Magazine article The Middle East

Peace Process Struggles On

Magazine article The Middle East

Peace Process Struggles On

Article excerpt

Two years after the signing of the Oslo Accord on the White House lawn in September 1993, amid high hopes of peace and the dawn of a new era, a similar ceremony was re-enacted on 28 September in the same venue to ratify the Israeli-Palestinian agreement beaten out in Taba four days earlier, henceforth known as "Oslo 11". That the mood was more muted than in 1993 was scarcely cause for surprise: for much of the two long years of the peace process, there had seemed little sign of peace, or even process. "Oslo 11" is fraught with potential pitfalls. It may be regarded, nonetheless, with guarded optimism.

The Interim Agreement has given the Palestinians partial control of 27% of the West Bank. Not much one may argue, but better than it might have been in view of the Palestinians' weak hand and Israel's concern for its security and determination over Jerusalem, due to be discussed along with other contentious issues, such as settlements, in next year's final status talks.

Yasser Arafat has wrested from the Israelis' agreement an elected 82-member Council with legislative and executive powers, rather than the 25-strong executive body envisaged by Israel. Jerusalemites will be able to vote and also stand for election using a West Bank or Gaza address. Simultaneously, that is 22 days after the end of Israeli redeployment, a separate election will be held for the head of the Council's Executive Authority. With its establishment the Israeli military government will be withdrawn and the Civil Administration dissolved.

The Israeli army will withdraw from the populated areas of the West Bank. In Area A, the six cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya (comprising four per cent of the West Bank and 19% of its population) the Palestinian Council will have full civil and security authority, although Israeli civilian and settler freedom of movement is to be guaranteed under joint Israeli-Palestinian escort. …

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