The key question: How much of the West Bank will Palestinians be given?

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Q: Why are Israel, the Palestinians and the US meeting now in Maryland?

A: President Clinton has shown greater urgency in trying to broker an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians since the Monica Lewinsky affair. He is hungry for a diplomatic victory and willing to devote time and effort to obtaining it. Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, is threatening to declare a Palestinian state next May, ending the process started by the Oslo peace accords in 1993.

Q: How much land will the Palestinians get?

A: The interim agreement of 1995 divided the West Bank into three zones. Palestinians have full control of zone A. This is only 3 per cent of the land of the West Bank. It includes the cities of Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho and Hebron as well as three smaller towns. Most of the 1.5 million Palestinians on the West Bank live in zone B (see map) where the Palestinians have civilian and the Israelis military control. Zone C is wholly under Israeli control.

Under an American plan accepted by Mr Arafat and Mr Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, 13 per cent of the West Bank will be transferred from zone C to B, from full to partial Israeli control; 3 per cent of this will be to a nature reserve, where Palestinians will not be allowed to build.

A further 15.2 per cent will be transferred from zone B to A. This is far less than the Palestinians expected, but six times what they have at present.

The Israeli plan is to keep 60 per cent of the West Bank and ultimately allow the Palestinians to hold 40 per cent of it. The Palestinian enclaves will be surrounded on all sides by Israeli-controlled territory.

Repeated border closures have led to a 30 per cent fall in the Palestinian standard of living since the Oslo accords in 1993. The Israeli withdrawal will take place stage by stage as the Palestinians implement security measures.

Q: What security measures will the Palestinians introduce?

A: Israel is demanding a reduction in the size of Palestinian police force from 36,000 to 24,000, the arrest of Islamic fundamentalists, the confiscation of arms, and the detention of 30 named Palestinians accused of murdering Israelis. The CIA is to monitor the detention of fundamentalists.

Mr Arafat is resisting the confiscation of weapons and the reduction in the size of his police force.

Q: Why is Israel asking for the annulment of Palestinian covenant?

A: Israel holds that the Palestinian covenant calls for its destruction. It was amended in 1996 by Palestinians with the agreement of the previous Israeli government and the US. Mr Netanyahu holds that it must be amended again. Mr Arafat is expected to agree to change it at the end of the Israeli redeployment.

Q: What are Palestinian central Palestinian demands other than land?

A: The Palestinians want to see some 3,000 prisoners released. They also want to see Gaza port and airport opened, and the right granted to travel between Gaza and the West Bank.

Q: What will be the political consequences of agreement at Wye?

A: Mr Arafat will round up members of Hamas, as he has done before. This will be monitored by the CIA. Palestinian public opinion will probably wear this if they see progress on an Israeli withdrawal. The Palestinians will try to ensure that the US and not Israel decides on whether it is fulfilling its security obligations.

The most serious political effect of a West Bank pullback will be on Israeli politics where the settlers and the far right are likely to break with Mr Netanyahu for the first time.

There is no reason for his government to fall, since he should be able to rely on votes from the Labour opposition who back Oslo. The far right and the settlers on the West Bank do not have anywhere else to go.

Patrick Cockburn