What was the “Oslo II” Interim Agreement in 1995?
The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, called “Oslo II” or “Taba”, was signed September 24, 1995 in Taba in Egypt, and countersigned four days later in Washington. It is an extensive and complicated document. Among its major provisions, it 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 (the “second redeployment”) and later from all rural areas (the “third redeployment”), 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). 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: 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.
- The provisions of this Agreement shall not prejudice Israel's right, for security and safety considerations, to close the crossing points to Israel and to prohibit or limit the entry into Israel of persons and of vehicles from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
- Under Oslo II, the Palestinian Covenant must be changed by the Palestinian National Council, the only body that can legally change it. Specifically, the Palestinian Covenant denies Israel?s right to exist and pledges the Palestinian organization to destroy Israel. Yasser Arafat signed letters agreeing to cause the Covenant to be changed as part of the Oslo I accords and in subsequant agreements. But the change never took place. The requirement was inserted into the Oslo II agreement in even more specific form, but the Palestinians have continued to evade compliance.
- When the Palestinians signed the Oslo II agreement, they promised to "ensure free access to, respect the ways of worship in, and not make any changes to, the Jewish holy sites" on land given up by Israel. [They made the same promise in the Gaza-Jericho accord in 1994 and the Hebron accord in 1997.] Among the listed sites: the venerable "Peace Upon Israel" (shalom al yisrael) synagogue in Jericho and the yeshiva at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. Today, neither exists. In October, Palestinians burned down the synagogue. They smashed Joseph's Tomb to rubble and trampled its holy books, and announced that a mosque would be built on the site.
- The Oslo II agreement permits a Palestinian "police force" of 24,000 personnel to provide security in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority and to combat terrorism. This was already a retroactive recognition of expanded forces in violation of the first Oslo Agreement. That police force has now expanded far beyond the limit set by Oslo II and has acquired powerful weapons that are not permitted. They have not provided security and have not countered terrorism. In fact, they have become a Palestinian Army serving Yasser Arafat and carrying out or covertly assisting terrorist actions against Israel. Israel has identified at least 150 members of the "police force" who are also members of extremist groups opposed to peace with Israel, at least 25 wanted by Israel for terrorist crimes.
- An article in Oslo II called for a temporary international presence to be established in Hebron, to replace an existing force, this time during the redeployment of the IDF from the city. Hebron had been a sore spot since the 1994 shooting of Palestinian worshipers by an Israeli gunman. After Oslo II, negotiations were initiated between the two parties and Norway on the establishment of a TIPH in accordance with the Interim Agreement, ultimately leading to the 1997 Hebron Protocol and Agreement.