History: Peace Process

HISTORY: The Peace Process

  •   HISTORY: The Peace Process
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    Since the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty (1979), various initiatives were put forth by Israel and others to further the peace process in the Middle East. These efforts eventually led to the convening of the Madrid Peace Conference in October 1991.​​​​​​​​​​
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    Egyptian President Sadat, U.S. President Carter and Israel Prime Minister Begin (GPO/Y. Sa'ar) Egyptian President Sadat, U.S. President Carter and Israel Prime Minister Begin (GPO/Y. Sa'ar)
    Egyptian President Sadat, U.S. President Carter and Israel Prime Minister Begin (GPO/Y. Sa'ar)
     

    International conference launched bilateral and multilateral talks

    The Madrid Peace Conference: 


    Since the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty (1979), various initiatives were put forth by Israel and others to further the peace process in the Middle East. These efforts eventually led to the convening of the Madrid Peace Conference (October 1991), held under American and Soviet auspices, which brought together representatives of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinians. The formal proceedings were followed by bilateral negotiations between the parties and by multilateral talks addressing regional concerns.



    Bilateral Talks


    Israel and the Palestinians: Following months of intensive behind-the-scenes contacts in Oslo between negotiators for Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), a Declaration of Principles (DOP) was formulated outlining self-government arrangements of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Its signing, on 13 September 1993, was preceded by an exchange of letters between PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in which the PLO renounced the use of terrorism, pledged to invalidate those articles in its covenant which deny Israel's right to exist, and committed itself to a peaceful resolution of the decades-long conflict. In response, Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.


    The DOP contained a set of mutually agreed general principles regarding a five-year interim period of Palestinian self-rule and a framework for the various stages of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The arrangements for Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area were implemented in May 1994; transfer of powers and responsibilities in the West Bank in the spheres of education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation, and tourism was implemented three months later. The DOP and other agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians culminated in the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of September 1995.


    This agreement included a broadening of Palestinian self-government by the means of an elected self-governing authority, the Palestinian Council (elected in January 1996), and continued redeployment of the IDF in the West Bank. The agreement also set out the mechanism governing Israeli-Palestinian relations that would lead to a Final Status Agreement. Under the Interim Agreement, the West Bank was divided into three types of areas:


    Area A - comprising the main cities of the West Bank: full Palestinian Council responsibility for internal security and public order, as well as full responsibility for civil affairs. (The city of Hebron was subject to special arrangements set out in the Interim Agreement; the protocol concerning the redeployment in Hebron was signed in January 1997.)


    Area B - comprising small towns and villages in the West Bank: Palestinian Council responsibility for civil affairs (as in Area A) and maintenance of public order, while Israel retained overriding security responsibility to safeguard its citizens and to combat terrorism.


    Area C - comprising all Jewish settlements, areas of strategic importance to Israel, and largely unpopulated areas of the West Bank: full Israeli responsibility for security and public order, as well as civil responsibilities related to territory (planning and zoning, archeology, etc.). The Palestinian Council assumes responsibility with regard to all other civil spheres of the Palestinian population.


    The timetable for the implementation of further redeployment phases, as specified in the Interim Agreement, was revised on a number of occasions by the two sides, most notably in the Wye River Memorandum of October 1998. Following these agreed revisions, Israel completed the first and second phases of the Further Redeployment (FRD) process in March 2000. As a result of the redeployments, over 18% of the West Bank was designated Area A and over 21% was designated Area B, with 98% of the Palestinian population of the West Bank under Palestinian authority.


    Final Status negotiations between the parties, to determine the nature of the permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinian entity, began as scheduled in May 1996. Suicide bomb attacks, perpetrated by Hamas terrorists in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv during 1996, darkened Israel's view of the peace process. A hiatus of three years followed and Final Status talks were resumed only after the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum (September 1999). Issues to be dealt with included: refugees, settlements, security matters, borders, Jerusalem, and more.


    At the invitation of US President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat attended a summit at Camp David in July 2000 to resume negotiations. The summit ended without an agreement being reached due to PA Chairman Arafat's refusal to accept the generous proposal. However, a trilateral statement was issued, defining the agreed principles to guide further negotiations.


    In September 2000, the Palestinians initiated an Intifada, a campaign of indiscriminate terror and violence, causing heavy loss of life and suffering to both sides. Numerous efforts to end the violent confrontation and renew the peace process failed due to the ongoing Palestinian terrorism.


    Israel accepted the vision presented in the speech by U.S. President George W. Bush on June 24, 2002 for ending Palestinian terrorism, to be followed by the final settlement of all issues and peace.


    On May 25, 2003, Israel accepted the Roadmap, accompanied by comments that Israel considers integral to its implementation and a U.S. commitment to address these comments. However, the Palestinians have yet to live up to their obligations under the first phase of the Roadmap, primarily the unconditional cessation of terrorism and end to incitement. Among the measures taken by Israel against terrorism has been the construction of an anti-terrorist fence.

    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced the Disengagement Plan, Dec 2003
    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced the Disengagement Plan, Dec 2003 (GPO/Moshe Milner)


    In August 2005, Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in northern Samaria (the West Bank) in an effort to end the stalemate in the peace process following five years of Palestinian terrorism. However, Palestinian terrorism continued, following the election of the Hamas government, including Kassam missile attacks from the Gaza Strip on the northern Negev and the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, necessitating Israeli military action.


    The new Israeli government, elected in early 2009, made several concerted attempts to restart the peace process. Unfortunately, these attempts were consistently frustrated by the Palestinians, and their novel demand that the Israelis meet several pre-conditions before negotiations could even begin. It was only in May 2010 that the Palestinians  agreed to hold proximity talks.



    Israel and Syria: Within the framework of the Madrid formula, talks between Israeli and Syrian delegations began in Washington and were held from time to time at ambassadorial level, with the involvement of high-ranking American officials.


    Two rounds of Syrian-Israeli peace talks (December 1995, January 1996) focused on security and other key issues. Highly detailed and comprehensive in scope, the talks identified important areas of conceptual agreement and convergence for future discussion and consideration. Negotiations between Israel and Syria were renewed in January 2000 in Shepherdstown, US, after a standstill of more than three years. However, these negotiations did not bring about a breakthrough, nor did the meeting between President Clinton and President Hafez Assad in Geneva (March 2000) lead to renewed talks.


    Syria, along with Iran, backs the most violent and dangerous terrorist organizations, such as Hizbullah and the various Palestinian terrorist groups.



    Israel and Lebanon: On May 23, 2000, Israel completed withdrawal of all military forces from the Security Zone in Southern Lebanon, in accordance with the Israeli government's decision to implement UN Security Council resolution 425. Lebanon, unfortunately, has yet to comply fully with UNSC Resolution 425, as well as with UNSC Resolution 1559 (which calls for the dismantling of Hizbullah and the deployment of Lebanon's army in southern Lebanon).


    Violence again erupted, following the abduction of two Israel soldiers and the bombardment of Israel’s northern cities by the Hizbullah on 12 July 2006. Israel was forced to act to remove the entrenched Hizbullah terrorist presence in Southern Lebanon, which included tens of thousands of heavy artillery rockets provided by Iran and Syria and aimed at millions of Israeli civilians.


    In the ensuing conflict, which later become known as the Second Lebanon War, over 4,000 rockets were fired at civilian targets within Israel, causing 44 civilian casualties and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and property. 119 Israel soldiers were also killed in the conflict during military operations. The fighting concluded with the adoption on 11 August 2006 of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for calls for the unconditional release of the abducted soldiers, calls upon Lebanon and the new UNIFIL to together deploy throughout southern Lebanon and establishes an embargo of weapons to Lebanese groups other than the government of Lebanon.




    Finding solutions for key regional problems

    Multilateral Talks


    The multilateral talks were constituted as an integral part of the peace process, aimed at finding solutions for key regional problems, while serving as a confidence-building measure to promote development of normalized relations among the Middle East nations.


    Following the Moscow Multilateral Middle East Conference (January 1992), with the participation of 36 countries and international organizations, the delegations broke up into five working groups dealing with specific areas of common regional concern (environment, arms control and regional security, refugees, water resources, and economic development) which meet from time to time in various venues in the region.


    The Steering Committee, comprised of representatives of key delegations and chaired by the US and Russia, coordinates the multilateral talks.


    Since the outbreak of Palestinian violence in September 2000, most of the activities in the multilateral track have been frozen.

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