Towards Final Status
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Resolving the issue of Borders
1 - Borders Under Oslo
2 - The Israeli Position
3 - The Palestinian Position
4 - During the Interim Period
5 - Proposals

In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the term "borders" officially refers to the final boundaries between a permanent Palestinian autonomous area and the State of Israel. It is during the final status negotiations that the issue of final territorial borders is to be formally and directly addressed for the first time. Presumably, such negotiations will also determine the status of the Palestinian entity -- whether it will be an official Palestinian state, or more limited Palestinian sovereignty.

1 - Settlements Under Oslo

Borders are only mentioned in the DOP as an issue to be discussed in permanent status negotiations. Nevertheless, for borders, more than for any other issue, the interim agreements have a direct impact on the final status talks.

Clauses in both Oslo I and II say that nothing in the agreements will "prejudice or preempt" the outcome of the negotiations on permanent status. This clause has great implications for borders, by implying that even if Israel redeploys from a certain area during the interim phase in accord with the DOP and subsequent interim agreements, the boundaries of that redeployment should have no bearing on the negotiation of a final border.

In reality it is extremely unlikely that Israel will reenter any area in the West Bank or Gaza from which it has already redeployed. As a result, it may very well be that the borders drawn by Israeli redeployments during the interim phase will act at least as a starting boundary for the eventual Palestinian entity. That is, at the end of the final status negotiations it is likely that the Palestinian entity will wind up with more territory in the West Bank and Gaza than it started with at the end of the interim phase, but it is highly unlikely that Israel will.

The phased Israeli redeployment from the West Bank and Gaza is detailed in a series of interim agreements.

The Declaration of Principles: The DOP outlines the guidelines for the interim period, with the first redeployment from the areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The two sides will conclude and sign within two months from the date of entry into force of this Declaration of Principles, an agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. This agreement will include comprehensive arrangements to apply in the Gaza Strip and Jericho area subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal. (DOP, Annex II, Protocol on Withdrawal of Israeli Forces from the Gaza Strip and Jericho-1)

The Gaza-Jericho Agreement: The agreement, signed on May 4, 1994, details Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho, with Palestinian self-rule in those areas. Under this agreement, Israel maintained responsibility for the security of its citizens, as well as for its settlements.

Israel shall implement an accelerated and scheduled withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip and from the Jericho Area to begin immediately with the signing of this Agreement. Israel shall complete such withdrawal within three weeks from this date. (Article II-1)

Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip: The agreement, Oslo II, signed on September 28, 1995, calls for further Israeli troop redeployments beyond the Gaza and Jericho areas. Under the accord, Israel was first scheduled to redeploy from the major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank and later from all rural areas, with the exception of Israeli settlements and the Israeli-designated military areas. In detailing this schedule, the agreement divided the West Bank and Gaza into three areas, each with distinctive borders and rules for administration and security controls.

Area A includes all the areas from which Israeli military control has been transferred to the administration of the Palestinian Authority, including the areas of Gaza and Jericho, and the seven major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank -- Nablus, Kalkilya, Tulkarem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin and Hebron (special arrangements for the redeployment from Hebron were concluded in the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron and the Note for the Record, January 17,1997, see below). In these areas, the Palestinian Authority now has full responsibility for internal security and public order, as well as full responsibility for civil affairs.

Area B includes 450 Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank. In these areas, as in Area A, the Palestinian Authority controls all civil authority However, it differs from Area A in that Israel maintains overriding security authority in order to safeguard its citizens and to combat terrorism.

Area C is comprised of the unpopulated areas of the West Bank, including areas of strategic importance to Israel and the settlements, where Israel retains full responsibility for security. Oslo II calls for a series of three further redeployments under which additional parts of Area C are to be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, except for settlements and Israeli-designated security areas.

Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, concluded on January 15, 1997, by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat, detailed the arrangements for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank city of Hebron, with particular attention to security arrangements and day-to-day civilian life in the city.

The letter from U.S. Secretary of State Christopher to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which accompanied the Hebron Agreement discusses Israel's process for "further redeployments" from Area C.

I wanted you to know that, in this context, I have advised Chairman Arafat of U.S. views on Israel's process of redeploying its forces, designating specified military locations and transferring additional powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority. In this regard, I have conveyed our belief, that the first phase of further redeployments should take place as soon as possible, and that all three phases of the further redeployments should be completed within twelve months from the implementation of the first phase of the further redeployments but not later than mid-1998.

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