What was the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum in 1999?
On September 4, 1999, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum was signed in Egypt by Ehud Barak, newly elected Prime Minister of Israel, and Yasser Arafat. The ceremony was also attended by Hosni Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, His Majesty King Abdullah, King of Jordan, and Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State. This agreement was needed because the timetable of the Oslo Peace Process, most recently in the form of the Wye River agreement of 1998 had seriously slipped due to Palestinian non-compliance with the security requirements and the consequent Israeli refusal to continue with scheduled redeployments. The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum restated the commitment of the two sides to full implementation of all agreements reached since the first Oslo Agreement of September 1993, and attempted to resolve the outstanding issues of the interim status, in particular those set out in the Wye Memorandum, in order to form a bridge between the completion of the interim period and the initiation of the permanent status negotiations on an accelerated basis.
Under the timetable of the 1993 Declaration of Principles final status talks were originally due to have been completed by May 4, 1999 – five years from the signing of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement. The Sharm al-Sheikh memorandum set a new date of September 13, 2000 for the completion of the talks. In the meantime it committed the two sides to agree by March 13, 2000 on a “framework” for the eventual final status agreement, a deadline that was not met.
The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum reiterated the obligations of both parties in an effort to put the timetable of Wye back on track. It again recited the many security obligations of the Palestinians which had been ignored or violated continuously. It called for release of prisoners and redeployments by Israel which were carried out, at least until corresponding actions by the Palestinians were not.
Even though the timeline for the final status framework could not be realized, the United States used the committment to maintain pressure on both sides during intensive working-level meetings in late 1999 and the first half of 2000. The 2000 permanent status negotiations led to Camp David in August of 2000 and the rejection of significant Israeli concessions by Yasser Arafat. Arafat’s walkout doomed the permanent status negotiations and the Oslo Peace Process effectively ended with the start of the al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000.