More delays on redeployment


More delays on redeployment

By Jennifer Thompson

Middle East International's Graham Usher has reported that the Israeli government now supports only "partial redeployment" of its troops in the occupied territories, for Palestinian elections to be held in November. Negotiations on "full redeployment" would be delayed until after that time. The Israeli position has been endorsed by US secretary of state Warren Christopher.

Writing in the June 23 issue of MEI, Usher said the redeployment will consist of "three timetables, and includes not 'population centres' but only some of them". The Palestinian Authority has not yet agreed to this "Oslo Two" plan — rather different from that outlined in the September 1993 agreement in Oslo.

The first stage redeployment would be from Palestinian towns such as Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm and Qalqiliya in the north of the West Bank. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) say it could be completed by November, but only if the army redeploys to the towns' municipal boundaries. Villages and refugee camps surrounding the towns would remain under IDF control.

The second stage would be redeployment from towns deemed "problematic" due to the large Israeli settlements on their edge. Redeployment from these towns — which include Ramallah and Bethlehem — would not be until after completion of the 110 km of new "settler" roads bypassing Palestinian areas. The army has estimated this will take until April-May 1996.

The third "settlement" stage refers to Israeli "state lands" in the West Bank and the city of Hebron. Hebron is a West Bank city of 120,000. A 400-strong Israeli settlement, Kiryat Arba, exists inside the Palestinian city. It was the site of the February 1994 massacre by an Israeli settler in the Ibrahimi mosque, and there have been many clashes between armed right-wing settlers and Israeli soldiers, and the Palestinian population. Israel proposes that there be no redeployment in these areas in the interim five-year period of the Oslo agreement.