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Israel-Palestinian Peace Process: Israel and PA Agree on Timetable for Implementing Israeli Withdrawal

(September 4, 1999)

At a meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on September 4, 1999, Israeli  Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to a new timetable for the implementation of the October 1998 Wye Memorandum. This agreement obligates Israel to release 350 Palestinian prisoners, and to begin to withdraw from an additional 7 percent of the West Bank on September 13 and a further 11.1 percent by January 2000.

Instead of two withdrawals that were to have taken two months, the new agreement divides the redeployments into three stages over five months. During this time, Arafat has promised not to declare a Palestinian state and Barak pledged not to take any unilateral steps, language suggesting a halt to any settlement building.

Israel agreed to redeploy within days of the agreement from 7 percent of the West Bank, transferring it from Israeli control (Area C) to Palestinian civilian control (Area B) and release 200 Palestinian security prisoners. The next two withdrawals are to take place on November 15 and January 20, and another batch of approximately 150 more security prisoners are to be released on October 8.

According to the Jerusalem Post (9/5/99), the Palestinians agreed Israel would release pre-Oslo PLO prisoners who only had "some blood" on their hands, meaning those who have wounded Israelis or murdered Palestinian collaborators, and those who have only been indirectly involved in terror acts.

The two sides also agreed, the Post said, that negotiating teams will be established to begin intensive talks on a final peace accord. The target date for reaching the final-status deal is September 13, 2000.

The main criticism of the new agreement is that while the Palestinians are obligated to carry out a number of actions including arresting terrorist suspects, reporting on the collection of illegal weapons and presenting a list of Palestinian police officers, the Israeli withdrawals are not contingent upon Palestinian fulfillment of these tasks.

Sources: Israel Foreign Ministry