1 November 1999
The framework agreement to be signed by Israel and the
Palestinians this coming February will include Israeli acceptance of the
establishment of a Palestinian state in part of the territories, according to
the results of informal contacts between Israel, the United States and the
The actual establishment of the Palestinian state will occur on the eve of
the signing of the detailed final agreement, which is slated for the end of
next year. Senior diplomatic sources explain that Israel prefers to sign an
agreement with a recognized state rather than with a temporary authority or
the Palestine Liberation Organization, which has signed agreements until now.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak would prefer that the implementation of the
framework agreement take place only after the signing of the fully detailed
agreement, but he does not object to the principle of the Palestinians’
establishing their independent entity in any way they choose – including a
sovereign state – as part of the framework agreement.
As a result of recent contacts between the parties, it appears Barak wants
the framework agreement to include several key points:
- There will be no return to the 1967 borders
- Settlements around Jerusalem and along the Green Line will be concentrated
into three main blocks
- Settlers choosing to remain in the Palestinian-controlled areas will get
special rights – as will Palestinians choosing to remain in the
- Jerusalem will remain undivided but will be expanded to include Palestinian
neighborhoods, with the Palestinians recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s
capital. (No decision has been reached on the fate of the Old City. According
to one proposal, offered by Ministers Yossi Beilin and Haim Ramon, the Old
City would remain on the negotiating table for future talks.)
- The Palestinians will give up the right of return to territory inside the
Green Line, but the refugees from 1967 will be allowed back into the
territories according to the new entity’s ability to absorb them. Israel will
compensate the refugees from 1948 for their lost property and will enlist
international support for their rehabilitation outside Israel.
- The Palestinian state will be demilitarized, and will not sign any military
agreements with states hostile to Israel.
- The two sides will establish security arrangements to protect both states
from external threats.
So far, the United States is backing the Palestinians’ position calling for
implementation of the framework agreement immediately upon its signing in
February 2000. According to an Israeli source close to the Palestinians, PA
negotiators Abu Mazen and Abu Ala convinced PA Chairman Yasser Arafat that
operative moves toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, even within
temporary borders, should begin immediately after the signing of the
framework of principles.
Barak knows that it is difficult to make a deal between a sovereign state and
a national liberation movement. Such a deal is bound to last only as an
interim agreement in which one side remains the occupier and the other
remains the occupied. None of the agreements signed since Oslo, through the
Sharm el Sheikh agreement, touched on the issue of sovereignty.
So far, all the agreements have dealt with the division of responsibility, whether
civilian or military, between the state of Israel and the temporary
Palestinian Authority. The Americans maneuvered within this assymetric
equation by referring to them as “the Israeli side and the Palestinian side.”
But final status agreements are different. The PLO cannot be a partner to an
international agreement that settles the conflict between two sovereign
states. For example, the PLO cannot commit the Palestinian entity to refrain
from military alliances with elements hostile to Israel.
Thus, heading into the final status talks, the issue of the partner has
raised the question of the Palestinian state. How can Israel sign an
agreement with a state before it is established? Especially when Israel’s
agreement to the establishment of such a state is an important negotiating
Barak’s solution is found in the two-stage framework laid down at Sharm. A
Palestinian entity will be the first article mentioned in the framework
agreement to be signed in February. That will allow Arafat to establish an
independent state within the temporary borders of Area A on the eve of the
signing of the final, detailed agreement – and allow the prime minister to
head into a referendum with a draft treaty with a state, not with a former
national liberation (terror) organization.