Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset,
First of all, the Government of Israel would like to wish all the citizens of the State of Israel, and the members of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, a happy New Year and an inscription for good in the coming year. We wish the entire House of Israel a year of peace and security.
Members of Knesset,
Today, the Government presents to the Knesset the "Israeli- Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." The Government will seek the Knesset's approval and will view the Knesset's decision as a vote of confidence in the Government.
The Jewish people, which has known suffering and pain, has also known how to preserve its faith, its heritage and its tradition during thousands of years of exile, and has realized the dream of generations. We have, with our own eyes, been privileged to see the return to Zion, the return of the children to their borders.
Here, in the land of Israel, we returned and built a nation. Here, in the land of Israel, we established a state. The land of the prophets, which bequeathed to the world the values of morality, law and justice, was, after two thousand years, restored to its lawful owners -- the members of the Jewish people. On its land, we have built an exceptional national home and state.
However, we did not return to an empty land. There were Palestinians here who struggled against us for a hundred wild and bloody years. Many thousands, on both sides, were killed in the battle over the same land, over the same strip of territory, and were joined by the armies of the Arab states. Today, after innumerable wars and bloody incidents, we rule more than two million Palestinians through the IDF, and run their lives by a Civil Administration. This is not a peaceful solution.
We can continue to fight. We can continue to kill -- and continue to be killed. But we can also try to put a stop to this never-ending cycle of blood. We can also give peace a chance.
The Government chose to give peace a chance. The Government chose to do something to achieve it.
Members of Knesset,
The agreement before you is the continuation of the implementation of the agreements which were signed between the Government of Israel and the Palestinians. The first agreement which was brought to you was the Declaration of Principles, which was signed in Washington on 13 September 1993.
The second agreement which was presented to you is called the Cairo Agreement, which was signed in Cairo on 4 May 1994. Both of these agreements were ratified by the Knesset.
Both of the previous agreements, and the third which was submitted today, separately and together, give expression to the policy of the current Government, and to its path of promoting peace in the Middle East. As is known, when we formed the Government, over three years ago, we said that we would aspire to reach a permanent solution to the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict. And today, this Government brings, in addition to the signing of the peace treaty with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan -- which would not have been achieved without the agreement with the Palestinians -- a significant breakthrough in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and an attempt to put an end to decades of terrorism and blood.
Members of Knesset,
We are striving for a permanent solution to the unending bloody conflict between us and the Palestinians and the Arab states.
In the framework of the permanent solution, we aspire to reach, first and foremost, the State of Israel as a Jewish state, at least 80% of whose citizens will be, and are, Jews.
At the same time, we also promise that the non-Jewish citizens of Israel -- Muslim, Christian, Druze and others -- will enjoy full personal, religious and civil rights, like those of any Israeli citizen. Judaism and racism are diametrically opposed.
We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.
And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:
A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev -- as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the "Green Line," prior to the Six Day War.
D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.
Members of Knesset,
This government, with the Labor Party at its center, this party made its positions known through its party platform, which it made known to the public. Even before the elections to the current Knesset, we made clear and we emphasized to the electorate, at every opportunity, that we preferred a Jewish state, even if not on every part of the Land of Israel, to a binational state, which would emerge with the annexation of 2.2 million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
We had to choose between the whole of the land of Israel, which meant a binational state, and whose population, as of today, would comprise four and a half million Jews, and more than three million Palestinians, who are a separate entity -- religiously, politically, and nationally -- and a state with less territory, but which would be a Jewish state. We chose to be a Jewish state.
We chose a Jewish state because we are convinced that a binational state with millions of Palestinian Arabs will not be able to fulfill the Jewish role of the State of Israel, which is the state of the Jews.
Members of Knesset,
We re-emphasize that the Palestinians were not in the past, and are not today, a threat to the existence of the State of Israel.
Despite this, the primary obstacle today, to implementing the peace process between us and the Palestinians, is the murderous terrorism of the radical Islamic terrorist organizations, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are joined by the rejectionist organizations.
Terrorism wounds civilians and those serving in the IDF, the Police, the Border Police, and the other security forces, without distinguishing between them. It is clear that murderous terrorism has wounded and woundss Israelis' sense of personal security within the area of the state, and Israelis who live in the area of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
The PLO, those in it subject to the authority of its chairman, Arafat, has stopped the terror against us, as they committed themselves in the Declaration of Principles. And yet, other terrorist organizations, continue to attack us, because it is their political aim to murder Israelis, because they are Israelis, through acts of terror, in order to cause the cessation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Because this is their aim, we have no intention of shirking from the efforts toward peace, even if the acts of terrorism continue to harm us. We, on our side, will make every effort against the terrorists.
We are well aware of the seriousness of terrorist acts, and in all of our considerations on the road to achieving a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are taking the necessary and permissible steps, in accordance with Israeli law, in order to fight it. This terrorism will not achieve its political goal.
We are also repeating our demand that the Palestinian Authority fulfill its obligation, in accordance with the agreements that we have signed with it has signed to be more severe, to step up, and to intensify its actions against the murderers and enemies of peace in the area under its control. We know the Palestinian Authority has taken a series of measures that have foiled attacks, but they can do more, much more, against the terrorist organizations -- the enemies of peace.
Members of Knesset,
The Interim Agreement that has been placed on your tables, is based upon much work by teams with many members, and is spread over 300 pages, with many sections dealing with security matters and the daily life of Israeli citizens in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and of the Palestinian residents.
I want to emphasize a number of subjects:
As a Jewish nation, we must, first and foremost, pay attention to the holy places, to our religion, tradition, and culture. We were strict about this in the Interim Agreement.
Here are several examples:
A. In the Cave of the Patriarchs, the current arrangement for security and the Jewish and Muslim prayers will continue as is. We agreed that we would examine the overall arrangements in Hebron after three months. We do not intend to change anything at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
B. At Rachel's Tomb, the principle was determined that worshippers and visitors would not encounter Palestinian police, neither on their approach to the Tomb nor during their prayers. The main road to Rachel's Tomb from the Gilo area up to the tomb itself, will be the responsibility of the IDF. Guarding Rachel's Tomb compound will be the responsibility of the IDF (or the Border Police), including three guard-posts outside the compound, which overlook the parking lot. Moreover, security for the area will be provided by joint Israeli- Palestinian patrols activities, in order to preserve the peace and security of those coming to Rachel's Tomb.
C. We have found a solution to the matter of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. As is known, the students of the yeshiva and their teachers at Joseph's Tomb are there only during the day, and do not remain there at night. The current agreement will enable students to travel daily to the Tomb. The inside of the Tomb will be guarded by armed Israelis. The area will be guarded by the Palestinian Police according to the currently existing format and according to the procedures for movement and prayer at the "Shalom al-Yisrael" synagogue in Jericho. These arrangements have been in place in Jericho for a year and five months. There was one incident. A single Jew was prevented from praying.
As for the other Jewish holy places -- most of them are located in Area B, which is under the overall security control of the IDF.
And as for the archaeological sites, we found a solution by mutual agreement, that no changes whatsoever will be made at any archaeological site, without the agreement of both sides.
Members of Knesset,
The way in which Israel will implement the agreement so as to achieve its political goals regarding the permanent solution and the security of the settlements and Israelis in the territories, will ensure the continuation of daily life and security, both for the Israeli side and for the Palestinian side.
The first stage of the redeployment of IDF forces will be done in order to enable the Palestinians to hold elections for the Palestinian Council and its chairman, without the IDF being permanently present inside Palestinian communities.
The first stage of this redeployment of IDF forces will be caried out in three areas, in order to enable the Palestinians to hold elections for the Palestinian Council, and for its Chairman, without the IDF being permanently present in Palestinian communities:
Area A -- or the "brown" area; the redeployment of IDF forces will be carried out in three areas -- will include the municipal areas of the six cities -- Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Kalkiliya, Ramallah, and Bethlehem. Responsibility for civilian security in this area will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.
Area B -- or the "yellow" area -- includes almost all of the 450 towns and villages in which the Palestinians of the West Bank live. In this area, there will be a separation of responsibilities. The Palestinians will be responsible for managing their own lives, and Israel will have overall responsibility for the security of Israelis and the war against the terrorist threat. That is, IDF forces and the security services will be able to enter any place in Area B at any time.
The third area, Area C, or the "white" area -- is everywhere that is not included in the areas that have been mentioned until now. In this area are the Jewish settlements, all IDF installations, and the border areas with Jordan. This area will remain under IDF control.
Areas A and B constitute less than 30% of the area of the West Bank. Area C, which is under our control, constitutes more than 70% of the area of the West Bank.
However, I must bring it to the attention of the Members of the Knesset, that we have committed ourselves to an additional redeployment, in three stages, beyond the redeployment that I have already mentioned. The redeployment will be carried out according to a timetable, with each stage being carried out after the previous stage. The first will be approximately six months, beginning from the establishment of the Palestinian Council after the elections.
I must emphasize that we have not committed ourselves, and I repeat, we have not committed ourselves to the scope of the redeployment at each stage. Most importantly, it was defined in the agreement that the restrictions on the completion of the redeployment are issues that will be discussed during the negotiations on the permanent settlement, as is stated in the Agreement itself, and I qoute: "During the further redeployment phases to be completed within 18 months from the date of the inauguration of the Council, powers and responsibilities relating to territory will be transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction that will cover West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations."
Several words about what the current agreement says about the permanent agreement, and I quote from the agreement itself; the words speak for themselves:
1. "Permanent status negotiations will commence as soon as possible, but not later than May 4, 1996, and will end no later than May 4,1999, between the Parties. It is understood that these negotiations shall cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other negotiations, and other issues of common interest."
That is, among the criteria to be taken into account in every discussion on continuing the redeployment, with the consent of the Palestinians, according to this agreement, the criteria of the final agreement constitute considerations concerning the redeployment, continuing the redeployment.
2. "Nothing in this Agreement shall prejudice or preempt the outcome of the negotiations on the permanent status to be conducted pursuant to the DOP. Neither Party shall be deemed, by virtue of having entered into this Agreement, to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights, claims. or positions."
"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 solution negotiations."
I want to remind you: we committed ourselves, that is, we came to an agreement, and committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.
Members of Knesset,
We are aware of the fact that the Palestinian Authority has not -- up until now -- honored its commitment to change the Palestinian Covenant, and that all of the promises on this matter have not been kept. I would like to bring it to the attention of the members of the house that I view these changes as a supreme test of the Palestinian Authority's willingness and ability, and the changes required will be an important and serious touchstone vis-a-vis the continued implementation of the agreement as a whole.
The relevant article speaks about this:
"The PLO undertakes that, within two months of the date of the inauguration of the Council, the Palestinian National Council will convene and formally approve the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant, as undertaken in the letters signed by the Chairman of the PLO and addressed to the Prime Minister of Israel, dated September 9, 1993 and May 4, 1994."
Members of Knesset,
An examination of the maps and of the paragraphs of the agreement regarding the additional stages of the redeployment shows that Israel retains complete freedom of action, in order to implement its security and political objectives relating to the permanent solution, and that the division of the areas gives the IDF and the security branches complete security control in Areas B and C, except for the urban areas.
A difficult problem arose in Hebron, and with both sides agreement it was determined that, prior to the completion of the Halhoul bypass road, there would not be a complete redeployment in the city of Hebron, and this will take another half a year from the signing of the agreement, that is, until 28 March 1996. In our assessment, six months are required in order to build this bypass road. When the Halhoul bypass road and the Hebron bypass road (in the Beit Hagai- Har Manoah-Kiyrat Arba section) are built, this will enable the movement of Israelis without their passing through those sections of Hebron which do not have a Jewish presence. By the way, these are the same sections of the road which passed through the densely populated Arab population centers, and were subject to lethal attacks, such as theone at "The Glass Junction".
Here before you are additional details from the agreement which was achieved through great effort:
* The passage of police forces from Area A, which is entirely under the control of the Palestinians, to Area B, in which there are authorities shared by Israel and the Palestinians, requires the permission of the joint coordination apparatus, the DCO. This means that there will be no passage of Palestinian police without Israeli approval.
* The passage of Palestinian Police forces in uniform and/or armed, from the 25 Palestinian villages in which police stations will be located, to the rest of Area B, will require coordination and approval from the Joint District Coordination Office.
* There will be a deployment of Israeli-Palestinian liaison offices in the area. These liaison offices will employ joint mobile unites for needs which will arise on the ground.
I should further emphasize that activity for providing security measures for the Israeli communities -- fences, peripheral roads, lighting, gates -- will continue on a wide scale. Bypass roads will be built, whose purpose will be to enable Israeli residents to move about without have to pass through Palestinian population centers in places which will be transferred to the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. In any case, the IDF will not carry out a redeployment from the first seven cities, before the bypass roads are completed. In all, investment in the bypass roads will be about NIS 500 million.
The responsibility for external security along the borders with Egypt and Jordan, as well as control over the airspace above all of the territories and Gaza Strip maritime zone, remains in our hands.
Members of Knesset,
The road to reconciliation leads through the prisons. In our prisons, there are currently more than five thousand Palestinian prisoners who, in accordance with the Government's decision, will be released. Detainees and prisoners who are included on condition that they fall into the following categories: female detainees, and prisoners who have served more than two- thirds of their sentence, detainees and/or prisoners accused of or imprisoned due to security crimes that did not result in death or serious injury. What follows from this, is that murderers of Jews or those who have wounded them seriously will not be released. Detainees and prisoners accused or convicted of non-security criminal offenses, and also citizens of Arab states held in Israel until implementation of expulsion orders against them.
We will also examine the release of prisoners and detainees over 50 years of age, and 18 years of age or less, who have remained in prison 10 or more years and prisoners and detainees who are infirm and unhealthy.
But, consistent with the categories which I described before, no detainee or prisoner will be released unless he signs a committment to obey the law, to not commit acts of terrorism and involvement in them. We have had experience, following the Cairo Agreement, and hundreds remained in jail because they refused to sign.
Recently, the question of the extradition of fugitive murderers has arisen in all its intensity. We are not dealing lightly with this problem and we are continuing to demand the extradition of such murderers, according to the agreenment which was signed.
Members of Knesset,
Ten days after the signing of the agreement in Washington, the redeployment will begin -- in the first stage,the withdrawal of Civil Administration representative offices will begin in 14 Palestinian communities. The overall timetable will be completed within two weeks after the signing of the Agreement.
The agreement includes dozens and hundreds more details, among them, elections, including the manner of voting by the Palestinians in united Jerusalem who did not want Israeli citizenship as proposed to them by Israeli governments, water, electricity, expansion of the Jericho area by 10% without affecting the lives of the residents of the Jordan Valley, safe passage and more. In the time available today, we cannot relate to every detail separately and you will see that all of these matters are addressed in the Agreement before you.
Mr. Speaker Members of Knesset,
The agreement, with all its articles lies before you. There are no secret appendices or letters. This is the agreement that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of civil servants, and IDF officers led by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres worked on, and to all of them I say -- thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Today we may be opening a new stage in the annals of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. We know the chances. We know the risks. We will do our best to expand the chances and reduce the risks.
From the depths of our heart, we call upon all citizens of the State of Israel, certainly those who live in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza strip, as well as the Palestinian residents to give the establishment of peace a chance, to give the end of acts of hostility a chance, to give another life a chance, a new life. We appeal to Jews and Palestinians alike to act with restraint, to preserve human dignity, to behave in a fitting manner,-- and to live in peace and security.
We are embarking upon a new path which could lead us to an era of peace, to the end of wars.
That is our prayer.
That is our hope.
A happy New Year and may the members of Knesset and the entire house of Israel be inscribed for a good life.
Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs