Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 August 2012.
Lately there has been a noticeable rise in anti-Israeli activity on the part of the Palestinians. This shows itself primarily in the diplomatic and legal arenas, where these negative actions are a function of the Palestinian Authority’s policy of evading direct dialogue with Israel. This is particularly unfortunate as direct negotiations between the parties remain the only path to a solution to the conflict.
In addition, negative Palestinian activity is also reflected in illegal construction in Area C (which is under exclusive Israeli control), an economic boycott of Israeli products, and provocative statements against Israel in general, including on the subject of Jerusalem. We are also witnessing an ongoing incitement campaign, culminating recently in an accusation that Israel murdered Yasser Arafat.
All this contrasts sharply with the many positive steps Israel has taken to help the Palestinian Authority (PA) strengthen its economy and continue building its society’s institutions and infrastructures.
Israel has initiated various measures in the last few months for the benefit of the Palestinians. Among the main positive steps taken are:
- New arrangements concluded after long negotiations with respect to the transfer of goods between Israel and the PA and the facilitation of related tax procedures;
- An advance of NIS 180 million (approximately USD 45 million) of tax remittances for August transferred to the PA (20 July) in honor of Ramadan;
- The decision of the socio-economic cabinet (14 July) to allow the entry of 5,000 additional Palestinian construction workers into Israel;
- The removal of the roadblock north of Jericho that connects the city with Highway 90;
- The return of the bodies of terrorists.
- Israel agreed to the development of a gas field near the Gaza coast.
Negative Palestinian Actions
A. The settlements and Jerusalem
The Palestinians are constantly raising the subject of settlements, despite the fact that this is a final status negotiating issue. They actively promote Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state while denying Israel’s connection to its capital. Among their activities in this sphere:
1. In the diplomatic arena:
- Human Rights Council – The Palestinians submitted a request to the Council (March 2012) which led to the establishment of a committee whose supposed purview is to examine the impact of the settlements on the Palestinians. It is increasingly clear that this committee will attempt to delegitimize Israel and the entire settlement enterprise.
- Security Council – The Palestinians have declared their intention of convening the Security Council in order to discuss and condemn the expansion of the settlements.
2. International conferences:
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in his speech at the opening of the International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem (27 February), denied Israel’s historic connection to Jerusalem and accused Israel of falsifying history.
B. Appeal to the Security Council/the General Assembly
- The Palestinians stress that if they indeed try to upgrade their status to that of a state, their appeal will be directed to the UNGA, as an observer state, and not to the Security Council, although this option remains open. Exploiting the United Nations for this purpose stands in contradiction to the principles contained in the signed agreements of the peace process, which hold that the establishment of a Palestinian state can be reached only through negotiations between the two parties.
- The Palestinians are constantly working to upgrade their status in international organizations, professional agencies and international conventions, etc., in the wake of their acceptance as a state in UNESCO. This opened the door to agencies and bodies in which one of the prerequisites is membership in one of the specialized agencies.
C. Unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state and upgrade of their mission abroad.
- After failing to win recognition of independence at the Security Council last year, the Palestinians are directing their efforts towards recognition of “Independent Palestine” by individual states. Their efforts have met with considerable success in Latin America.
- The PA tried unsuccessfully to convene a special meeting in Ramallah (5-6 August) of foreign ministers from some of the non-aligned states. The aim of the meeting was to express support for the idea of unilaterally establishing a Palestinian state by circumventing the negotiation process with Israel and to prepare a draft resolution on the subject for approval by the Non-Aligned Movement summit at the end of the month in Tehran, Iran.
- In parallel, efforts continue to upgrade Palestinian missions abroad to the status of embassies. These efforts met with success in several countries.
D. Activities relating to convicted terrorists
- Release of pre-Oslo prisoners as part of the demands for renewing negotiations – Palestinians have declared that negotiations can only begin after the release of Palestinian prisoners arrested before the Oslo Accords. Mahmoud Abbas reiterated this demand on 30 April. Most of these prisoners are convicted terrorists, guilty of murdering innocent civilians. It should be noted that this is a new demand meant to bypass a return to the negotiating table.
- Call to convene Fourth Geneva Convention signatories – There have been declarations about the Palestinian intention to convene the states that signed the Fourth Geneva Convention for the purpose of redefining Palestinian prisoners as POWs.
- Call to establish an international investigating committee on the subject – PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, called to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate, by means of the Human Rights Council, the alleged deterioration of the prisoners’ humanitarian situation and the “serious violations” involved. The Palestinian representative in the Arab League, Birkat al-Fara, called (2 May) for the Palestinians to demand that the UN send an international committee to investigate the situation in Israeli prisons and Israel’s attitude towards international law.
- Activity against Israel’s policy of administrative detention, and putting the prisoner issue on the international and UN agenda – Against the backdrop of the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons:
- Administrative detention – From the months of February through May, and especially against the backdrop of the prisoners’ hunger strike, Palestinian leaders called for an international campaign against administrative detentions.
- Appeal to the UN on the subject of prisoners – Abbas decided together with the Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, to raise the subject in the General Assembly, inter alia with the aim of redefining Palestinian prisoners as POWs. The PA welcomed Elaraby’s proposal to submit a request for an advisory opinion from the International Court in order to have the definition come into effect.
- Following the agreement signed between Israel and the prisoners, the Palestinians accused Israel of failing to honor the agreement, despite Israel’s strict compliance.
E. Arafat’s “murder”: campaign to blame Israel, try senior Israeli officials and impose sanctions
- PA officials started a campaign accusing Israel of murdering Arafat.
- In the past six months, senior PA officials – but not Mahmoud Abbas or PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – have called for putting Israeli officials and army officers on trial and imposing personal sanctions on them (such as denying them entry into various countries) for “war crimes” or actions against the Palestinians.
F. Illegal construction in Area C
Recently, the PA has encouraged illegal building in Area C. PM Fayyad spoke (28 February) about the intentions of the PA to expand its activities into Area C with international aid, and also visited some of the projects. According to the signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, Area C is under full Israeli administration.
1. Simultaneous activity on two contradictory channels: the bilateral (demands for aid vis-à-vis the Israeli Ministry of Communications) and unilateral, through the international organizations
2. Illegal operation of radio and TV stations, disturbing Israeli broadcasts – It should be noted that, in the Interim Agreement between Israel and the PA, Israel allocated AM frequencies to six radio stations(five in Judea and Samaria and one in the Gaza Strip) and one TV station. Today, there are 82 FM radio stations operating in the territories controlled by the PA, compared to 24 radio stations in all of Israel. There are also 25 Palestinian TV stations.
H. PA economic and security activities, and cooperation on water issues
1. Boycott of Israeli products – The Fatah movement completed (January 2012) preparations for launching “the national campaign to protect the national product and the Palestinian consumer,”with the supposed goal of strengthening the Palestinian economy and encouraging consumption of Palestinian national products. Furthermore, the movement announced that the campaign is part of a “campaign to boycott (all) Israeli goods.” Fayyad’s government welcomed South Africa’s resolution calling for marking products of the settlements.
2. Threats to halt economic and security cooperation with Israel – At the beginning of the period under examination, threats were heard from various elements in the PA to halt economic and security cooperation with Israel. In March, PA officials noted that they were examining the possibility of adding amendments to the Paris Agreement.
Water – Despite Israeli aid and gestures to the Palestinians in the sphere of water over the past year, the Palestinian Water Authority is at present not allowing the Joint Water Committee (JWC) to convene for the purpose of passing resolutions for the benefit of both sides.
I. Debts owed to Israeli government ministries and authorities
Despite the confrontational situation that currently exists between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Israel continues to provide the Palestinians with basic services such as health, fuel, electricity and water. Although in exchange for these services Israel offsets some of the tax money it collects for the PA, there remains a large Palestinian debt due to a delay in payment to Israeli suppliers and service providers.
Israeli Positive Measures
Judea and Samaria (West Bank)
A. Current situation:
Despite an economic growth rate of 5.2% in 2011, the PA is in the midst of a budget crisis, caused in part by decreased foreign donations, fund-raising difficulties, and a very low rate of collection of local tax revenues. The PA is having trouble paying its debts to suppliers and, as of July, salaries to its employees. Against this backdrop, Israel initiated steps to aid the Palestinian economy and infrastructures (even before the measures cited in the executive summary).
B. Israeli steps to support the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria
- Removal of roadblocks – The number of roadblocks in the West Bank has gone from 44 in 2008 to 11 in 2012.
- Checkpoint improvements – Extension of hours, upgraded infrastructures and improved procedures.
- Increased number of permits to enter Israel – a rise of 20% in 2012 compared to 2011.
- Arrangements regarding transfer of goods and related tax procedures – On 31 July 2012, Israeli Finance Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz and Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad concluded arrangements with respect to the transfer of goods between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and related tax procedures. They also agreed on upgrading infrastructures for the transfer of oil, gas and electricity.
- Infrastructure projects – 119 projects were approved in Area C in 2011, mostly for building industrial parks and renovating infrastructures (with international funding).
- Construction of electricity substations – In 2012 the Israel Electric Company and the Palestinian Energy Authority signed an agreement for the construction of four substations in the West Bank for the production of electricity.
- Tax collection – cooperation between the Ministries of Finance, including collection and transfer of VAT and import tax monies to the PA.
- Encouraging Palestinian exports – In 2011, PA exports (not including to Israel) rose by 13% compared to 2010, and exports to Israel rose by 18% in the same period.
C. Water and sewage in Judea and Samaria
Israel helps the Palestinian Water Authority in a number of ways. One, in light of a genuine water shortage this summer, is to increase the water supply to the Palestinian residents of Bethlehem and Hebron during the summer months. Also, at the end of 2011, Israel approved the renovation of 54 existing wells and the digging of three alternative wells in the eastern aquifer. Israel worked on granting permits for seven projects approved in the JWC (Joint Water Committee), although their implementation was held up by the Palestinians for various reasons.
The Gaza Strip
A. Current situation:
In 2011, the Gaza Strip experienced a 27% growth rate compared to 2010, deriving in part from Israel’s allowing the entry of building materials for international construction projects. Unemployment went down to 29%, the lowest in a decade. Details of Israeli aid to the Gaza Strip follow.
B. Israeli steps to support the economy and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip:
- Transfer of goods at Kerem Shalom crossing – Israel allows the passage of all kinds of goods to the Gaza Strip, excluding dual-usage materials. Israel also allows the export of agricultural products from Gaza. It should be noted that the crossing is not operating at full capacity due to the lack of demand for goods from the Palestinian side.
- Entry permits for businesspersons – Every day Israel approves the entry of businessmen from the Gaza Strip into the West Bank and Israel.
- Entry for medical treatment – For humanitarian reasons, Gaza residents are allowed into Israeli hospitals for medical treatment.
- Building international projects– Israel enables the implementation of infrastructure projects financed internationally.
- Electricity supply – Israel currently supplies Gaza with 124 megawatts of electricity. Israel gave approval to the UNDP to bring in equipment to upgrade the local power station in order to significantly increase local output.
- Transfer of diesel fuel to the Gaza power station (donation from Qatar) – In June 2012, Israel began transferring diesel fuel, donated by Qatar, to Gaza. The fuel passes from Egypt via the Nitzana crossing to Israel, and from there via Kerem Shalom crossing to the Gaza Strip.
- Money transfers – Israel allows the transfer of money from the PA to Gaza and vice versa, in particular for the payment of salaries to PA employees in the Gaza Strip. Israel also allows the transfer of funds to international organizations in Gaza for their operating needs. There is no shortage of cash in the Gaza Strip.
- More water to Gaza – Preparations are currently being completed to transfer 5 million cubic meters (over 1.32 billion gallons) of water per year from Israel to the northern Gaza Strip. This is in addition to the 5 million m3 per year currently being supplied. Israel allows the entry into Gaza of all materials and equipment designated for water and sewage projects and for the household waste disposal facility in the southern Gaza Strip.
The situation described in this paper forms a bleak picture from Israel’s point of view. It seems that, for every positive move Israel makes, the Palestinians react negatively. This is reflected in hostile declarations, attempts to boycott and isolate Israel, and various steps taken in the international arena that are in direct contradiction to the Interim Agreement as well as to both the cooperative relations existing on the ground and the Palestinians’ claims that they are ready to solve the conflict by means of a diplomatic process.
Instead of looking for ways to combat Israel in the international arena, the Palestinian Authority should return to the direct negotiating track, which is the only legitimate way to resolve outstanding issues and reach a lasting peace.