New Palestinian state shackled at birth

West Bank deal: Autonomy over internal affairs agreed but Israelis share control of Hebron and `areas of strategic importance'

The accord on partial Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, agreed yesterday, means a significant change in the balance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. In effect a Palestinian state is being born. For the first time the 2.1 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will be not be under the direct control of a foreign power.

This is the main gain for the Palestinians. But never has the self-determination of a people been so hemmed about with restrictions and limitations on their authority. Israeli troops will keep control of 70 per cent of the West Bank even as they pull out of six cities - Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, Tulkarm, Jenin and Qalqiliya - as well as most of Hebron.

The 400-page document creates a complex jigsaw in which the authority of Israel and the newly created Palestinian Council are meant to fit together. Many critical details are not spelled out, but it does "allow Palestinians to conduct their own internal affairs".

Starting 10 days after the agreement is signed in Washington on Thursday, the Israeli army (IDF) will withdraw from the six cities as well as 450 towns and villages to leave "almost no IDF presence in Palestinian population centres". Internal security will be conducted differently in three types of area. In the six cities the Palestinian Council will have full military, police and civil powers. The towns and villages, where 68 per cent of Palestinians live, will have their own police, but Israeli troops will still be able to enter to protect settlers or look for guerrillas. In "unpopulated areas, areas of strategic importance to Israel and the Jewish settlements", Israel retains all military and police powers.

The new 82-member Palestinian Council will be elected by all Palestinians over 18 in Gaza and the West Bank, with special arrangements for Palestinians in Jerusalem to vote or to stand for election. The election will take place 22 days after the Israeli redeployment - the Palestinians would like it to be on 20 January. A separate ballot will be held at the same time for the head of the Executive Authority of the Council, which is expected to be the PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat. The Council will have full security and civil powers, and with its establishment on the West Bank "the Israeli military government will be withdrawn".

The agreement provides for a 12,000-strong Palestinian police force. Israel and the Palestinian Council will "co-operate in the fight against terrorism and the prevention of terrorist attacks". Joint security committees will co-ordinate the actions of the Israeli army and the Palestinian police, but Israelis "may not in any circumstances be arrested or placed in custody by the Palestinian police". The abstract does not spell out how far Palestinians will have similar freedom of movement - people in the six cities fear they will be isolated and commercially crippled by Israeli checkpoints on their access roads.

Once the Council is inaugurated there will be further Israeli redeployments at six-month intervals. Other parts of the area where Israel has full military and police control will be transferred to the Palestinians. The purpose is for Palestinian jurisdiction to cover the West Bank, apart from areas where Israel has settlements or military needs, to be discussed next year in the final negotiations.

Hebron, capital of the southern West Bank where 380,000 Palestinians live, has special arrangements because of 400 Jewish settlers in the heart of the city. In six months Israeli troops in Hebron will redeploy, so they will be in charge only of protecting the settlers and people visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where Israel will remain in control. Press reports say Israel will leave all but 15 per cent of Hebron and give up its military headquarters, but the real division of power will only be evident when the new Israeli deployment is known.

The release of 5,200 Palestinians in three stages held up the signing of the accord, and it is not clear that full agreement has been reached. At least 1,000 prisoners will be freed on Thursday, including males over 50 and under 18, as well as prisoners who have concluded two-thirds of their sentences. The next releases will be at the time of the elections and the third stage later.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there