Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 1, 2011.
THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY’S POLITICAL OFFENSIVE AGAINST THE STATE OF ISRAEL
PART I: The Palestinian Authority’s confrontational conduct
- Contrary to Article XXXI (7) of the Interim Agreement, which stipulates that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations”, the Palestinian Authority is unilaterally pursuing the international community’s recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 boundaries, as well as an upgrade in the status of its missions around the world.
- The Palestinian Authority, which has pressed and continues to press for Israel’s condemnation in international forums in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, inter alia through the Goldstone Report, is the very same body that urged Israel to topple the Hamas regime in the context of this very same operation.
- The Palestinian Authority utilizes certain biased international bodies, such as the Human Rights Council in Geneva, to condemn Israel for alleged war crimes. It does this whilst deliberately misrepresenting facts and cynically exploiting the institutionalized, anti-Israel orientation of these bodies, to systematically attack the legitimacy of Israel’s basic right to self-defense.Moreover, the Palestinian Authority has even attempted to engage the International Criminal Court in this regard. This premeditated campaign of propagating falsehoods, which is entirely divorced from a genuine concern for human rights, cannot but be construed as being in contravention of the spirit and text of Article XXII (1) of the Interim Agreement, which stipulates that the sides shall “abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other”.
- In similar contravention of the agreed-upon prohibitions on incitement, the Palestinian Authority fosters a culture of glorifying terrorists, openly commemorating their record of brutality. Among those honored by the Palestinian Authority are Abu Jihad, Yihya Ayash, Dhalal Mughrabi and others, who are responsible for the murders and injury of countless innocent Israeli civilians.Epitomizing this phenomenon, the Palestinian Presidential Compound in Ramallah is situated on a street named after the arch-terrorist Yihye Ayash, who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocents, including both Israeli and American citizens.
In March 2010, a central square in Ramallah was named after Dhalal Mughrabi, who led the infamous Palestinian terrorist raid against an Israeli bus in 1978, in which 37 Israelis, including 12 children, were brutally murdered. The aforementioned square is but one of numerous such sites in Judea, Samaria and Gaza which glorify Mughrabi’s “legacy”.
- Contrary to Israel’s policy of allowing thousands of Palestinians to reside within the boundaries of the State of Israel (in addition to the roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population who are non-Jewish), Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas has declared that he will never permit a single Israeli to reside amongst the Palestinians, whilst emphasizing his opposition to the inclusion of Jewish soldiers in an international force which may be deployed in the future in Judea and Samaria.Additionally, Palestinian courts pass the death penalty on Palestinians who sell land to Israelis, as has occurred in Hebron and Jenin. Needless to say, such open expressions of racism are inconsistent with the spirit and letter of the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and run counter to hopes of ultimately being able to resolve the conflict.
- The economic boycott policy maintained by the Palestinian Authority is intended to harm Israel’s economic interests, in contravention of Annex V of the Interim Agreement which stipulates that economic relations between the sides will be “governed in various economic spheres by the principles of mutual respect of each other’s economic interests, reciprocity, equity and fairness.” This policy is led by Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, who personally took part in a torching ceremony of Israeli goods.Steps are also being taken by the Palestinian Authority to prevent Palestinian workers from being employed by Israelis, and for preventing usage of Israeli cellular telephone services. Moreover, cooperation with Israeli construction firms that are interested in operating in the new Palestinian city Rawabi, is made contingent upon their compliance with the Palestinian economic boycott.
- The Palestinian Authority acts vigorously in the international arena to establish a linkage between the upgrading of relations between Israel and states and international economic organizations, and acceptance of the Palestinian Authority’s preconditions and political demands with regard to final status issues.Prominent examples of this conduct have occurred with regard to the World Trade Organization and the European Union. In the last year, under the direct, intense pressure of Salaam Fayyad, the Palestinians forcefully strove to prevent Israel’s acceptance to the OECD.
PART II: Israel’s confidence-building measures and concessions to the Palestinian Authority
A. Judea and Samaria
- In his speech at Bar Ilan University on June 14, 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the recognition by the State of Israel of the two-state solution. Moreover, on November 25, 2009, the Government of Israel declared a unilateral moratorium on construction for a period of 10 months.
- Since then, the State of Israel has continued its engagement in improving and strengthening the Palestinian economy and continues its concession-making policy to the Palestinian Authority in a wide range of fields (including civil, infrastructural, economic, commercial, political and security-related matters).Indeed, over time, Israel has expanded these concessions in terms of both substance and scope. The effects of these concessions are apparent in the substantial improvement displayed by the Palestinian economy, including, inter alia, 8% growth in 2010, a reduction in unemployment and a marked rise in tourism.
- Despite the grave security risks, in the last two years the State of Israel has dramatically reduced the number of roadblocks in Judea and Samaria. Today, only 16 roadblocks remain of 44 which existed in early 2008. In addition, Israel has permitted access to Palestinians to Road 443, despite the numerous terrorist attacks which have occurred on it in the past.
- In the last two years, Israel has invested tens of millions of shekels in upgrading the goods crossings between Israel and Judea and Samaria (Tarkumia, Sha’ar Ephraim, Gilboa). The upgrading of the Gilboa crossing and the enabling of passage for vehicles, with the assistance of USAID, has contributed significantly to the economy of cities in Judea and Samaria.Roughly 5000 vehicles traverse the crossing on weekends, while weekday traffic volume through the crossing is approximately 500-800 vehicles per day.
- Israel has initiated a number of steps to encourage Palestinian business activity. Specifically, the number of entry permits to Israel for Palestinian traders has been markedly increased. In the first half of 2010, 22,910 permits were issued, an 11% rise compared with the respective period in 2009. Moreover, an additional 1,500 special permits were also issued.
- Israel is working with partners in the international community to establish industrial zones in a number of localities in Judea and Samaria, such as Bethlehem and Jericho, and is assisting the Palestinian Authority to establish an industrial zone in Jalameh.
- Israel recently approved the granting of an additional 1 Megahertz of bandwidth to the new Palestinian cellular telephone provider “Wataniya”, and has already commenced in carrying the decision out.
- The State of Israel has initiated and approved many projects for the Palestinian Authority. In the energy field, a large electric project has been approved, with the financing of the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the cooperation of the Israel Electric Corporation and the Palestinian Energy Authority. In the context of this project, four substations are to be established in Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron, at an estimated cost of some 100 million EURO.
- In the context of the Joint Water Commission, Israel is engaged in approving and furthering water and sewage projects, which are to be financed and carried out with the assistance of the international community.
- A notable and tangible example of the surge in economic growth in Judea and Samaria is the establishment of the new Palestinian city of Rawabi.
- Israel transfers considerable funds to the Palestinian Authority on a regular basis. The estimated total transferred sum in 2010 was 4.6 billion shekels, compared with 4.372 billion shekels in 2009. In the last two years, Israel’s Customs Authority held several training sessions for Palestinian customs officials. An agreement for cooperation regarding computerized information is expected to be signed in the near future between the two customs authorities.
- Employment of Palestinians in Israel is on the rise. In the first half of 2010, there was an increase in the number of Palestinian employment-permit holders in Israel and Judea and Samaria, their number exceeding 30,000 (to which one must add some 15,000 workers with no permit). It was recently decided to approve an additional 5,250 employment-permits for Palestinians.
- In coordination with Quartet Envoy Tony Blair, Israel recently approved a package of measures — the ‘Blair-Netanyahu Package’ — designed to further invigorate economic development in Judea and Samaria, including advancing the construction of schools and medical clinics in Area C and expanding the Palestinian security presence in seven cities.
- Tourism has sharply increased. During the last Christmas holiday, Israel enabled entry to Bethlehem to more than 100,000 Christian pilgrims, a record figure which is larger even than the number of pilgrims who arrived in the year 2000, during the visit of Pope John Paul II. Responding to the Palestinian Authority’s request, Israel approved the entry of 100 Israeli tour-guides and bus-drivers to Bethlehem and Jericho.
- All aspects of security cooperation continue, including the training of Palestinian battalions. The seventh Palestinian battalion is currently training in Jordan.B. Gaza
- The Political-Security Cabinet decided on June 20, 2010 and on December 8, 2010 to expand the opening hours of the goods crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and to enable the exit of goods from Gaza to Israel, Judea and Samaria and abroad. The main steps that were taken in this regard are as follows:
- Projects: 120 projects have been approved, with priority given to the fields of education, health-care, housing, water and sewage. The projects are carried out and supervised by the international community.
- Upgrading of the goods crossings: Immediately pursuant to the June 2010 Cabinet decision, rapid steps were taken to upgrade the capacity of the crossings. Today, the Palestinians employ the Kerem Shalom Crossing for the passage of only 150 trucks per day, despite the fact that Israel, with great investment, increased the Crossing’s capacity to 400 trucks per day.Furthermore, Israel upgraded the fuel and cooking gas transfer system at Kerem Shalom, and a conveyor belt for grain is presently being put in place.
- Traffic of business-people from Gaza: Every day, 70 exit permits are issued to Palestinian business-people, for entry into Israel. Today there are some 250 business-people from Gaza in Israel.
- Sale of goods abroad: As of November 2010, flowers, peppers and strawberries are sold to European markets, at a rate of some 30-40 trucks per day. Pursuant to the Cabinet’s decision in December 2010, the possibility is being considered of further expanding the range of goods sold abroad to include additional agricultural and manufacturing commodities, such as textiles and furniture.
- Transfer of funds: Every month, Israel enables UNRWA to transfer to its offices in Gaza 13.5 million dollars. In addition, Israel enables the Palestinian Authority to transfer funds on a regular basis for the salaries of its employees in Gaza. In September 2010, 100 million shekels were transferred for the September-October salaries.A mechanism for transferring monthly social security benefits from Israel’s Social Security Institution to Palestinian beneficiaries in Gaza was recently completed. The amount involved is roughly 1.2 million shekels per month.
- Economic measures: In the first half of 2010, Gaza witnessed 16% growth. In the final quarter of 2010, a slight decline (roughly 2%) in unemployment was recorded, compared with the respective period in 2009.
- In addition to the steps decided upon with respect to Judea and Samaria, the ‘Blair-Netanyahu Package’ includes measures for improving the state of infrastructures in the Gaza Strip, including the approval of 20 additional projects and desalination plants, agreement to discuss the development of the Gaza Marine gas field, upgrading of the power plant, importation of construction materials for the private sector and further expansion of the sale of goods out of Gaza.