Israeli Operations in Area A: The State Department vs. the Oslo Accords Vol. 1, No. 7 (JCPA-JERUSALEM CENTER PUBLIC AFFAIRS) 10/23/01)
JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs
JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs Articles-Index-Top
The October 22 request by the U.S. State Department spokesman that
Israel "immediately" withdraw from and not return to Palestinian-
controlled areas (Area A) implies that such actions are in violation
of the Oslo Accords, that they hamper the prospects for a return to
negotiations, and that they threaten the wider American war on
terrorism. None of these implications are correct. The statement
stands in marked contrast to the past understanding shown by
President Bush that placed the burden of cease-fire implementation on
Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat.
Israel´s Legal Right to Combat Terrorism in Area A
The Palestinian Authority is in wholesale violation of its
commitments to combat terror, confiscate illegal weaponry, and end
incitement, as a party to the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements.
Accordingly under international law, Israel has a right to redress
these violations, and need not unilaterally abide by the Oslo
agreements if doing so is detrimental to the security of its
In fact, however, Israel´s incursions into Area A are not a violation
of the Oslo Accords, and the American implication that they are
serves to undermine both these accords and the potential for future
Article I (1) of the Oslo II agreement stipulated that "Israel shall
continue to exercise powers and responsibilities not transferred,"
including responsibility for "the overall security of Israelis."
Article XII adds that Israel has "all powers to take steps necessary
to meet this responsibility."
Article XI of Annex I states that Israeli military engagement steps
may include actions "within the territory under the security
responsibility of the [Palestinian] Council."
These powers were reconfirmed in the 1997 Hebron Protocol, which
entitles Israel to "carry out independent security activities for the
protection of Israelis in H-1" (H-1 is the functional equivalent of
Area A in Hebron). In the meantime, the Hebron Protocol security
arrangements, including the joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols on the
controlling heights of Abu Sneina, have collapsed entirely.
There is, accordingly, no legal basis for the unconditional American
request to end Israeli incursions into Area A that are necessary to
safeguard the security of Israelis.
Defeating Palestinian Terrorism: The Only Route Back to the
Both before September 11 and after, with greater intensity, the
United States has sought to press Israel and the Palestinians onto
the path of renewed negotiations as outlined by the Mitchell
Committee report. The Mitchell framework sets out four steps in clear
sequence: 1) an immediate and unconditional end to all violence, 2) a
meaningful cooling-off period, 3) confidence-building measures, and
4) resumption of negotiations.
Israel has gone to extraordinary efforts to give the Mitchell
framework a chance to work, including the declaration of a unilateral
cease-fire, and unconditional support for the Mitchell framework and
the cease-fire plan negotiated by CIA Director George Tenet.
Following September 11, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met with
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and negotiated a plan to
implement the Tenet and Mitchell plans, but this too was not
implemented by the Palestinian side. Israel gave Arafat a list of 108
militants operating in Palestinian Authority areas; from this list,
Peres requested that Arafat arrest ten of the most urgent "ticking
bombs." Only one of the ten was known to have been arrested.
The assassination of Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze´evi on October 17 by
the PFLP, an organization with headquarters in Ramallah and Damascus,
presented the ultimate test of whether Arafat would ever voluntarily
crack down on terror. Despite statements by Palestinian spokesmen
that Ze´evi´s killers would be arrested and Palestinian terrorist
groups outlawed, there has been no systematic crackdown on the
infrastructure of these groups. It is now known that Palestinian
Authority security personnel helped smuggle one of Ze´evi´s murderers
to areas under full control of the Palestinian Authority.
The tactical, rather than strategic, nature of the PA´s supposed anti-
terror efforts were exemplified by the death of Bethlehem
Tanzim/Fatah commander Atef Abiyat in a "work accident." Abiyat was
killed by a bomb intended for Israelis, despite the fact that Arafat
had personally told Peres, and confirmed through security meetings,
that Abiyat was "in detention."
The U.S. does not argue that Arafat is fulfilling his
responsibilities. On the contrary, President George Bush has
reportedly sent a letter to Arafat demanding that a series of
concrete actions be taken to prevent terrorism. The demands that
Israel cease its military actions against terrorism, however,
directly contradict and diffuse the American attempt to put pressure
State Department Criticism of Israel Does Not Protect the Anti-
So long as Arafat sees that the Israeli actions are limited,
necessarily temporary, and causing a rift in U.S.-Israeli relations,
he has a substantial incentive to wait out the Israeli
counteroffensive and make no strategic break with terrorism. The
State Department´s call for an unconditional Israeli withdrawal
effectively advocates a return to the status quo ante, a situation
under which the Palestinians were massively violating their security
obligations under the Oslo agreements.
The State Department´s harsh criticism of Israeli actions detracts
from the pressure on Arafat to crack down on terror and therefore
fuels the conflict it is meant to douse. By fueling the conflict,
such statements also directly harm American coalition-building
efforts, gaining the U.S. only marginal credit in the Arab world.
After all, the primary problem of America´s Arab allies is joining
the fight against a fellow Muslim state -- not the issue of Israel.
Arab states, like Osama Bin Laden himself, use the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict as an excuse to justify actions and policies
that are largely unrelated to the fight against terror. Recognition
of Israel´s right to self-defense would help discredit the notion
that there are exceptions to the war on terrorism. Furthermore, such
recognition would increase the likelihood of a return to
negotiations, and reduce the diversionary claims of America´s
secondary coalition partners. (JCPA 10/23/01)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY