Communicated by the Israel Government Press Office, February 11, 1998
====THE AGREEMENT ====
The Oslo Accords established a clear mechanism for the resolution of disputes between Israel and the Palestinians. In the September 13, 1993 Declaration of Principles (DOP), Israel and the PLO agreed to establish a Joint Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Committee “in order to deal with issues requiring coordination, other issues of common interest, and disputes” (Article X). The accord stipulates that any disputes which the parties are unable to overcome in the Committee, “may be resolved by a mechanism of conciliation to be agreed upon by the parties” (Article XV).
The Interim Agreement (“Oslo 2”) signed on September 28, 1995, requires the two sides to resolve their disputes directly and, failing to do so, they may resort to other frameworks only via a mutually agreed upon mechanism.
Article XXI, entitled “Settlement of Differences and Disputes”, states, “Any difference relating to the application of this Agreement shall be referred to the appropriate coordination and cooperation mechanism established under this Agreement.”
Thus, the Oslo Accords clearly and explicitly obligate Israel and the Palestinians to resolve disputes directly on a bilateral basis. The accords do provide for the resolution of disputes via arbitration, but this may take place only by mutual consent and not via unilateral measures taken by one side (Article XXI (3)).
The accords also require Israel and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues only via direct negotiations.
In his September 9, 1993 exchange of letters with the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Chairman Arafat undertook “that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.”
The September 28, 1995 Interim Agreement (“Oslo 2”) states that the issues to be covered in the final status talks are to include: “Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbours, and other issues of common interest” (Article XXXI(6)). Thus, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is obligated to negotiate final-status issues directly with Israel.
====THE VIOLATION ====
The PA’s initiative for the convening of the February 9, 1999 emergency UN General Assembly session, and the GA resolution to convene the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to enforce the Convention in areas won by Israel in 1967, is a twofold violation of the Oslo Accords. It contradicts the PA’s obligations: 1) to resolve disputes with Israel only via bilateral negotiations; and 2) to negotiate final-status issues with Israel. The attempt to involve the United Nations General Assembly in this dispute undermines the peace process and destroys confidence in the negotiations.
Israel Decries UN Vote on Territories: Swiss Officials Admit Violations ‘Hardly the Worst in the World’
By Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz, 11 February 1999
Israeli officials categorically rejected a decision by the United Nations to assemble the signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention this summer to discuss whether Israel’s actions in the territories violate the convention.
The UN General Assembly – meeting at a special emergency session Tuesday – voted 115-2 in favor of the Palestinian-sponsored resolution, with five abstentions – Australia, Romania, the Bahamas, Swaziland and Cameroon.
The two nay votes came from Israel and the United States.
The Foreign Ministry decried the resolution, lamenting “the all-consuming politicization of the UN” in a florid statement and vowing that Israel would not attend the conference.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked the resolution as “unjust” for singling out Israel over construction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while ignoring Palestinian building projects in the same areas.
Dore Gold, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, said the resolution amounted to a moral distortion and a selective application of the Geneva Convention, considering that 97 percent of the Palestinians in Israel live in the autonomous territory of the Palestinian Authority.
According to the UN resolution, the summer gathering is aimed at forcing Israel to apply the statutes of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Convention was drafted to protect civilians living in occupied areas.
The resolution calls on Switzerland to begin preparing for the gathering in its capacity as the legal guardian of the document. The resolution also calls for the Palestinian Liberation Organization to be invited.
The gathering is slated to be the first of its kind in the 49-year history of the Geneva Convention, which over time has amassed 188 signatory countries.
In private discussions at the United Nations yesterday, Swiss diplomats acknowledged that the situation in the territories is hardly “one of the most serious cases in the world” in which the Geneva Convention is being violated. A source at the UN yesterday quoted a high-ranking Swiss official as having said, “At a time when other flashpoints around the globe are witnessing acts of cruelty like the murder of innocents and the amputation of limbs, the situation in the territories is not the worst.”
UN officials also said yesterday that the human rights situation in PA-controlled areas also violates the Geneva Convention on occasion.
Speaking before Tuesday’s vote, Peter Burleigh, the acting U.S. ambassador to the UN, attacked the resolution as running counter to the true meaning of the Geneva Convention.