Wye River Memorandum – Status of Implementation
Communicated by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 27, 1999
The Wye River Memorandum, signed in Washington on October 23, 1998, 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.
The implementation of the obligations set out in this Time Line was
due to have been completed on 29 January 1999, but, as described below,
most of the Palestinian obligations set out in the Memorandum are still
Since the obligations listed within the Time Line are chronological,
Israel’s obligations, which appear at the end of each stage, are dependent
on the fulfillment of the prior Palestinian commitments within that stage.
This chronological approach is both the clear intention of the Time Line
(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 (weeks four to
six)), and also the practice adopted by the two sides to date (the first
phase of the FRD was implemented only after the Israeli Government
confirmed that the prior commitments of that phase had been fulfilled).
Despite the forthcoming elections in Israel, the Government of Israel has
reiterated its commitment to the Wye Memorandum in all its aspects,
together with all the other Israel-Palestinian agreements. It has declared
its willingness to negotiate all outstanding issues and to implement its
obligations on the basis of reciprocity.
The Palestinian leadership, on the other hand, has for the past three
months chosen to freeze almost every area of cooperation with Israel,
including the negotiating committees.
This follows a strategic decision made by the Palestinian side to try to
generate international pressure on Israel within the international community,
and not to engage in any cooperative activities that might undermine the
Palestinian assertions of Israeli intransigence.
The Palestinian leadership similarly has repeatedly rejected proposals that
would have brought immediate and practical benefits to the Palestinian people,
and obstructed the work of the joint committees, for fear that any progress will
help the current Israel government to be reelected.
Israel views this as unacceptable intervention within its internal affairs,
and a waste of valuable negotiating time.
Although there has been some security activity by the Palestinian security
authorities in the Gaza Strip, this has been sporadic and focused on
particular threats rather than uprooting the infrastructure of terrorist
organizations. Accordingly, significant Palestinian security obligations
are still outstanding.
In particular, the Palestinian side has not taken the necessary measures
to “outlaw all organizations (or wings of organizations, as appropriate) of a
military, terrorist or violent character and their support structure”.
The Palestinian side has also failed to engage in “full bilateral security
cooperation” as required by the Memorandum, and to provide a detailed
security work plan for the fight against terrorism.
Also of grave concern is the continuation of the “revolving door” policy
whereby security offenders are subjected to token arrests and almost
immediately released. In addition, not only has the Palestinian side not
imprisoned the wanted terrorists that it undertook to arrest in the Wye
talks, but to the contrary, and in violation of the vetting arrangements
agreed at Wye, it continues to release terrorists from within its custody.
Under the Wye Memorandum, the Palestinian side undertook to establish a
legal framework for the collection of illegal weapons, and also to take
significant steps to collect and dispose of illegal weapons.
Following these commitments, the Palestinian side issued a decree
against illegal weapons, but the Palestinian law on which this decree is based
violates the Israeli-Palestinian agreements in a number of respects, including
permitting the introduction and use of arms and ammunition absolutely
prohibited by the Interim Agreement.
In practice, there are literally thousands of illegal weapons freely held
in the areas under Palestinian jurisdiction, not only in the hands of
civilians but also in the hands of the Palestinian Police.
These weapons considerably exceed the numbers permitted by the
Interim Agreement and many of them, including mortars, mines and grenade
launchers, are totally prohibited by the Agreement. During the current period,
when the international community is witness to the importance of supervision
of weaponry and ammunition, these breaches must be treated with particular
At the Wye talks it was agreed that the modalities for granting weapons
licenses, and the categories of persons to be granted such licenses, would
be agreed between the two sides in the Joint Security Committee, as
required by the Security Annex of the Interim Agreement. This commitment
was restated in a letter from Saeb Erakat to the Israeli Cabinet Secretary,
dated November 18, 1998.
However, despite Israeli requests to raise this issue in the Joint Security
Committee, the Palestinian side has refused to discuss it. In the meantime, the
Palestinian side continues to issue weapons licenses, in disregard of its
obligation under the Interim Agreement.
Thus, not only is the Palestinian side not fulfilling its obligation to
confiscate illegal weapons, but, by continuing to grant weapons licenses in
violation of the Agreement, it is actually exacerbating the situation.
Under the Wye Memorandum it was also agreed that a trilateral committee
would be established to deal with the unauthorized introduction of weapons
and explosive materials into the Palestinian areas. According to the Time
Line, this committee should not only have met, but also have submitted its
However, although Israel has appointed its representatives to this
committee and requested that it convene, it has still not met.
Under the Wye Time Line, the Palestinian side is obliged to fulfill its
outstanding commitment under the Interim Agreement and transfer a list of
Palestinian policemen to the Israeli side for its approval. In doing so, it
should ensure that the number of policemen does not exceed 30,000, as
prescribed by the Interim Agreement. The size of the Palestinian police is
currently considerably in excess of this number.
Notwithstanding undertakings by the Palestinian side that the list will
“shortly be transferred to Israel”, only a partial list has been received by the
Israeli side. It should be recalled that the Memorandum requires not only that
the list be transferred but also that the Monitoring and Steering Committee
review the list and issue a report.
In the Wye Memorandum, the Palestinian side undertook to issue a decree
prohibiting “all forms of incitement to violence and terror” and to establish a
mechanism which would “act systematically against all expressions or threats
of violence or terror”. A decree was published by the Palestinian side on 19
November 1998, and although it makes no reference to terrorism as required by
the Memorandum, and contains a number of legal inconsistencies, it was
welcomed as a positive step by the Israeli side.
However, despite the decree, and the meetings of the trilateral
Anti-incitement Committee, incitement to violence and terrorism continues,
both by Palestinian officials and in the official Palestinian media.
Israel was pleased to note that at a meeting in Gaza on 14 December 1998,
the PNC adopted a resolution amending the PLO Charter, as required by its
outstanding obligations from: the exchange of letters between Chairman
Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin dated September 1993, the exchange of
letters attached to the Gaza-Jericho Agreement of May 1994, the Interim
Agreement of September 1995 and the Note for the Record attached to the
Hebron Protocol of January 1997.
The Wye Memorandum restates the prohibition established in the previous
Israeli-Palestinian agreements against initiating or taking any step which will
change the status of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Gaza Strip.
However, notwithstanding the obligation to resolve this issue
through negotiations, the Palestinian side has repeatedly stated its
intention to unilaterally declare an independent state with Jerusalem as
its capital. Such statements are inconsistent with the provisions of the
Wye Memorandum, with the Interim Agreement, and with the undertaking in
Chairman Arafat’s letter of September 9, 1993, that “all outstanding issues
relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations”.
Further Redeployment (FRD)
The Wye Memorandum provides for three stages of further redeployment in the
course of the Time Line. Each of these is listed at the end of the relevant
phase and is contingent upon the implementation of the prior Palestinian
commitments within that phase. Upon completion of these commitments Israel
is obliged to implement the FRD obligation.
Thus, at the conclusion of the second phase, ending week 2 of the Time
Line, Israel implemented the first stage of the FRD, transferring 2% of Area C to
the status of Area B and 7.1% of Area B to Area A.
At the conclusion of the subsequent phases, Israel was to have implemented
further stages of the FRD. However, as noted above, significant Palestinian
obligations required to be implemented prior to these stages are still
outstanding. Israel awaits implementation of these commitments so that it
can implement its FRD undertakings on the basis of reciprocity.
Release of Prisoners
The release of prisoners by Israel was not specifically included in the Wye
Memorandum, but it was agreed that 750 prisoners would be released in three
phases. Israel has released prisoners in full compliance with both the Wye
understanding and the Interim Agreement, and with Israel’s clear statement
at the Wye talks that it would not release prisoners that were members of
the Hamas or Islamic Jihad organisations or who have blood on the hands.
Although the provisions of the Interim Agreement and the Wye
understanding on this issue are perfectly clear, the Palestinian side has raised
new demands, insisting on the release of terrorists with blood on their hands,
which have no basis in any of the agreements between the two sides.
Interim committees and economic issues
The Wye Memorandum provided that the parties would reactivate all standing
committees established by the Interim Agreement, and specified in
particular the Monitoring and Steering Committee, the Joint Economic
Committee, the Civil Affairs Committee, the Legal Committee and the
Standing Cooperation Committee.
However, in the light of the Palestinian decision to freeze all cooperative
activity for political reasons, all bilateral committees, with the exception of the
trilateral anti-incitement committee, have ceased to function.
Moreover, despite the agreement reached at the last meeting of the
Monitoring and Steering Committee that the two sides would make special
efforts to move forward in specific areas (Safe passage; Ad hoc economic
committee; Legal committee; People to People; Gaza Port; Water desalination
project; and Socio-economic projects for the improvement of living
conditions) the Palestinian side has frozen all cooperation to make
progress in these areas.
The current status of the various interim committees is as follows:
- Gaza Airport Committee: completed
The Committee has completed its work. The protocol on Gaza Airport was
signed on 20 November 1998, and the airport was officially opened on 24
- Gaza Industrial Estate: completed
Following the conclusion of the negotiations between the two sides, the
Karni commercial crossing point was opened on 14 December 1998. There are
currently 4 companies operating in the estate.
- Gaza Port: negotiations frozen by the Palestinian side
Eight rounds of negotiations have taken place on this issue since the
signing of the Wye Memorandum. The key issues requiring resolution relate
to security responsibilities concerning incoming vessels and in the port
area. Although Israel has made a number of new proposals to resolve these
issues, negotiations have been frozen by the Palestinian side.
- Safe Passage: negotiations frozen by the Palestinian side
The two sides held five rounds of negotiations following Wye. The Wye
Memorandum provided that the two sides would make best efforts to conclude
the safe passage agreement in relation to the southern route within a week
of the entry into force of the Memorandum and start operation of this route
as soon as possible thereafter.
But although the protocol on safe passage is virtually complete, the
Palestinian side has gone back on a number of practical arrangements that were
agreed in the Wye talks and, in direct contravention of the Wye Memorandum,
insists on dealing with issues relating to the northern route prior to the opening
of the southern route. Currently negotiations have been frozen by the
- Standing Cooperation Committee (“People to People”): Palestinian side
refuses to convene
Many practical projects designed to break down barriers between the two
sides are actually happening in the field but, despite repeated Israeli
requests, and in contravention of its undertaking in the Wye Memorandum,
the Palestinian side has refused to convene this committee.
- Joint Economic Committee: negotiations frozen by the Palestinian side
As provided by the Wye Memorandum, the JEC established an ad hoc
committee. It has held five rounds of talks to date, dealing with four key issues
— Car thefts from Israel to the areas under Palestinian jurisdiction: a
joint task force of the Israeli and Palestinian police has been established
to deal with this problem though its impact has not yet been felt on the
— Repayment of Palestinian debts: Palestinian undertakings have been received
to repay a number of outstanding debts, but significant debts remain unpaid.
— Purchase tax: Israel has agreed to the Palestinian request for a refund of
purchase tax on Israeli products.
— Expansion of the A1 list set out in the Paris Economic protocol: Israel
acceded to US and Jordanian requests to expand the list relating to trade
with Jordan, even in the absence of Palestinian cooperation within the
economic committee, and with no recompense. However, even on this basis,
the Palestinian side is not prepared to sign the necessary agreement on
expanding trade with Jordan, thus undermining Palestinian economic
development for political purposes.
- Legal Committee: Palestinian side refuses to convene
Israel has received no response to its repeated requests to the Palestinian
side to convene the Legal Committee as required by Article III of the
Memorandum. From the legislation provided by the Palestinian side to
Israel, it is apparent that this is inconsistent in many respects with the
provisions of the Interim Agreement.
- Trilateral anti-incitement committee: meetings continue
This committee, established by the Wye Memorandum to monitor and prevent
incitement, has met eight times to date. Very little of substance has been
achieved, primarily because of the insistence of the Palestinian side on
including discussions of settlements, prisoner releases and other issues
dealt with in other fora of negotiations.
The Palestinian side has yet to investigate or respond to any of the many
examples of incitement to violence provided by the Israeli side, and despite
Israeli concerns about frequent calls to Jihad and the use of violence in
Palestinian textbooks, refuses to discuss the issue of incitement within
The committee has held a special meeting at which newspaper editors from
the two sides participated in discussions on incitement, and has agreed to
hold a similar session with participation of officials in the field of
- Civil Affairs Committee and Civilian sub-committees: sporadic operation
These committees operate sporadically to resolve issues arising from the
transfer of Israeli civilian responsibilities to the Palestinian side.
Meetings are held at the professional level to deal with such issues as
water, electricity and the environment, as well as the population registry
in the territories.