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Oslo II: Recipe for Apartheid, not "Divorce"

By Nancy Murray




Before Palestinian elections take place next year, Palestinians will assume full responsibility for internal security, public order and civil administration in six cities and parts of Hebron (Area A), and administrative and public order functions in villages and towns (Area B), together comprising an estimated 27 percent of the land of the West Bank and 98 percent of its Palestinian population. Israel remains responsible for security in Area B.

Israel remains entirely responsible for Area C--defined as settlements, security zones and communication lines. A further redeployment is scheduled to take place in Area C over three six-month intervals after the inauguration of the elected council, at a pace and extent determined by Israel. If all goes according to plan, by the time the final status arrangement is due to be implemented at the end of the century, Palestinians should have some kind of jurisdiction over all of the West Bank with the exception of settlements, military zones and East Jerusalem.

What the maps show

Maps detailing the position and extent of Areas A, B and C raise almost as many questions as the text signed in Washington. The Area A cities are widely separated from each other. Qalquila and Jericho are totally surrounded by Area C. Other cities are partly bordered by Area B villages, although Area C surrounds most of Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem.

Area B, where Palestinians are supposed to rule themselves except in matters of security, is divided into approximately 20 fairly large non-contiguous blocs and a further 80 or so tiny pockets--all of which are surrounded by Area C. The larger blocs are separated from each other not only by Area C lands, but by east-west roads tying the West Bank and Jordan to Israel. Jerusalem the "city settlement" of Ma'ale Adumim on its eastern flank virtually divide the north from the south of the West Bank.

It is difficult to image the maps, as well as the 450 page text, in which "opt out" clauses for Israel are buried in mountains of detail giving Palestinians their marching orders, being translated into a workable action plan in the congested West Bank, where thousands of settlers are determined to destroy it. Oslo II contains no restraints on settlement expansion, no brake on the closures that are killing the Palestinian economy, no guarantee that the timetable will be adhered to, and no indication of light--in the shape of Palestinian self-determination--at the end of the long tunnel. Palestinians remain on probation, with redeployment dependent on their good behavior.

No divorce in sight

"Living Apart in Mid East--Israel-PLO 'Divorce Agreement' Details an Unsentimental Reality in the West Bank" (New York Times, September 26). The media turned their backs on "reality" when they employed divorce imagery to describe the Oslo II agreement.

Rather than "living apart," Oslo II yokes Palestinians and Israelis together in a Joint Civil Affairs Coordination and Cooperation Committee, Joint Regional Civil Affairs Subcommittees, a Joint Coordination and Cooperation Committee for Mutual Security Purposes, Joint Regional Security Committees, Joint District Coordination Offices, a Legal Committee, a Joint Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Committee, a Joint Economic Committee, the Continuing Committee, Joint Patrols, Joint Mobile Units, a Joint Water Committee, a Joint Committee of Experts, a Professional Joint Committee, and a Standing Cooperation Committee.

Clearly no real "divorce" is intended. These joint endeavors enable Israel to be informed of everything that is going on and to veto what it doesn't like. To give one example, Article 28 of Annex II ("Protocol Concerning Elections") states:

"The Palestinian side shall inform Israel of every change in its population registry, including, inter alia, any change in the place of residence of any resident."
The Palestinian Authority can grant permanent residency to investors, and spouses and children of residents, but only "with the prior approval of Israel." Palestinians do the administrative work; Israel remains in charge.

A blueprint for apartheid

But in one respect probably not intended by The New York Times headline writer, "living apart" is an apt description of Oslo II. This agreement further legitimizes the apartheid system outlined by the May 1994 Cairo Agreement. Palestinians and 130,000 Israeli settlers (not including an even larger number in the 'neighborhoods' around East Jerusalem) will "co-exist" in conditions of profound social isolation and inequality.

Oslo II, like the Cairo agreement, provides for an apartheid-style dual system of control. Israel has sole legal jurisdiction over Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, even if they commit a crime in one of the autonomy zones. Israelis can only be asked for identification at Palestinian checkpoints in areas from which the IDF has redeployed; they can never be searched or arrested by Palestinian police.

"When an Israeli commits a crime against a person or property in the Territory, the Palestinian Police, upon arrival at the scene of the offense shall, if necessary, until the arrival of the Israeli military forces, detain the suspect in place while ensuring his protection...." (Annex IV, "Protocol Concerning Legal Matters," Article II, 2c).
Palestinian security forces can never stop uniformed Israeli soldiers or ask them for identification.

Israeli settlers and their visitors will travel to their 140 scattered settlements on their own "by-pass" roads, built partly with US loan guarantees on confiscated Palestinian land. But they won't be restricted to those roads, which will be off limits to Palestinians. Instead, Article XI of Annex I holds that

"Israeli military forces and Israeli civilians may continue to use roads freely within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."
Settlers bent on sabotaging the agreement should have plenty of opportunity to do so.

Monitoring the Palestinian police

Oslo II provides for a total Palestinian police force of 30,000, organized in six different branches. The agreement details where they will be based, what weapons they will use, which roads and crossing points they will patrol with their Israeli counterparts, and how both sides will cooperate in the fight against terrorism.

But the two sides are hardly equal. Palestinian security forces cannot even travel freely between Area A (cities from which the IDF will first redeploy) and Area B (towns and villages where the Palestinians will have 25 police stations and responsibility for public order), or from place to place within Area B. The extraordinary constraints on their movements are detailed in the main body of the text:

"While the movement of uniformed Palestinian policemen in Area B outside places where there is a Palestinian police station or post will be carried out after coordination and confirmation through the relevant DCO [Joint District Coordination Office], three months after the completion of redeployment from Area B, the DCOs may decide that movement of Palestinian policemen from the police stations in Area B to Palestinian towns and villages in Area B on roads that are used only by Palestinian traffic will take place after notifying the DCO. The coordination of such planned movement prior to confirmation through the relevant DCO shall include a scheduled plan, including the number of policemen, as well as the type and number of weapons and vehicles intended to take part. It shall also include details of arrangements for ensuring continued coordination through appropriate communication links, the exact schedule of movement to the area of the planned operation, including the destination and routes thereto, its proposed duration and the schedule for returning to the police station or post." (Article XIII, 2b, 4-5).

Assuring normal movement

Other Palestinians are not supposed to be so constrained. Fears that roadblocks and checkpoints will multiply under "self-rule" are addressed in Annex I, Article 1:

"In order to maintain the territorial integrity of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, and to promote their economic growth and the demographic and geographical links between them, both sides shall implement the provisions of this Annex, while respecting and preserving without obstacles, normal and smooth movement of people, vehicles, and goods within the West Bank, and between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."
If this clause is implemented, it will represent a radical departure from the current situation, where the movement of people and goods is anything but "normal" and frequently brought to a complete halt by Israel. But since Israel's security needs take precedence over everything else, this might represent wishful thinking.

Freeing prisoners

Freedom of movement is promised for one particular group of Palestinians after the first phase of redeployment. Former prisoners freed under the Cairo agreement but confined to Jericho for the duration of their sentences can then return to their homes elsewhere in the West Bank.

Some 2,600 of the more than 5,284 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in September 1995 are due to be released in three stages. Israel's refusal to release all 27 female prisoners on the eve of signing, as stipulated by the agreement, has already caused confidence to plummet. The agreement outlines eight other categories of prisoners to be eventually released. Prisoners charged with security offenses "involving fatality or serious injury" are not on any release list at the present time, to the dismay of those who expected the agreement to resolve the volatile issue of political prisoners.

Elections and powers

Will the long-delayed Palestinian elections finally be held? They have tentatively been scheduled for January, just before the month of Ramadan, and ahead of the Oslo II timetable, which would place them in March or April. Oslo II provides for simultaneous Palestinian elections for a council and head of the executive authority of the council, or "Ra'ees." The council, whose members will be elected 22 days after redeployment is complete from Areas A and B, will serve for no more than five years from the signing of the Cairo agreement in May 1994. All Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip aged 18 and older who are registered in the population register are eligible to vote. East Jerusalem residents can vote in post offices using ballots in stamped envelopes, which will be counted outside the city limits, enabling Israel to maintain the fiction that they are actually "absentee ballots." Residents of East Jerusalem will be able to stand as candidates only if they have an additional address in another part of the occupied territories. Israel backed down from its initial demands that the elected Council be only an executive body, and that it have no more than 30 members so it would not resemble a parliament. The council will have 82 members.

"After the inauguration of the Council, the Civil Administration in the West Bank will be dissolved, and the Israeli military government shall be withdrawn" (Article I, 5). However, "the withdrawal of the military government shall not prevent it from exercising the powers and responsibilities not transferred to the Council," such as responsibility for foreign relations, and external and much of internal security. In other matters, Israel has also retained the last word.

Thus, council legislation

"which amends or abrogates existing laws or military orders, which exceeds the jurisdiction of the Council or which is otherwise inconsistent with the provisions of the Declaration of Principles, this Agreement, or any other agreement that may be reached between the two sides during the interim period, shall have no effect and shall be void ab initio" (Article XVIII, 4a).
Just to make sure nothing slipped by, all legislation was to be communicated to the Israeli side of the Legal Committee.

The Ra'ees chooses the executive authority, a fifth of whose members do not have to be elected to the council. Palestinians who feel that the Ra'ees has exceeded his authority or acted illegally can "apply to the relevant Palestinian Court of Justice for a review of such activity or decision" (Article XIII). Within two months of the council's inauguration, the PLO's Palestine National Council will be convened to abolish portions of its covenant calling for Israel's destruction.

The Hebron compromise

The status of the city of Hebron, which became the single most contentious issue during negotiations, has been "resolved" to the satisfaction of no one. The city is divided into sectors labeled H1 (within which the IDF will redeploy, leaving the maintenance of public order and security to 400 Palestinian police) and H2, the center of the old city, where the Israeli military will continue to guard 400 settlers during the interim period, while "plainclothes unarmed municipal inspectors will monitor and enforce vis a vis Palestinian compliance with the laws" (Annex I, Article VII).

The settlers will not easily be reconciled to the document's declaration that Hebron "will continue to be one city," to the presence of the Palestinian police in the building that served as the headquarters of the military government, and to joint patrols in the old city after the redeployment from H1 is complete. Above all, they refuse to accept the Rabin government's insistence that the dream of "Greater Israel" must be relinquished for the sake of peace.

To the residents of Hebron, who demanded that no agreement be signed which did not remove the settlers from the center of the city, Oslo II represents a significant betrayal. It is doubtful whether they will be mollified by the stipulation that life in Hebron be "normalized" by re-opening the wholesale market and by removing some of the barriers and roadblocks that had turned the center of Hebron into a ghost town. Neither can they be expected to endorse the building of a new "settlers only" road linking the settlers inside Hebron with those in the settlement of Kiryat Arba on its edge or to welcome back the Temporary International Presence of Hebron (TIPH), whose monitoring efforts after the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre had appeared an exercise in futility. The situation at the mosque will remain unchanged, with Muslim worshipers spending as much as an hour to pass through a series security checks, while Jews have virtually unimpeded access to their half of the building.

Retreat from international law

The matter of what to do about Hebron joins the issues of settlements, water, land, refugees, Jerusalem, and sovereignty on the over-loaded table of "final status" talks, which are due to begin in May 1996 soon after the Palestinian elections. Oslo II repeats the Cairo Agreement's stipulation that "neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations." Although the case can be made that Israel's ongoing settlement drive, especially around East Jerusalem, is designed precisely to change the status of the territories, Israel refused to add to Oslo II zoning provisions which would circumscribe settlement expansion. Israeli officials have indicated that further investment in settlements is on the cards.

The Palestinians have meanwhile agreed to protect settlements and military locations (Annex III, Article 27) and to "respect the legal rights of Israelis (including corporations owned by Israelis) related to Government and Absentee land located in the areas under the territorial jurisdiction of the Council" (Annex III, Article 16). They will not be allowed to forget these signs that the land of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is "disputed" and not "occupied" under the terms of international law when they face Israeli negotiators to determine the final status arrangements.

Nancy Murray is the co-founder and director of The Middle East Justice Network. This article first appeared in MEJN's newsletter,
Breaking the Siege, in October-November 1995.

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