Middle East Accord: Peace deal speeds up Israeli withdrawal

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The Independent Online
UNDER the terms of the agreement reached yesterday in Cairo, Israel is committed to an 'accelerated and scheduled withdrawal' of its military forces from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area. This is to begin immediately. Israel is to complete the withdrawal within three weeks.

The withdrawal includes 'evacuating all military bases and other fixed installations to be handed over to the Palestinian police'.

Israel will redeploy its remaining forces to the Jewish settlements in these areas, in order to carry out its responsibilities for external security and for the internal security and public safety of Jewish settlements and Israelis in these areas.

The agreement stipulates that Israelis, including Israeli military forces, may continue to use roads freely within the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area. For their part, Palestinians may freely use public roads crossing the settlements.

The Palestinian police will be deployed and will assume responsibility for public order and internal security of Palestinians.

These are the main headings covering security. Article 3 covers the transfer of authority from the Israeli military government and its civil administration to the Palestinian authority.

This stipulates that upon the completion of the Israeli withdrawal and the transfer of powers to the Palestinian authority, the civil administration in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area will be dissolved and the Israeli military government withdrawn.

A joint civil affairs co-ordination and co-operation committee and two joint regional civil affairs sub- committees for the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area respectively will be established in order to provide for co-ordination and co-operation in civil affairs between the Palestinian authority and Israel.

The Palestinian authority will consist of one body of 24 members which will carry out and be responsible for all legislative and executive powers and responsibilities transferred to it under the agreement, and will be responsible for the exercise of judicial functions.

The question of jurisdiction was one of the thorniest to be resolved. The agreement stipulates that Palestinian territorial jurisdiction covers the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, except for Jewish settlements and Israeli military installations; and that in terms of functional areas, it covers all power and responsibilities except for foreign relations, and the security of Jewish settlements and Israeli citizens.

There are a number of functions which the Palestinian authority will not be competent to perform. It may not establish embassies abroad (the PLO has many offices already). Nor may it permit the establishment of foreign missions in its territory (eight countries, including Britain, have consulates-general in Jerusalem which are in effect missions to the Palestinian entity).

The Palestinian authority will have power to legislate in a number of areas. However, Israel will have power to review bills presented for legislation to ensure they do not exceed the competence of the self- governing authority.

As agreed in Cairo in February, Israel will remain in overall charge of security from external threats.

Both sides 'shall seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and shall accordingly abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda against each other and shall take legal measures to prevent such incitement'.

One of the shortcomings of the original declaration of principles signed in September, the procedure for the resolution of disputes, has been addressed in the agreement. This lays down that disputes should first go to negotiation, then if necessary to conciliation, and finally to arbitration. Both sides, says Article 18, 'shall take all measures necessary to prevent acts of terrorism'.

Under an article entitled 'Confidence-building measures', Israel is committed to turning over to the Palestinians within a period of five weeks about 5,000 Palestinian detainees and prisoners, residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Those released will be free to return to their homes anywhere in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. The two sides are also committed to continuing negotiations on the release of additional Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

The agreement starts the five- year interim period stipulated last September. Both sides agree that they view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity of which will be preserved in the interim period.

Leading article, page 19

(Photograph omitted)

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