Obligations under the Wye Memorandum – simultaneous or sequential?
Communicated by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 15 March 1999
- The Wye River Memorandum sets out a series of specific obligations of
the Israeli and Palestinian sides to be implemented in a phased approach in
accordance with a detailed Time Line, divided into several phases.
- Recent statements by the Palestinian side have suggested that the
obligations within each phase are not to be implemented sequentially but
rather simultaneously. However this was not the intention of the Time Line.
To the contrary, the sequential approach adopted by the Government of
Israel reflects exactly the thinking behind the Time Line attached to the
- The Time Line is divided into a series of phases which are listed
chronologically. Within each phase the obligations of the two sides are
also listed chronologically. This is the clear intention of a “time line”
and is also evident from an examination of the specific obligations. Thus,
for example, in the period from week 2 to week 6, the meeting of the PCC
(weeks two to four) is listed before the meeting of the PNC and other
organisations (weeks four to six).
The fact that the phases of further redeployment each appear at the end
of the list of the obligations in each period is not coincidental; it is a clear
indication that such redeployments are only to be effected upon the completion
of the prior obligations in the relevant period.
- This is not only the intention of the Memorandum; it is also the
practice that has been adopted by the two sides to date: the first phase of
the FRD was only implemented after the Israeli Government had confirmed
that the prior commitments of that phase had been implemented.
- The logic behind the Wye Time Line is understandable. It seeks to deal
with the fact that while Israel’s obligations are all irreversible
(transferring territory, releasing prisoners), the Palestinian side’s
obligations are almost all questions of policy which can, and are, only too
easily turned on and off (fighting terrorism, preventing incitement,
Accordingly, the Wye Time Line provides that the Palestinian side is to
demonstrate its commitment to its obligations in the course of each phase, prior
to Israel being obligated to forfeit its valuable and finite assets.
Only in this way can there be any degree of assessment as to whether
there has been a genuine commitment to implementation by the Palestinian side
over a period of time.
- This logic is reflected in the wording of the Memorandum, which states
clearly in Article II that:
“the Palestinian side’s implementation of its responsibilities for
security, security cooperation and other issues will be as detailed below
during the time periods specified in the attached time line.”
The use of the word “during” indicates that, unlike the Israeli
commitments, which are to be implemented at the end of each phase, the
Palestinian obligations must be implemented consistently throughout each
phase. As the Wye Memorandum states in Article II:
“The struggle against terror and violence … must be continuous and
consistent over a long-term, in that there can be no pauses in the work
against terrorists and their structure.”
This point was also underscored by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in
her letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, dated October 23, 1998, in which
she stated that “the Palestinian security undertakings are a critical
foundation of the Memorandum”.
- In practice, were any approach other than the sequential approach
advocated by Israel to be adopted, it would produce anomalous results.
Israel could be required to withdraw from additional territory, before the
Palestinian side had done anything to indicate its commitment to further
- In conclusion, it should be noted that the interdependence of the
Israeli and Palestinian obligations is not a new principle; the Note for
the Record attached to the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron
provided for the implementation of the two sides’ obligations “on the basis
At the current time, the Palestinian side has yet to fulfil many of its
obligations under the Memorandum, but is nonetheless seeking to find a way to
extract further concessions from Israel. Such an approach is inconsistent with
the very basis of the Memorandum.
Moreover, acceding to Palestinian demands for implementation by Israel,
without insisting on full Palestinian compliance, would seriously undermine
prospects for Palestinian compliance in the forthcoming phases of the Time
Line and in any future agreements.