian Track of the wider peace process, as expected, its collapse and the subsequent events triggered off a toughening of the positions of other Arab countries in the region. The very radical statements made by some of the leaders at the Summit of the League of Arabs States at the end of March 2001, and in particular by President Bashar-al-Assad of Syria, leaves no room for optimism in the immediate future.
3. However, the “wider context” of the peace process is outside the scope of this report. Once the situation returns to normal and peace negotiations resume between the Israelis and Palestinians a more comprehensive report covering the situation in Lebanon and Syria, Israel’s relations with Jordan and Egypt and the wider implications of recent developments in both Iraq and Iran could be envisaged.
4. It should also be recalled that an extremely detailed report on the historical context of the Middle East peace process has been presented to the Parliamentary Assembly, in 1996 (Doc. 7700, Resolution 1103) with updates on the situation of refugees in 1998 (Doc. 8042, Resolution 1156) and on the Israeli-Palestinian dimension in 1999 (Doc. 8347, Resolution 1183). Therefore, in order to avoid unnecessary repetitions, this report will not include any background information on the peace process up to 1999, nor on the Palestinian institutions set up by earlier agreements. I should like to pay tribute to previous rapporteurs for their impartial efforts, leading the Assembly to adopt a political position perfectly in line with the Council of Europe’s principles and objectives:
- respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
- respect for democracy and the rule of law;
- denunciation of terrorism;
- the establishment of a viable Palestinian State;
- support for international peace efforts.
5. Finally, I should like to point out that although the visit of a limited number of members of the Sub-Committee on the Middle East to the region was organised in difficult circumstances, it was timely and necessary to the purpose of this report. I should like to join our small group in extending our sincere thanks to the organisers on both sides, as well as to the authorities who shared their valuable time with us for truly open discussions.
II. Recapitulation of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since 19991
6. Following the non-implementation of the “Wye River” Agreement, President Arafat had pledged to declare independence unilaterally on 4 May. While international pressure on the Palestinians was rising to prevent them from doing so, the Knesset dissolved itself and decided to hold elections on 17 May. President Arafat preferred to wait for the outcome of the elections and delayed the planned declaration.
7. Hope for further progress in the peace process rose when Mr Barak won a decisive victory and became the Prime Minister of Israel. Political leaders in the United States of America and in Europe expressed optimism and encouraged both sides to resume talks. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the elections had proved “that Israeli people have chosen peace”2.
8. Mr Barak, for his part, started off with an ambitious agenda to seek negotiations on all fronts and stressed that “nothing is more important in my view than the supreme mission of putting an end to the 100 year conflict in the Middle East”3 He promised to implement the “Wye River” Agreement if some modifications could be made, in particular, by combining Israeli redeployments from the West Bank with the “final status” talks.
9. After several weeks of mutual accusations and arm twisting, the then US Secretary of State, Mrs Madeleine Albright succeeded in getting the two sides to sign a revised version of the “Wye River” agreements at the Egyptian resort Sharm-el-Sheikh (4 September 1999). A new time-table for Israeli redeployments from the West Bank was set and the “final status” negotiations were reopened. There was even agreement on the difficult issue of prisoners; 350 prisoners would be released, including a certain number who had participated in anti-Israel attacks, but excluding those who had killed Israelis.
10. Later in September 1999, the “final status” negotiations, adjourned since 1996, reopened with a ceremonial meeting between Foreign Minister, Mr Levy and the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, Mahmoud Abbas. Both sides set out basic positions in advance. Mr Barak stressed that certain matters were not open to discussion i.e. “….a united Jerusalem under our sovereignty as the capital of Israel for eternity, period….”4. The Palestinian position was no less rigid i.e. “We aspire to live within the borders of an independent Palestinian State in the 1967 boundaries, with Holy Jerusalem as its capital…”5 The talks were interrupted in December 1999 by the Palestinians, in protest to the continued construction of Israeli settlements.
11. In May 2000, Israel withdrew its troops form South Lebanon. In June 2000, President Hafez al-Assad died and the talks with Syria remained in deadlock. Prime Minister Barak again turned his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian Track. At the same time, the United States renewed diplomatic activity, and in July Prime Minister Barak and President Arafat met in Camp David, together with former President Clinton, in a summit meeting. The aim was to resolve the “final status” issues, which had been considered too sensitive to tackle in 1993, at Camp David I, and had only resulted in a five-year interim agreement.
12. A great deal has been written and said on Camp David II and why it failed after only two weeks. The position of the parties on specific issues will be examined in the corresponding chapters below. As a more general comment most political analysts agree that the time was perhaps not ripe and the conditions were far from favourable. There were dissensions in both sides. President Arafat who was, at first, reluctant to attend, fearing “the ground was not sufficiently prepared”, has later been accused of “selling out” the Palestinian cause by making concessions such as possible “land swaps”. Mr Barak was severely criticised for even mentioning a certain form of Palestinian “sovereignty” over the Muslim Holy sites. Discontent and frustration was growing in the two communities.
13. When the Summit broke up on 25 July the only tangible commitment was the declaration of intention that the two sides would avoid “unilateral actions that prejudge the outcome of negotiations..”6 Mr Clinton praised Mr Barak for his “…courage, vision and an understanding of the historical importance of this moment”. Though Mr Clinton’s remarks were attacked by some observers, many also admitted that Mr Barak’s proposals had gone further than any other Israeli politician until now.
14. In September 2000, after a visit by the then opposition leader, Ariel Sharon to the Muslim Holy Site, Al Aqsa, on the disputed Temple Mount, violence broke out and escalated rapidly. Up to now almost 400 people have died (over 300 Palestinians) and thousands more have been maimed or seriously injured.
15. In October 2000, following a short meeting in Sharm-el Sheikh and despite strong Israeli reluctance an international fact-finding Committee was established in order to analyse the reasons for the upsurge of violence and to make recommendations to restore confidence. The Committee is chaired by the U.S. Senator Mitchell and includes the EU High Representative, Mr Solana among its five members.
16. In January 2001, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators arrived in Taba (Egypt) in an attempt to conclude a framework agreement for a permanent peace settlement. Two days later Israel suspended its participation after the killing of two Israelis in the West Bank.
17. In February 2001, Prime Ministerial elections took place in Israel. Mr Sharon won a landslide victory and formed a coalition government (see Appendix I). No attempt has since been made, by either side, to resume the peace talks. Mr Sharon declared that the talks can not be resumed before all forms of violence stops.
III. The present situation
i. Violence and Human Rights
18. Since last September the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories has deteriorated considerably. Violence has escalated in its multiple forms. The “Intifada” which began with young children throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers has increased in intensity that now includes sniper attacks and suicide bombers. The Israeli government officially accused the Palestinian Authority, and the forces under its control, of intensively engaging in terrorism and the incitement to violence. Israeli security forces organised operations against Force 17; special Palestinian security units directly linked to President Arafat.
19. Israel’s excessive use of force - ranging from bombings from helicopter gunships, extra-judicial killings of Palestinian political figures - has been condemned by the international community. The closure of territories, the destruction of houses and private property, and collective punishments are seen by the Palestinians as forms of inadmissible violence. There are also some allegations that Israel uses weapons containing depleted uranium with concerns about damage it may cause to health and the environment. The Sub-Committee on the Middle East’s visit to the Abu Raya Rehabilitation Centre in Ramallah revealed the sad facts on the number and condition of Palestinians hit by Israeli bullets. The Centre, which now operates with limited means, definitely deserves international attention and aid.
20. The respect of human rights in the occupied territories is cause for great concern. As regards the Palestinian Authority reports of arbitrary arrest, detention without trial, torture and deaths while in custody, summary trials and executions are worrisome. Calls for a moratorium on the death penalty have been ignored. As for Israel, a recent statement on behalf of the EU7 “regrets the failure of the Israeli government to co-operate with the Special Rapporteur of the EU on the human rights situation in the occupied territories”. At the same time the EU reminds Israel that the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in times of war “is fully applicable to the Palestinian occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and constitutes binding international humanitarian law”. Our delegation heard accusations during its visit that the Israeli courts did not pursue cases against Israeli Jews having committed crimes against Palestinians with an equal determination and diligence as was the case against Arabs.
21. A situation of conflict naturally has an impact on the economies of all sides involved. Israel, despite its strong, high-tech orientated economy can not escape this rule. The dramatic fall in tourism and the increase in military expenditure will certainly take its toll. However, the situation in the Palestinian territories is near collapse. Considering the huge difference in the per capita income of the two communities (Israel: 19,000 USD, Palestinian territories 2,000 USD per year) their capacity to face up to a crisis situation will obviously not be the same.
22. Main Palestinian centres are systematically being encircled and sealed off. The combination of closures and curfews, although not as extensive as during the first Intifada in 1993, cuts off the areas in question from the neighbouring regions and villages on which they depend for food and other economic activities. Collective punishments, prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention, inflicted on some Palestinian neighbourhoods and villages, causes further stress on the local economic life and trade. As your Rapporteur, I abhor and am deeply concerned that these types of measures, which are reminiscent of cruel periods of history are not worthy of a democratic, modern state.
23. In a recent report, presented by Commissioner Patten to the EU, there are overwhelming figures: there has been a 50% increase in the number of people living below the poverty line. People classified as “poor” have increased from 650.000 to one million. The percentage has increased from 21% to 32%. Loss of employment in Israel plus the restrictions on mobility within the occupied territories have resulted in an average unemployment percentage of 38% as opposed to 11%, before September 2000. The GNP is expected to decrease by 27%.
24. Israel has been withholding the tax revenues due in violation of the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations, of 29 April 1994. The arrears currently amount to 82 million €. At present, despite sporadic contributions from Arab States, the EU is the largest contributor of financial assistance to the Palestinian Authorities. Over the period 1994 to 2000, the EU contributed a total of 3 billion € to the Palestinian people in the fields of education, human rights, health, institution building, water, infrastructure and the environment. General international financial support for the Palestinian Authority is co-ordinated through an Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, permanently chaired by Norway.
iii. Functioning of the institutions
25. The present state of affairs is equally detrimental to the functioning of political institutions on the Palestinian side. The Palestinian Authority in near bankruptcy. If foreign financial aid diminishes or ceases the somewhat inflated numbers of civil servants and security forces will not receive their salaries. Because of the restrictions on mobility the members of both the Executive Authority and the Legislative Council are prevented from attending meetings on a regular basis. The Executive Authority has had two meetings since September and the Legislative Council has had none for several months. The dysfunctioning of the Palestinian Authority might lead to a power vacuum and ultimately to chaos.
26. The international community, and in particular Europe has invested hopes and efforts in the development and consolidation of democratic institutions in Palestinian territories. Israeli leaders stressed time and again the importance of this during our visit. It was made clear to us that more accountability and transparency in the functioning of the Palestinian institutions would have a positive impact on the peace process and on the stability of the region in general.
27. There were some encouraging signs in the period preceding the outbreak of violence. Civil society organisations began to develop in the territories, academic co-operation through European and American universities and via EU programmes such as Med-Campus started producing ideas and suggestions in support of peace efforts. At the initiative of the Parliamentary Assembly, the draft Basic Law for the Palestinian Authority, a kind of constitutional law, was submitted to the European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission) for an opinion. This latter has considered the document and came to the conclusion that despite some shortcomings and strong statements such as “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine”, the draft is one of the most liberal constitutional documents in the Arab world. The fact that it has not been signed by the President, therefore has not entered into force yet means that the Palestinian Authority exercises its power in a legal and judiciary vacuum.
28. Evidently, in the Palestinian territories, there is still some mishmash of revolutionary logic and institutional rigour. Just as the passage from an interim situation to a fully-fledged sovereign state has not yet been achieved, the predominance of the PLO in the Legislative Council, but especially within the small circle of the Executive Authority, has not given way to a proportional representation of the different political forces (see Appendix II). The overlap between the responsibilities of the PLO and the officially elected structures is disheartening for the average observer.
iv. Education programmes and mass psychology
29. Preconceived ideas and prejudice still play an important role in that part of the world. To remedy this a few interesting ideas had been put forward during the Oslo talks in order to improve the educational systems and thus “contribute to peace”. In Israel, a ninth grade history book “ A World of Change” replaced old texts. The new book down-played the Zionist narrative and reduced traditional references to the Holocaust and put more emphasis on facts like Palestinian refugees. Judged to be a pedagogical failure by public opinion, as well as by some intellectuals, the new government decided to revise it.
30. On the Palestinian side, despite strong encouragement from abroad, in particular the EU, the basic philosophy on school textbooks has not changed. In a recent article the new Israeli Education Minister, regrets that textbooks do not teach co-existence with Israel but define it as a “colonialist conqueror”. The new textbook “Our Beautiful Language” includes quotes like “There is no alternative to destroying Israel”8.
31. It is obvious that though textbooks are important, the quality of teaching, family upbringing and especially the media play a greater role in perpetrating prejudice and hatred, as of course they can do the contrary.
IV. Major Issues
32. Surely, the most complex issue to be addressed in the future “final status” negotiations is the status of Jerusalem. Some Israeli politicians prefer to tackle this issue much later. Simon Peres had said in 1999, before Camp David, that Jerusalem should be deferred until both sides were approaching an agreement on the other issues. His position had not changed when we met him last month. In contrast, the Palestinian side considers any talks as a non-starter if it does not comprise this issue. Both sides have strong arguments. What happened at Camp David proves how sensitive this issue is.
33. Since Israel formally declared all Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel in 1980, the municipal boundaries were extended and land expropriations and settlement construction went on. This systematic extension resulted in an increase of the Jewish population in East Jerusalem who now outnumber the Palestinians. Whereas for Israel these settlements are built on legal municipal land, for the Palestinians it is their land, or to say the least it is disputed territory whose status should be subject of negotiations, provided further changes are stopped immediately.
34. Basically, Palestinians claim the control of East Jerusalem, by virtue of the UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967), which stipulates the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”. One could reasonably question whether all the objectives set out in that Resolution still correspond with today’s reality on the ground, if a precedent had not been set by the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, the Jordanian territories and now from South Lebanon. The advocates of Realpolitik had been quite surprised at the time by the Israeli-Egyptian deal on Sinai.
35. As regards the Holy Sites, the situation is even more complicated by the superposition of many religious sites (Haram-al-Sharif, Western Wall, the Mount Below Ground). Because of this intertwined structure of the Old City and the Holy Sites many believe that “sharing” is better than “dividing”. However, no magic formula has yet been found to satisfy the emotionally charged negotiations nor to reconcile incompatible positions.
36. During the last two months of Mr Clinton’s presidency, US mediators reportedly suggested two alternative frameworks to resume discussions:
- total Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount Plaza – which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque – and a recognition of Israel’s historic or divine rights on this site;
- a split sovereignty over the Temple Mount, with Palestinian control over the Plaza and the Mosques and Israeli sovereignty over the Mount Below Ground and the Wailing Wall.
By then it was too late; the Intifada had started and the election campaign in Israel was going ahead full steam.
37. After the first Israeli-Arab war in 1948 the UN General Assembly had adopted Resolution 194 in which the following reference was made to the Palestinian refugees:
paragraph 11. “Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible”.
38. Today, according to UNRWA9 there is a total of 3,737,494 registered Palestinian refugees: 1,570,192 in Jordan, 583,009 in the West Bank, 824,622 in Gaza, 376,472 in Lebanon and 383,199 in Syria. Approximately one third live in camps. During the episode known to the Arabs as “Al-Nakba” (the “Catastrophe”) the number of Palestinians who left their land is estimated at around 726,00010. This figure can be contested as well as the Israeli claims that some have sold their land rather than be forced to leave. 150,000 Palestinians remained in Israel and were granted Israeli citizenship. Their number is approximately one million today.
39. Based on Resolution 194 and certainly inspired by Israel’s own laws applicable to all Jews around the world, who could decide to emigrate to Israel at any time, Palestinians claim a “right of return” for the refugees, to which Israel is fiercely opposed. This would, the Israeli leaders unanimously claim, destabilise the country and upset the Jewish character of the State of Israel. During the Camp David talks Israel expressed “sorrow over what befell the Palestinian people as a result of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948”, but, is not ready to go beyond that. Not one Israeli politician we have met was prepared to mention a figure, even informally, as to how many refugees Israel could possibly accept in a final deal.
40. Nevertheless, behind closed doors leaders of the two sides recognize that in practice it would be impossible to envisage the return of all refugees. To encourage them to settle in their host countries or in other parts of the world seems feasible, while the compensation thesis gains ground. However, the Palestinian insistence on the acceptance by Israel of the principle of the right of return is a stumbling block in the negotiations. It is interesting to note that so far refugees themselves have not been properly consulted on this issue. The idea of an international conference, similar to that held for the Vietnamese boat people in the 1980’s, has not made much headway11.
41. In the meantime, life in the refugee camps has not improved much, conditions are often basic, unemployment is near 70%, prospects of integration are slim, and UNRWA increasingly faces financial problems. The high birth rate in the camps adds to the existing social difficulties and schooling.
42. Recent estimates place the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip at around 200,000. Some of these are almost insignificantly small in size and capacity with an average number of inhabitants of 600 – 700. Whereas, others resemble small townships reaching 10 or 15,000 inhabitants, covering an important surface of land in square kilometres12. Successive Israeli governments argued that the expansion of the settlements was necessary in order to accommodate an expanding population with an influx of nearly 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union, over a period of ten years.
43. However, the reasons were not only demographic. The first Jewish settlements in Hebron, Judea and Samaria in the late 60’s and 70’s were the result of a lobby for a greater Israel (Eretz Israel) for historic and religious reasons. During the Likud government of Menachem Begin a new impetus was given to construction and expansion programmes. The population of some of the settlements consist therefore of fanatic, ultra-orthodox Jews, who are extremely militant and do not hesitate in occasionally showing physical resistance even to Israeli security forces.
44. Palestinians see the expansion of the settlements as a provocation and as an act in total disregard of the UN Resolutions. In fact, the UN repeatedly condemned the practice and in its last text (Resolution 465 (1980) on the subject stipulated: “Determine that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition,…of the territories occupied since 1967….have no legal validity” and calls on Israel “to rescind those measures, to dismantle the existing settlements and …to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem”.
45. A recent Israeli opinion poll showed that around 40% of Israelis and 25% of settlers would support the evacuation in return for compensation as part of the “final status” agreement. When Mr Barak, during the aborted Camp David II talks proposed to give back 95% of the occupied territories, the remaining 5% contained some security zones, but mainly settlement zones which Israel plans to annexe to its territory, in exchange, possibly, of some land-swaps: in other areas such as Halutza Sands near Gaza.
46. Whatever solution is found in the end, it should take into account the following criteria: it should have international legitimacy by being consistent with the spirit of the UN Resolutions, if not to the letter. It should take into account the needs of two sovereign, viable and secure states with defendable borders. It should respect the continuity of a future Palestinian State. No scattered, Bantustan, reservation style territory could reasonably fall under this category.
V. Future Prospects
47. There is very little hope at the present time that the peace talks will resume. Violence on both sides has increased in intensity. How much the new US Administration will be involved as a “honest broker” remains a question mark. As for Europe, both Israelis and Palestinians, though the latter to a lesser degree, look at the possibility of Europe playing a political role in the peace negotiations with suspicion. Europe’s colonial past and what happened during World War II still weighs heavily in memories. In more practical terms, the fact that neither the EU nor other European organisations can speak with one voice, in particular on foreign policy questions, does not make them look like a fully coherent political-military unity, as opposed to U.S.A.
48. However, Europe has strong historical and cultural ties with the region. It has an invaluable experience in institution building in pluralist, multicultural, multi-polar societies. Its trade with the Middle East is much more important than with the U.S.A. Over the last 20 to 30 years it has acquired in an important knowledge and experience in dealing with political terrorism. It has financial and technological means in giving assistance in areas such as health, water resources, environment and industry. Last but not least, European countries have made tremendous progress in the last decade, mainly through Council of Europe education programmes in the teaching of history. Surely, a continent that has suffered centuries of wars, partly because of intolerance, prejudice and racism, must have developed a new wisdom and could share it with others.
49. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership, known as the Barcelona Process, which includes amongst others regional participants such as Israel, Syria and the Lebanon, is an interesting tool which could be instrumental in promoting economic co-operation and liberal reforms, thus contributing to regional stability, provided that the tensions due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do not paralyse its progress and condemn it to failure. Through this process Europe could play a positive role in the Middle East conflict in a wider context by exerting influence on the political evolution in Syria for example. Our interlocutors in Israel repeatedly pointed out that there is a strong correlation between the Israeli-Palestinian Track of the peace process and relations with the other countries in the region. Iran, in particular, was they said building up its military capacity with missiles which have a 1300km range and was making deals with Russia for the acquisition of non-conventional weapon technology, such as nuclear weapons. Council of Europe member States must stop giving any military-economic help to the “rogue states” of the Middle East, still run by undemocratic, dictatorial regimes, and which encourage and sponsor radical terrorist organisations in the area.
50. It is my conviction that if Palestinian and Israeli leaders stopped using outdated declarative rhetoric – such as “United Jerusalem is Israel’s capital forever” on one side and quit inflexible traditional positions – such as the “right of return” of all refugees to Israel – on the other side, the two sides could resume discussions again. I also believe that the creation of a separate sovereign Palestinian State is, in the long run, in Israel’s interest. This solution will no doubt make it easier for a majority of Palestinians to accept the existence and legitimacy of Israel.
51. Both Israel and the Palestinian territories suffer from geographic isolation. This also reflects in their participation in the international fora. The League of Arab States is the only international platform where the Palestinian Authority enjoys equal rights. Where positions are predetermined and anti-Israeli propaganda dominated over the decades. It would therefore render service to the Palestinian Authorities, and in particular to the PLC, to be able to participate in more democratic fora in order to defend their views in an atmosphere of objective, sincere dialogue. For this reason the Parliamentary Assembly ought to carefully examine its own rules of procedure in order to grant a status to the PLC as close as possible to an observer status to enable them to participate in the Parliamentary Assembly debates and its committees whenever the Middle East issue is on the agenda.
Reporting committee : Political Affairs Committee
Reference to committee : Res. 1013 (1993), Rec. 1221 (1993), Reference 2027 (25.09.95), Res. 1103 (1996), Res. 1183 (1999), Order 549 (1999)
Draft resolution and draft recommendation adopted by the committee on 4 April 2001 with 2 abstentions
Members of the committee : Mr Davis (Chairman), Mr Baumel (Vice-Chairman), Mr Toshev (Vice-Chairman), MM Adamia, Aliyev (alternate : Mr Seyidov), Arzilli, Atkinson (alternate : Mrs Jones), Mrs Bakoyianni (alternate : Mr Liapis), MM Bársony, Behrendt, Berceanu, Bergqvist, Bianchi (alternate : Mr Rigo), Björck, Blaauw, Bühler, Cekuolis (alternate : Mr Olekas), Clerfayt, Daly, Demetriou, Derycke, Diaz de Mera (alternate : Mr Sole Tura), Dokle, Dreyfus-Schmidt, Mrs Durrieu (alternate : Mr Lemoine), Mr Evangelisti (alternate : Mr Brunetti), Mrs Feric-Vac, Mr Frey, Mrs Fyfe (alternate : Lord Judd), MM Gjellerod, Glesener, Gligoroski, Gross, Gül, Hornues, Hrebenciuc, Irtemçelik, Ivanenko, Iwinski, Jakic, Karpov, Mrs Kautto, MM Kirilov, Kotsonis, Krzaklewski, Martinez-Casan (alternate : Mr Puche), Medeiros Ferreira, Meier, Mota Amaral, Mutman, Mrs Nemkova, Mr Neuwirth, Mrs Ojuland, MM Oliynyk, Palmitjavila Ribo, Prisacaru, Prusak, de Puig, Mrs Ragnarsdottir, MM Rogozin, Schieder, Schloten, Selva (alternate : Mr Turini), Spindelegger, Mrs Squarcialupi, Mrs Stepová, MM Surjan, Taylor, Thoresen, Timmermans (alternate : Mrs Zwerver), Udovenko, Vakilov, Vella, Weiss, Wielowieyski, Zuiganov.
N.B. The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics.
Secretaries of the Committee: Mr Perin, Mrs Ruotanen, Mr Sich
The 29th Government of Israel, March 7, 2001
President: Moshe Katsav – President of the State of Israel
Ariel Sharon – Prime Minister
Shimon Peres – Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister
Silvan Shalom – Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister
Natan Sharansky – Minister of Housing and Construction and Deputy Prime Minister
Eli Yishai – Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister
Shmuel Avital - Minister without Portfolio, responsible for co-ordinating social affairs
Benjamin Ben-Eliezer - Minister for Defence
Shlomo Benizri – Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
Ra’anan Cohen – Minister without Portfolio
Nissim Dahan – Minister of Health
Yuli Edelstein – Minister of Absorption
Tzachi Hanegbi – Minister of Industry and Trade
Uzi Landau – Minister of Public Security
Avigdor Lieberman – Minister of National Infrastructures
Limor Livnat – Minister of Education
Tzipi Livni – Minister for regional Co-operation
Dan Naveh – Minister without Portfolio, responsible for co-ordination between the government and the Knesset
Asher Ohana – Minister of Religious Affairs
Reuven Rivlin – Minister of Communications
Meir Sheetrit – Minister of Justice
Shalom Simhon – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Ephraim Sneh – Minister of Transportation
Eli Suissa – Minister without Portfolio, responsible for Jerusalem affairs
Salah Tarif – Minister without Portfolio
Matan Vilnai – Minister of Science, Culture and Sport
Rehavam Zeevi – Minister of Tourism
Eli Ben-Menahem – Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade (Labour)
Naomi Blumenthal – Deputy Minister of National Infrastructures (Likud)
Yuli Edelstein – Deputy Minister of Immigrant Absorption (Yisrael Ba-Aliya)
Gideon Ezra – Deputy Minister of Public Security (Likud)
Michael Melchior – Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (One Israel)
Meshulam Nahari – Deputy Minister of Education (Shas)
Dalia Rabin-Pilossof – Deputy Minister of Defence (Center)
Yuri Stern – Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s office (National Union-Yistael Beiteinu)
Avraham Yehezkel – Deputy Minister of Transportation (Labour)
The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)
The Palestinian Legislative Council, elected on 20 January 1996, consists of 88 seats of which:
Independent Fatah affiliated 15
Independent Islamic affiliated 4
Acronym for Harakat al-Tahrir al-falistiniya, the Palestinian Liberation movement, with the first letters in reverse order giving FATAH which means conquest (whereas the word derived from the normal abbreviation Hataf means “death”).
Fatah is the largest Palestinian political organisation. It was founded in Kuwait in 1957 as a Palestinian nationalist movement opposed to Arab nationalism. Its founders include Yasser Arafat, Khaled Al-Hasan, Farouq Qaddumi and Kalis Al-Wassir (who was later killed by an Israeli squad in 1998, in Tunis).
Fatah took no heed of the creation of the PLO in 1964 and concentrated itself on preparing for the armed struggle against Israel as of 1965. Only after the Arab defeat in 1967 it joined the PLO together with other guerrilla groups and its spokesman, Yasser Arafat, became later the Chairman of the PLO.
Today Fatah is still the largest political group within the PLO and it holds more than one third of groups seats within the Palestine National Council (PNC).
of the visit to Israel and to the Territories under the control of the Palestinian National Authority (19-24 March 2001)
Monday 19 March 2001
Arrival in Jerusalem
Accommodation at Hotel Laromme (Inbal)
Tuesday 20 March 2001
8.00 am Breakfast with Mr Ehud GOL, Deputy Director General for Europe, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
10.00 am Visit to “Yad Vashem” Martyrs’ and Heroes’: Memorial of the Holocaust
1.00 pm Working lunch with members of the Knesset
(Mr Yossef LAPID (Chinouy), Mr Roni MILO (Centre), Mr Amnon RUBINSTEIN (Meretz), Mr Ahmed TIBI (Independent Arab Movement for Change), Mrs Colette VITAL (Labour), and Mr Arie HAHN, Secretary General of Knesset
2.30 pm Meeting with Mr Yuli EDELSTEIN, Acting Minister of Absorption
4.00 pm Attend the Knesset plenary session – Address by the Speaker to the members of the delegation
5.00 pm Meeting with Mr Shimon PERES, Minister of Foreign Affairs
7.00 pm Meeting of the Rapporteur with Mr René KOSIRNIK, Head of Delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross
8.30 pm Dinner with international journalists based in Jerusalem
(Mr Gerarld KESSEL (CNN), Mr Andrew WILSON (Sky News), Mrs Katrin EIGENDORF (ZDF) and Mr Bertrand AGUIRRE (TF1)
Wednesday 21 March 2001
8.30 am Meeting with Mr Avraham BURG, Speaker of the Knesset
9.15 am Meeting with Mr Roni MILO, Member of Knesset, Member of the Israeli Observer delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly
9.45 am Meeting with Mr Dan MERIDOR, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee
11.30 am Briefing by Mr Daniel KUTNER, Director of Arab Division, Centre for Political Research
1.00 pm Lunch with Israeli journalists
(Mr Daniel SIMON (Ha’aretz) and Mr Gad LIOR Yedioth Ahronoth)
2.30 pm Guided tour of Jerusalem and a visit of the neighbourhood “Gillo”
5.00 pm Intelligence briefing by Colonel Eran LERMAN, Israeli
Palestinian side (Gaza Strip and West Bank)
6.00 pm Transfer to Ramallah
Accommodation at Grand Park Hotel
Thursday 22 March 2001
8.30 am Meeting with representatives of Palestinian non-governmental organisations
(Mr Khader SHKIRAT, Director of the Palestinian Law Society for the protection of human rights and environment, Mr Riad MALKI, Director of the Palestinian Centre for the dissemination of democracy and community development, Mr Mustafa BARGHOUTHI, Head of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees)
10.15 am Visit to Abu Raya Rehabilitation Centre with Dr Ghazi HANANIA, Second Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council
11.00 am Meeting with Mr Ahmad QURIE, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council
1.30 pm Working lunch with Mr Mitri ABU AITA, Minister of Tourism, and Mr Salah TAMARI, Chairman of the Committee on Territories and Settlements and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council of the District of Bethlehem
3.00 pm Tour of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala
5.00 pm Visit to Al-Dheche Refugee Camp with Mr Guy SIRI, Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations and Field Technical Officer in West Bank, and Mr Sami MHSHASHA, Media and Communications Officer, UNRWA Headquarters in Jerusalem
6.00 pm Meeting with Mr Adnan ABDELRAZEK, Director of the International Relations Department of the Orient House, Mr Mahdi ABDEL HADI, Director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, Mr Ghassan KHATTIB, Director the Palestinian Media and Communication Centre, Mr Ahmed Hashem AZ-ZUGHAYAR, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Director of the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, Mufti Akram AL-SABRI, Mufti of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Mr Adnan HUSSENI, Director of the Awqaf
Friday 23 March 2001
10.30 pm Meeting in Ramallah with Mr Yasser ARAFAT, President of Palestinian Executive Authority,
also present Mr Yasser Abed RABBO, Minister of Culture and Information, and Mrs Hanan ASHRAWI, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council
12.00 noon Departure for Gaza
2.00 pm Working lunch with Mr Ibrahim Abu AL-NAJA, First Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Mr Ziad Abu AMR, Chairman of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and Mr Mussa ZAABOUT, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Health
4.00 pm Visit the Beach Refugee Camp with Mr Peter BRORSEN, External Relations and Projects Officer, UNRWA Headquerters in Gaza
6 pm Transfer to Tel Aviv
Accommodation at the Carlton Hotel
Saturday 24 March 2001
Departure of participants
List of participants
Mr GJELLEROD, Chairman Denmark
Ms KAUTTO, Vice-Chairperson Finland
Mr TAYLOR, Rapporteur United Kingdom
Mr ADAMCZYK Poland
Mr ALIEV 13 Russia
Mr ATTARD MONTALDO Malta
Mr BEHRENDT Germany
Mr DALY Ireland
Mr GUL Turkey
Mr MEDEIROS FERREIRA14 Portugal
Ms STEPOVA Czech Republic
Ms ZWERVER Netherlands
Mr Baris PERIN Head of the Secretariat of the Political Affairs
Ms Marja RUOTANEN Secretary of the Political Affairs Committee
Mr Francesc FERRER Press Attaché
1 The last report on this issue was adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on 30 March 1999.
2 BBC, 18 May 1999
3 Guardian. 7 July 1999
4 BBC News
5 Mahmoud Abbas, Jerusalem Post. International edition, 14 September 1999.
6 Trilateral Statement on Peace Talks, Washington Files.
7 Statement by Ambassador J. Molander, Sweden, on behalf of the EU, on 29 March 2001, 57th Session of Commission on Human Rights.
8 Jerusalem Past, Limor Livnat. 19 March 2001
9 UN Relief and Works Agency; UNRWA, Website.
10 Report by Mr Atkinson, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, September 1988, Doc. 5936.
11 The Middle East Crisis, House of Commons Library publication, January 2001.
12 See Appendix III
13 Mr Aliev took part in the visit until Wednesday 21 March 2001 1 pm.
14 Mr Medeiros Ferreira could not participate in the visit