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U.S. Department of State
95/06/01 PLO Commitments Compliance Report
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
PLO Commitments Compliance Report
Pursuant to Title VIII of Public Law 101-246
Foreign Relations Authorization Act
for Fiscal Year 1990-91, As Amended
This document is submitted in accordance with Title VIII of Public Law 101-246 (the PLO Commitments Compliance Act of 1989 - PLOCCA), as amended. This report covers the period from the date of submission of the last PLOCCA report on December 1, 1994 to May 31, 1995. In addition to providing information required by the PLOCCA, this report covers matters that would have been required of a written policy justification under Section 583(b)(1) of the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act, Part E of Title V of Public Law 103-236 (MEPFA). Should the MEPFA be renewed in its current form beyond July 1, 1995, this report will also serve as a written policy justification for using that authority.
This report reviews the performance of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) with respect to the commitments in Chairman Arafat's September 9, 1993 letters to Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Holst and those in, and resulting from, the good faith implementation of the Declaration of Principles (DOP). In the letters, the PLO (1) recognizes Israel's right to exist, (2) accepts UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338, (3) commits itself to the Middle East peace process and to a peaceful resolution of its conflict with Israel, (4) undertakes to submit to the Palestine National Council (PNC) changes to the PLO Covenant necessary to eliminate articles that deny Israel's right to exist, and (5) renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence, states that it will call on Palestinians to refrain from violence, and assumes responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators.
PLO Compliance With Commitments
During the period under review, PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Arafat and other senior officials restated their commitment to recognize the right of Israel to exist in peace and security and their acceptance of UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338 through peaceful negotiations with Israel. In March 1995, Chairman Arafat said "there is no other way, but the negotiations for peace."
The Israelis and Palestinians have been engaged in nearly continuous negotiations since the DOP was signed in September 1993. Over the past year and a half, Israelis and Palestinians have developed a comprehensive framework for cooperation and interaction in political, economic and security spheres. In addition to implementing agreements such as the Gaza/Jericho accord, a protocol on economic relations, and an agreement on the transfer of additional powers and responsibilities ("early empowerment"), the PLO and Israel are actively conducting negotiations to implement the next stage of the DOP. In a meeting at Erez (near Gaza) March 9, and again on May 22, Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat agreed to a July 1 target date for the completion of negotiations on the redeployment of Israeli troops in the West Bank, elections for a Palestinian council and the further transfer of responsibilities to the PA in the West Bank. Israel and the Palestinians have also held detailed discussions on economic issues. On April 28, a tripartite agreement was signed, which assigned responsibilities to each party and is intended to enhance coordination and cooperation among the PA, Israel and the international donor community.
Incidents of Violence/Terrorism
We continue to press the PLO to establish a sustained and structured approach to combat violence and terror and specifically to strengthen steps already taken to preempt violence, investigate, prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for acts of terrorism and violence. As progress has continued in implementing the DOP, there has been an increase in the determination and efforts of groups opposed to the peace process to attack Israelis and to undermine the authority of the PA and the PLO. These groups have launched a violent campaign to undermine the negotiations and have utilized sophisticated means to do so. Such groups include HAMAS (the Islamic Resistance Movement) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). These groups have never been part of the PLO and increasingly define themselves by their opposition to the negotiations with Israel and, by extension, to the PLO and the PA. We have no information, however, that any PLO elements under Arafat's control were involved in terrorism during the period covered by this report.
As in previous reporting periods, HAMAS was responsible for the greatest number of terrorist incidents and casualties. HAMAS and PIJ relied on suicide bombers to carry out the most deadly attacks. In addition, two acts of violence against Israelis were claimed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)-Hawatmeh faction, PLO constituent groups not under Arafat's control. These PLO rejectionist groups have frozen their participation in the PLO in opposition to the DOP. They do not participate in PLO decision-making, and are based outside the territories and beyond Arafat's political and physical control. Although these groups have no role in the PLO, their activities undermine the PA and harm the negotiations. The PFLP claimed responsibility for the shooting death of a young Israeli woman near Ramallah on January 6. Although the DFLP-Hawatmeh faction claimed responsibility for the February 6 attack on a fuel tank truck in Gaza that left one Israeli dead, HAMAS also claimed responsibility for the attack.
On January 22, two bombs exploded at a bus stop at Beit Lid, killing 21 and wounding 60; PIJ claimed responsibility for the attack. On January 27, three Israelis were wounded by an unidentified assailant near Netzarim, Gaza. On February 6, an unidentified gunman killed an Israeli in Gaza. On March 20, unidentified assailants fired on a bus near Kiryat Arba, killing two Israelis. In early April, several HAMAS members were killed in Gaza when a bomb they were making exploded prematurely. On April 9, a suicide bomber affiliated with PIJ drove an explosives-laden car into a bus near Kfar Darom in Gaza, killing seven Israelis and one American and wounding 34. A similar attack the same day near Netzarim left 11 Israelis wounded. HAMAS claimed responsibility for the second attack.
In the face of this violent challenge, the PLO has taken a series of steps to prevent acts of terrorism and to prosecute those responsible for committing such acts. Security courts were established and began to try those suspected of terrorism; members of HAMAS and PIJ were detained and for the first time prosecuted for involvement in terrorist acts; and an order for licensing and/or confiscation of weapons was issued. The success of these steps to control terrorism can only be evaluated over time, but these steps did demonstrate a far more systematic effort to counter and punish those responsible for planning or carrying out acts of terror. The following section discusses the PLO's performance in security matters in six key areas: 1) renunciation of terrorism and violence; 2) assumption of responsibility over PLO members; 3) preemption of terrorist incidents; 4) prosecution of those responsible; 5) control of the proliferation of weapons in Gaza/Jericho; and 6) coordination with Israel.
PLO Response to Security Issues
PLO officials denounced acts of terrorism as they have occurred. In response to the January 22 Beit Lid attack, Chairman Arafat telephoned Prime Minister Rabin to express his condolences and in a statement to the media called the attack a "criminal act that threatens the peace process." PA Planning Minister Nabil Sha'ath called the act a "criminal deed which we resolutely condemn." PA Health Minister Zanoun said the PA "shares the grief of the families" of the victims of the March 20 incident in Hebron, and stressed that no terror attack would stop the peace process. Housing Minister al-Agha called the attack on civilians "deplorable." In response to the April 9 bombings in Kfar Darom and Netzarim, Arafat pledged to pursue "war on the perpetrators of terrorist attacks who seek to thwart the peace process." We continue to urge Chairman Arafat to condemn, in the strongest language and in Arabic, any incident of violence, regardless of the number of people killed or injured.
We have no information that incidents of terrorism were perpetrated or organized by PLO elements under Arafat's control during the period covered by this report. In a speech on May 15, Prime Minister Rabin stated, "Fatah groups under the Palestinian Authority headed by Arafat have not taken part in any murderous terrorist attacks against Israelis."
Despite its failure to halt all violence and terrorism, the PA claims it has preempted a number of violent incidents. Gaza security chief Nasser Yussef confirmed that he has been charged with developing a plan of action to combat terrorism. Senior PA officials, including Arafat, have described steps the Palestinian police forces have taken to preempt terrorist attacks. Israeli Police Minister Shahal said February 5 that "there is information that the Palestinian police recently prevented several attacks." Arafat has said he is committed to end HAMAS and PIJ violence against Israelis whether in or launched from PA-controlled areas or the West Bank.
In late January, the Palestinian police reportedly arrested a number of PIJ members implicated in the Beit Lid bombing. On February 8, the Palestinian police arrested a HAMAS activist suspected of planning to explode a hand grenade in Tel Aviv. The police detained two other Gazans suspected of planning unspecified attacks. On February 9, the Palestinian police arrested several persons suspected of preparing a car bomb for detonation in Jerusalem. On February 14, PA security forces found and seized 200 kilograms of explosives. The police caught two individuals February 15 who were reportedly attempting to persuade a third man to carry out a suicide bombing. And in April, a potential suicide bomber recruited by HAMAS was detained by the Palestinian police. His alleged recruiter was sentenced to 15 years by the PA security court, according to a press report. The press also reported the Palestinian police arrest of eight HAMAS militants and the seizure of weapons and explosives in a series of raids in late April. A HAMAS spokesman confirmed the arrests. The State Department has been unable to verify all of these claims of pre-emption of terrorism. Nevertheless, we do have evidence that the PA is making a serious effort to prevent terrorist attacks and devoting more resources to preemption of violence.
The PA routinely responds to terrorist incidents or attempts with widespread detentions of suspects followed by their release. Following the January Beit Lid bombing, the PA detained more than 250 members of PIJ and HAMAS for questioning. After a foiled truck bomb at Beersheba in March, the PA arrested more than 70 Islamic activists. The PA detained more than 300 PIJ and HAMAS members after the April 9 bombings in Gaza. As of late May, the PA says it still has 40 members of HAMAS in detention; local human rights groups place the number of opposition members currently in detention at 80-90. These security sweeps send a warning to those involved with terrorist groups that their actions are being monitored, and the interrogations are an important source of information.
During the period under review, the PLO has initiated prosecutions of those involved in terrorism. In February, Arafat established a "security court" system in Gaza, operating under civil law but presided over by security officers, to try those suspected of terrorism. The court began trying cases and handing down sentences after the April 9 attacks in Gaza. Nabil Sha'ath said in an April 12 interview that the security courts demonstrated a "new firmness in dealing with those who are planning to sabotage the peace process." Chairman Arafat said he is committed to continue use of the security courts.
The security court record of convictions includes: April 9 -- a PIJ member sentenced to 15 years for assisting a terrorist attack; April 10 -- a PIJ activist sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring in the Beit Lid bombing; April 15 - a PIJ member sentenced to 15 years; April 16 -- two HAMAS members sentenced to two years for terrorist acts in which IDF soldiers were killed; April 17 -- a HAMAS member sentenced to seven years for complicity in the pre-empted truck bomb near Beersheba; April 22 -- two HAMAS members sentenced to four and seven years for recruiting minors to take part in suicide attacks against Israelis; April 23 -- two HAMAS members were sentenced to 3 years for killing a Palestinian suspected of cooperating with Israel; April 24 -- two HAMAS members sentenced to three years for the murder of a Palestinian believed to be cooperating with Israel. On April 26 the security court sentenced a PFLP member to one year in prison for his involvement with a group of boys caught with homemade explosives. On April 30, two Gazans were sentenced to a prison term of unknown duration for smuggling arms; on May 1 an individual of unknown affiliation was sentenced to 12 years for arms smuggling; and on May 4 four residents of Beit Hanun were sentenced to 6 months for setting fire to Israeli fields. On May 13, the Palestinian police arrested Sayid Abu Musameh, the highest-ranking HAMAS official detained by the Palestinian police to date. Abu Musameh was sentenced to two years in prison for seditious writing, incitement and tampering with security. HAMAS spokesmen warned the PLO to stop its most recent crackdown in Gaza "before it was too late." On May 15, Prime Minister Rabin stated in a speech that "over the past four months we have seen the PA take clear-cut steps against the radical Islamic terrorist elements, against the Islamic Jihad and against HAMAS."
On April 11, the PA announced that all weapons had to be registered by May 11. PA Justice Minister Frei Abu-Middein told a Jerusalem newspaper on May 7 that the PA had begun to collect illegal weapons and explosives in Gaza. He said the campaign to confiscate weapons would be stepped up after the May 11 (later extended to May 14) registration deadline. Police chief Ghazi al-Jabali stated publicly that the police would collect any unlicensed weapons after May 11. In a statement announcing the extension of the deadline, PA Justice Minister Frei Abu-Middein said that any citizen found in possession of unlicensed weapons would be prosecuted, with prison sentences ranging from six months to seven years. A PA security official said that 450 licenses have been issued to date. A sustained approach in this area would be another important indicator of the PA's commitment to a serious and structured approach to enhancing security.
Joint security patrols and district coordinating offices are the principal daily mechanism for coordination and cooperation between the Palestinian police and Israeli security forces. Reports from both Palestinians and Israelis indicate the level of cooperation is generally good. On May 14, Arafat announced that the PA had discovered 1,500 blank Israeli ID cards, which would allow the bearers free access to Israel, during a check on a HAMAS hideout. The Palestinian police also found arms and explosives. Samples of the confiscated documents were passed to the Israeli security forces. Palestinian police routinely share intelligence information with Israeli security. However, the actual patrols have mixed results and are still largely dependent on individual personalities.
At their March 9 meeting at Erez, Chairman Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres agreed to establish a senior joint security committee to share intelligence and to broaden cooperation aimed at preventing terrorist attacks. This senior committee meets weekly, most recently at the level of Foreign Minister Peres and Nabil Sha'ath in Cairo. In a May 1 statement on behalf of Prime Minister Rabin, Israeli Environment Minister Sarid reflected favorably on the level of joint security cooperation with the PA. A senior Israeli official told U.S. officials May 19 that the Palestinian police had accomplished much in a short time.
We remain very concerned about some aspects of the PA's performance on security matters. The PA claims to have turned over 20 prisoners to the Israelis without a formal request. Israel has reportedly made three formal and two informal requests for suspects believed to be within territory under the jurisdiction of the PA. These requests are under discussion between the parties in accordance with the Gaza/Jericho agreement. Israeli officials have stated that the number of police in Gaza and Jericho exceeds the numbers permitted in the Gaza/Jericho agreement. The parties are discussing this issue in the joint security committees. The PA has turned over to Israel a partial list of individuals currently serving in the Palestinian police and security forces.
In addition, the PA remains hampered by an inadequate legal system that has evolved insufficiently to provide due process. The police are also hindered by overlapping jurisdictions and unclear command structures. Clearly, these investigations, prosecutions and sentences demonstrate a greater seriousness on its part to punish terrorists. At the same time, the PA must approach the security issue in a way that is consistent with the rule of law. We have raised these concerns with the PA. On April 23, the PA Attorney General announced the PA would set up an appeals procedure for prisoners, including those convicted in security courts. The need to respect human rights is part of our ongoing dialogue with PA officials.
PLO Covenant
Despite repeated assurances by Chairman Arafat and senior PA officials that the covenant would be amended to remove those clauses calling for Israel's destruction at the earliest opportunity, the covenant remains unchanged. The Palestine National Council (PNC), which according to the terms of its charter must vote to amend the covenant, has not met since September 1991, nor has it been convened. In January 1995, the PA issued a written affirmation of its intention to amend the charter, stating that it was "committed to what it (the PA) undertook in connection with the DOP." In March 1995, Chairman Arafat told Foreign Minister Peres that the covenant would be amended immediately after elections are held for a new Palestinian Council. Arafat also told Peres that amendment of the covenant would be part of his campaign platform and that the Council would revoke the relevant parts of the covenant. We hope Arafat will do so, and have encouraged him to follow through with this. We remain deeply disappointed with the PLO's failure to amend the covenant and continue to urge the PLO to do so at the earliest opportunity.
Arab League Boycott of Israel
On February 7-8, 1995, Secretary of Commerce Brown met with the trade ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the PA in Taba, Egypt. At the Taba meeting, the four parties agreed to adopt "every possible measure to remove any obstacles to liberalizing and opening the region's markets to trade and investment, and support every effort to end the boycott of Israel." The PA and other parties reaffirmed this position at the Blair House ministerial meeting on February 19. The PLO and Israel have signed a detailed economic protocol regulating their economic relationship.
Status of PLO Office
The State Department's Office of Foreign Missions designated the PLO office in Washington a "foreign mission" under the Foreign Missions Act on June 1994 to provide a statutory basis for regulating the office. The designation was published in the Federal Register on July 20, 1994. The PLO office and personnel are not accorded diplomatic status, privileges or immunities. The office may not portray itself as a diplomatic mission or embassy, but may portray itself as representing the PLO. Office personnel support U.S. travel by members of the PLO and the PA and have participated in discussions with U.S. officials and in official and informal meetings. The office has approximately ten employees, all of whom are permanent resident aliens or U.S. citizens. The office is currently headed by Mr. Hassan Abdel Rahman.
Other Issues
Additional reporting requirements, such as the status of Muhammad Rashid, Abu Abbas, the Hawari group, and others were last discussed in the January 12, 1994 report. We have raised the issue of PLO compensation to American citizen victims of PLO terrorism with the PLO. There has been no change in the status of these issues since the January 1994 report.
National Interest
The MEPFA requires the President to certify that suspension of the relevant provisions of law is in the national interest. This statement of national interest is included in case the MEPFA is renewed in its current form beyond July 1, 1995. Our ability to deal directly with the PLO has played a key role in keeping the negotiations on track and helping to create the right environment for the success of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The United States has a clear national interest in the success of the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and the implementation of the Declaration of Principles concluded between Israel and the PLO. Moreover, the progress that has been achieved between Israelis and Palestinians, most notably the Gaza-Jericho accords of May 4, 1994, has led to progress in other negotiating tracks and provided an environment in the region which has spurred contacts and dialogue between Israel and Arab states from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. Israeli-Jordanian negotiations which eventually resulted in the October 26, 1994 peace treaty took place against the background of the positive environment created by progress on the Palestinian track. At the same time, efforts at integrating Israel into the region economically, such as the Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit held in Casablanca, succeeded in large part because of the new relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.
For all of these reasons, the United States needs to be in a position to support, encourage and facilitate the Israeli-Palestinian dimension of the process. Now that negotiations are focusing on phase two of the Declaration of Principles, including West Bank redeployment, transfer of authority, and elections for a Palestinian Council, that need is greater than ever. As part of our effort to support the new relationship being developed between Israel and the Palestinians, the U.S. played a key role in organizing the donor effort to support implementation of the Gaza-Jericho accords. We remain the driving force in marshalling assistance from the international community and in working closely with the UN and the World Bank to make donor institutions more effective.
Denial of our ability to influence the Palestinians or to help marshal aid would weaken our ability to affect the process. That would signal all the parties that our commitment had lessened or that we were no longer in a position to play our traditional leading role. Such a consequence would undermine our national interest in trying to help Arabs and Israelis make peace and could contribute to an impasse in the negotiations.
Conclusion
The Administration believes that the PA and PLO elements under Arafat's control have abided by the commitments undertaken in September 1993 and those in, and resulting from, the good faith implementation of the DOP. The PA and Arafat have taken several important steps to prevent violence and to punish those responsible for violence and terrorism. The PA has also taken more meaningful measures to crack down on those who plan and carry out terrorism and violence. The PA has detained, tried and convicted persons involved in violence and terrorism against Israel and has moved to restrict the prevalance of weapons in the areas under its control. Cooperation and coordination with Israeli security forces continue to improve.
At the same time, more should be done. The key to an effective security policy is its sustainability and consistency. The PA should do more in the areas discussed in this report to ensure that its policies are systematic and part of a legal structure. The U.S. expects the PA and the PLO to continue to take concrete steps to effectively preempt and prevent terrorist acts, and we will press them to do so. If measures such as those that were put into place during this reporting period are sustained, they will have a lasting effect on security and stability.
The U.S. has raised its concerns with PLO and PA officials on a number of occasions and at the most senior levels. President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Secretary Christopher have all raised security concerns in meetings with Chairman Arafat. Arafat has assured U.S. officials that the Palestinian police are fully authorized to make arrests and to prevent acts of violence. The Administration will continue to press the PA and the PLO on the need to act on all its commitments, including amending the PLO covenant at the earliest opportunity.
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Letters sent to following:
The Honorable
Benjamin A. Gilman, Chairman
Committee on International Relations
House of Representatives
The Honorable
Newt Gingrich, Speaker
House of Representatives.
The Honorable
Jim Leach, Chairman
Committee on Banking and Financial Services
House of Representatives
The Honorable
Bob Livingston, Chairman
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives
The Honorable
Jesse Helms, Chairman
Committee on Foreign Relations
United States Senate
The Honorable
Mark O. Hatfield, Chairman
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
The Honorable
Alfonse M. D'Amato, Chairman
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
United States Senate
The Honorable
Paul S. Sarbanes
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
United States Senate
The Honorable
Claiborne Pell
Committee on Foreign Relations
United States Senate
The Honorable
Robert C. Byrd
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
The Honorable
David R. Obey
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives
The Honorable
Henry B. Gonzalez
Committee on Banking and Financial Services
House of Representatives
The Honorable
Lee Hamilton
Committee on International Relations
House of Representatives
[Text of letter]
Dear :
At the request of the Secretary of State and pursuant to Title VIII of Public Law 101-246 as amended, (the PLO Commitments Compliance Act of 1989, "the Act"), we are transmitting the report mandated by the Act. We will continue to construe the Act in light of the President's constitutional duties.
Pursuant to existing authority under the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act, Part E of Title V of Public Law 103-236 (MEPFA), the President has suspended certain restrictions in U.S. law relating to the PLO until July 1, 1995. Congress is considering amending the MEPFA to extend this Presidential authority beyond July 1, 1995. As currently formulated, the MEPFA requires a written policy justification be submitted to Congress 30 days before the President may invoke the statute. In order to avoid a lapse on July 1, 1995, this report serves as that policy justification, in case the MEPFA is renewed in its present form.
We hope this information will be helpful to you and the members of the Committee. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of further assistance.
Sincerely,
Wendy R. Sherman
Assistant Secretary
Legislative Affairs
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