Accord gives Israelis a sunnier outlook

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The Independent Online
'REGARDING meteorology, there shall be mutual assistance and co- operation between the Israeli and the Palestinian weather forecasting offices.'

So states paragraph F, section 19, article 11, of Annex 11 (Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs) of the Agreement on the Gaza and the Jericho Area, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation on Wednesday.

It is probably the most telling paragraph in the document, setting up a vivid metaphor for the new Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

'We have the same weather,' the negotiators have decided. 'So we must co-ordinate our weather forecasts. We live on the same patch of land - so we must co-ordinate our lives, to our mutual convenience.'

The agreement has been billed by both Israelis and Palestinians as an agreement to divorce after 27 years of miserable co-existence, in which the strong partner forced the weaker to live under its yoke. In a wealth of painstaking detail, however, the final document talks repeatedly of co-operation, co-ordination, and harmonisation.

Many sections of the agreement show the stronger partner still exerting firm control in the new relationship. But the message is clear: if the agreement is to be successfully implemented, Palestinians and Israelis must work together.

Palestinians and Israelis are going to talk to each other as they never have before. There will be a new Joint Civil Affairs Co-ordination and Co-operation Committee (CAC), which will have 'day-to-day contacts' on employment, hospitalisation, transportation, and licensing. The CAC will convene every month, or at any time at short notice.

On harmonisation of standards, the Palestinians are obliged to bring their standards of health, vaccination, pollution and environmental protection to the standards of Israel. The same human rights obligations and international laws are to be observed by both parties.

Both sides must also allow the other access to holy sites. With the recent Hebron massacre in mind, the document states that all 'visitors to holy sites shall behave according to accepted rules of behaviour in holy sites'.

It is on legal jurisdiction that the two sides most strongly desired complete separation. It is here that the stronger partner insists on exerting overriding controls. But as Annex 111, article 1 of the Criminal Jurisdiction section states, even separation can only happen through co-ordination.

The Palestinian authorities shall not arrest or detain Israelis or place them in custody, states the document. But a Palestinian, committing an offence inside a Jewish settlement, can be detained if the offence is 'security related'. In all such cases, however: 'The Israeli police and the Palestinian police shall co-operate in the conduct of investigations . . . including the exchange of information, records and fingerprints of criminal suspects, vehicle ownership registration records etc.'

The Palestinians have struggled to gain every possible symbol of sovereignty to prove their statehood. But even here co-ordination is called for. Section 26 (Postal Services) says Palestinian stamps may include the term 'Palestinian authority'. The section also says 'both sides will co-ordinate and co- operate in establishing postal rates', and in arrangements for sending and receiving all postal items. No accurate Palestinians census exists, as the Israeli occupiers hold all information on the population. For the first time in 27 years, the Palestinian population registry is to be handed over.

The Palestinians of Gaza and Jericho will have dual identity. They will have new Gaza-Jericho identity cards, while their old Israeli IDs will remain necessary for passage into Israel, or along any of the four designated 'safe passage' routes between Gaza and Jericho through Israel. Travellers on these routes may tune into the Israeli and the Palestinian weather forecasts - and find it is the same.

(Photograph omitted)