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


The issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza has proven to be one of the thorniest in Israeli-Palestinian relations. In seeking a possible final agreement, proposals have ranged widely from evacuating and dismantling all settlements, to permitting them to remain under Palestinian jurisdiction, to permitting them to remain as Israeli enclaves within the Palestinian entity, to fully annexing them as part of the State of Israel. But, the debate over settlements persists, as Israel continues to struggle with divergent views within its own population, and the Palestinians steadfastly maintain that settlements are nothing more than "an obstacle to peace."

1 - Settlements Under Oslo

The Declaration of Principles signed between Israel and the Palestinians in September 1993 makes hardly any mention of Israeli settlements. In fact, when the term does appear it is only to put off debate on the issue to the permanent status negotiations.

Most analysts agree that the Oslo Accords relegated the settlement issue to the final status negotiations in hopes that the peace process would create a positive momentum of its own before such a delicate issue would have to be handled. Rather than having to immediately dismantle some or all of the Israeli settlements as part of an initial compromise, the Rabin Government hoped that in the wake of the confidence-building interim phase it would be possible to work out a plan of cohabitation, rather than one of total separation.

According to journalist David Makovsky, Rabin opposed the clause included in first drafts of the DOP, under which the Palestinians would have gained complete jurisdiction over Israeli settlements and military locations in the West Bank, primarily because it would have allowed the Palestinians "de facto sovereignty" over the entire West Bank when final status negotiations rolled around.

With Israel reluctant to change the status of settlements in the interim period, and the Palestinians anxious to create circumstances leading to the dismantlement of Israel's settlements, reaching an agreement on how settlements would be treated under the DOP proved extremely difficult. In fact, it remained in question until just prior to the September 1993 signing.

In the end, after intense diplomatic activity, Arafat agreed to permit extended Israeli military protection to all settlements, settlers and Israelis traveling in the areas of the Palestinian Authority, while Rabin agreed to relax Israel's responsibility over external security (border control) during the Interim phase, and a final arrangement was officially put off to final status negotiations.

Some analysts argue that leaving the settlement issue so wide open has actually led to a deterioration in the situation. Since the signing of the agreement, Palestinians and Israeli settlers have been jockeying to bolster their positions, both on the ground and ideologically, in anticipation of an agreement that will determine the final status of settlements.

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