chapter  7
Oslo II: Barak and Camp David
Pages 24

While Netanyahu, who won the May 1996 elections by a very narrow majority, announced the Likud-led government’s willingness to continue the Oslo agreements, he did almost nothing in the way of implementation. In fact, he was later unwittingly filmed boasting to settlers that by interpreting the Accords as he wished – for example, defining designated military zones in a way that suited him – he “stopped the Oslo Accord” unconcerned about the US reaction because “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction… they won’t get in our way.”1 Although Palestinian violence had greatly diminished due to Arafat’s crackdown on Hamas elements in the spring of 1996, three days of violence broke out in the fall of 1996 in response to the government’s opening of a controversial tunnel under the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif). This prompted the Americans, with the help of King Hussein, to press Netanyahu to implement the long delayed withdrawal from most of Hebron in January 1997.2 When other obligations and further redeployments failed to materialize, the Americans organized another meeting between Netanyahu and Arafat which produced the Wye River Memorandum, signed on 23 October 1998. This provided specific percentages and times for the remaining redeployments, along with other previously promised Israeli obligations (release of prisoners, opening of a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, etc.), while the Palestinians were committed to various security measures, anti-incitement, and a second abrogation of the PLO Covenant (demanded by the Likud since the first abrogation had failed to produce a new written version of the document). Most significantly, for the first time, the Americans were made part of the agreement; they were to provide monitoring and actual participation in an Israeli-Palestinian-US security coordination committee and to facilitate the final status talks. President Clinton himself was to address a Palestine National Council (PNC) meeting once again abrogating the Covenant, which he did in Gaza in December 1998. The promised airport in Gaza was opened; but almost no other part of the Wye Memorandum was implemented on the Israeli side. Netanyahu suspended it before the end of the year on the grounds that the Palestinians were not abiding by their security obligations.3 His period in office ended in May 1999 with almost all the Oslo II requirements – in particular, the last

redeployment, prisoner releases, safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, still pending and final status talks frozen since 1996.