The Israeli Approach To Wye Negotiations and Subsequent Outcome
By Benjamin Netanyahu
In a retrospective article in Tablet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained his strategy in negotiations with the Palestinians at the Wye River Plantation in Maryland in October 1998 and the subsequent issues related to the implementation of the agreement reached during those talks.
My principal objective at Wye was to limit the extent of further interim Israeli withdrawals so as to leave Israel with sufficient territorial depth for its defense. As stipulated under the Oslo agreement, Israel was to withdraw in three successive “disengagements” from additional territory in Judea-Samaria, which would be handed over to the Palestinian Authority prior to the negotiations on a permanent peace agreement, or “final settlement.”
The Palestinian side had already received 27 percent of the territory from the Labor government…. Since the Oslo Accords did not quantify the extent of redeployment, we proceeded to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, or more specifically with the United States, on much smaller redeployments.
Ultimately, we agreed in Wye that the first two redeployments would amount to 13 percent of the territory. We also agreed with the U.S. that Israel would officially declare that the third redeployment, which the U.S. recognized as an Israeli prerogative not subject to negotiation, would not exceed an additional 1 percent. Israel would retain some 60 percent of the territory with all the West Bank’s Jewish population; the Palestinian Authority would have some 40 percent of the area with virtually the entire Palestinian population.
We also achieved a second objective at Wye: We incorporated the principle of reciprocity into the agreement. Palestinians would get 13 percent of Judea-Samaria (West Bank) territory in three successive stages only after they implemented their own commitments undertaken at Wye.
The first stage in the implementation of Palestinian commitments involved mostly formalities, such as naming Palestinian delegates to various joint committees and issuing decrees against incitement and the possession of illegal weapons. The Palestinians met these obligations, and we promptly discharged ours: We withdrew from 2 percent of Area C and transferred 7 percent of Area B, hitherto under joint Israeli-Palestinian security control, to full Palestinian control.
The second stage—which covered the next four weeks—was a different story. At this point the Palestinians were obligated to repeal the articles in the Palestinian Charter, which called for Israel’s destruction, and take the first concrete steps against the terrorist infrastructure. On December 14, , they repealed the charter….in a Gaza gathering addressed by President Bill Clinton.
Many claimed that from a strictly legal viewpoint the repeal was invalid….But the purpose of the exercise—to make the rejection of the charter irreversible—was achieved. After renouncing the charter in a public display before the world’s cameras and in the presence of the U.S. president, it would be impossible to claim that it was still a valid document.
The Palestinian Authority was supposed to arrest wanted terrorists and have representatives of the U.S. verify their incarceration; implement the law prohibiting membership in terrorist organizations; collect illegal weapons held by civilians and hand over such prohibited weapons as mortars, anti-tank missiles, and land mines held by the Palestinian Authority police; cease daily incitement to violence; stop organizing anti-Israeli riots; submit a report on the number of Palestinian Authority police in excess of the 30,000 permitted by the Oslo agreement; and maintain “comprehensive, intensive, and continuous” cooperation with Israel on security matters.
The Palestinian Authority complied with none of these commitments….Adhering to the principle of reciprocity, the Israeli government announced that there would be no further withdrawals until the Palestinian Authority complied with the agreement….I made it clear that Israeli redeployment could only follow the faithful and complete implementation of Palestinian obligations, and that conclusive negotiations over territory would have to await the final status talks.
Source: Benjamin Netanyahu, “A Plan for Peace,” Tablet, (August 26, 2019).