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Recapitulating the Redeployments: The Israel-PLO 'Interim Agreements'

By Geoffrey Aronson
Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, 27 April 2000
Information BRIEF # 32

Overview: It has not been easy to make sense of the six major agreements signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since the Oslo process began in 1993. For one thing, the timing and phasing of Israeli troop redeployments have changed from one agreement to another. For another, many of the deadlines specified by the agreements have been missed. This brief summarizes these agreements specifically with reference to the redeployment of Israeli troops from the West Bank.

The Cairo Agreement: The Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area (known as the Cairo Agreement, signed on 4 May 1994) outlined in great detail the implementation of principles agreed upon in the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (known as the DOP, signed on13 September 1993). On the day the Cairo Agreement was signed, the "interim" period--to run for five years until May 1999--formally began. Soon thereafter, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Today Israel and its settlements, with a civilian population of 7,000, control approximately 20 percent of Gaza's 415,000 dunams.

Oslo II: The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (known as Oslo II, signed on 28 September 1995) detailed the mechanisms for, and the limitations of, the extension of Palestinian self-rule to significant portions of the West Bank. The agreement's main feature was the division of the West Bank into three areas, each with varying degrees of Israeli and Palestinian responsibility. The Palestinians were given complete civilian and security control over "Area A," which initially consisted of the seven major Palestinian towns--Jenin, Qalqilya, Tulkarem, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron. "Area B"--comprised of all other Palestinian population centers (except for some refugee camps)--remained under the "overriding security responsibility" of Israel. Israel retained sole security and civil control over "Area C," which includes all Israeli settlements, military bases and areas, and state lands.

Soon after the assassination of then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the creation of a new Israeli government led by Shimon Peres, the IDF began its withdrawal from Jenin (13 November 1995), followed by Tulkarem (10 December 1995), Nablus and other villages in the Tulkarem area (11 December 1995), Qalqilya (17 December 1995), Bethlehem (21 December 1995), and finally Ramallah (28 December 1995). Israel postponed its redeployment from Hebron.

Oslo II also specified that Israeli troops were to withdraw from Palestinian territory (in "further redeployments" or FRDs) in three phases starting in October 1996 and ending by October 1997. In completing the third FRD, Israel was to have withdrawn from all of the West Bank with the exception of Israeli settlements and Israeli military bases and areas--in total some 88 percent of the West Bank, according to the calculations of Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Local Government Saeb Erekat. It is important to note, however, that the territorial extent of the areas from which Israel was to withdraw by the completion of the third FRD was not clearly specified in Oslo II. It is also important to note that Israel is not in agreement with Erekat's calculation. Israel and the PLO were also to complete a final status agreement by October 1999 according to Oslo II.

The Hebron Protocol: This agreement, signed on 15 January 1997, divided the city of Hebron into two parts: H1 and H2. Israel retained full security control over the Israeli settlement enclaves in downtown Hebron (H2), over another settlement (Kiryat Arba) just outside the city, and, in order to facilitate movement by the settlers and the IDF, over the surrounding area. The agreement gave the PA security responsibility for the rest of Hebron (H1), although this responsibility remained closely monitored by Israeli authorities.

The Wye River Memorandum: This agreement, signed on 23 October 1998, specified a revised timetable for the phased implementation of the first and second further redeployments outlined in the Oslo II accords, but did not mention a date for the third FRD called for by Oslo II. Stage I of the Wye redeployments-initially offered to the Palestinians, and rejected, in March 1997-was completed in November 1998. Stages II and III (to be completed by 31 January 1999) were indefinitely postponed in December 1998 by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum: This agreement (whose full name is The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum on Implementation Timeline of Outstanding Commitments of Agreements Signed and the Resumption of Permanent Status Negotiations) was signed on 4 September 1999. It split into three stages the completion of the second FRD of Oslo II (see below, "PERCENTAGE CONTROL OF WEST BANK TERRITORY"). According to Wye, this second FRD was to have occurred in two stages, and, according to Oslo II, in one stage. Like the Wye agreement, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum makes no mention of a date or the territorial extent of the third redeployment required by Oslo II.

The bulk of the transfers outlined in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum--all but 100-200 square kilometers of a scheduled 600 square kilometers--are located in the Nablus-Jenin region and south of Hebron. These areas comprise part of the heartland of Palestine and are not heavily populated by Israeli settlers. Palestinians now control the route linking Nablus to Wadi Far'a, a very productive agricultural sector. The PA's failure to obtain unhindered access to the Damiya/Adam Bridge route to Jordan, however, lessens the significance of this transfer.

Where Things Now Stand: According to Amnesty International's report, Israel and the Occupied Territories: The Demolition and Dispossession of Palestinian Homes (December 1999), the Oslo agreements have created 227 separate areas in the West Bank under partial or full Palestinian control. Of these, 199 measure less than two square kilometers. Some 40,000 Palestinians live in Area C; however, all Palestinians live within six kilometers of a location designated as Area C.

Israel has not evacuated any settlements in the course of the Oslo redeployments. The number of West Bank settlements it recognizes has actually increased by approximately 30, to more than 180, with a population of approximately 185,000. The total number of Israeli settlers throughout the Occupied Territories now numbers some 400,000.

The latest redeployment, which took place on 21 March 2000, is the third stage of the second FRD required by Oslo II. There is no agreed upon date for the implementation of the third FRD specified by Oslo II, nor is there a consensus about the amount of land to be transferred. On the latter score, Netanyahu indicated that he would transfer to PA control no more than one percent of Area C in fulfillment of Oslo II commitments. Current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has signaled that he will not be bound by Netanyahu's intention, although he has not committed himself to either the size or date of that redeployment. The PA, on the other hand, expects that Israel's full implementation of its Oslo II commitments will result in an Israeli redeployment from all but 12 percent of the West Bank. Their formal expectations regarding the Gaza Strip have never been declared.


Oslo II: As of 20 October 1998, the Oslo II agreement had resulted in the transfer of two percent of West Bank territory to Palestinian security and civil control (Area A) and 26 percent to Palestinian civil control only (Area B). Israel retained military and civil control over 72 percent of the West Bank (Area C).

First Wye Further Redeployment (FRD): The first Wye FRD, completed on 21 November 1998, resulted in Palestinian security and civil control over 9.1 percent (Area A) and civil (but not security) control over 20.9 percent (Area B) of West Bank territory. Israel retained military and civil control over 70 percent of the West Bank (Area C).

First Sharm el-Sheikh FRD: The first Sharm el-Sheikh FRD, completed on 10 September 1999, resulted in Palestinian security and civil control over 9.1 percent (Area A) and civil (but not security) control over 27.9 percent (Area B) of West Bank territory. Israel retained military and civil control over 63 percent of the West Bank (Area C).

Second Sharm el-Sheikh FRD: The second Sharm el-Sheikh FRD, completed on 6 January 2000, resulted in Palestinian security and civil control over 11.1 percent (Area A) and civil (but not security) control over 28.9 percent (Area B) of West Bank territory. Israel retained military and civil control over 60 percent of the West Bank (Area C).

Third Sharm el-Sheikh FRD: The third Sharm el-Sheikh FRD, completed on 21 March 2000, resulted in Palestinian security and civil control over 17.2 percent (Area A) and civil (but not security) control over 23.8 percent (Area B) of West Bank territory. Israel retained military and civil control over 59 percent of the West Bank (Area C).

Geoffrey Aronson is Director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). The above text may be used without permission but with proper attribution to the author and to the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine. This brief does not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine or The Jerusalem Fund.

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