הChapter 3 The Massacre in Hebron and its Aftermath

ה.1 | The attack on Muslim worshippers in Hebron: reaction in Israel and abroad

Jews and Muslims pray together in the Isaac Hall, Tomb of the Patriarchs, Hebron, August 1993. After the massacre the two groups were separated. Photograph: Moshe Milner, GPO



On Friday, February 25, 1994 (which was also the Jewish holiday of Purim) at 5:30 a.m., Baruch Goldstein, a physician from Kiryat Arba and an activist in the extremist Kach movement founded by Meir Kahane, entered the Hall of Yitzhak in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and opened fire with a machine gun on the Muslim worshippers who were marking the month of Ramadan. He fired 108 shots until his gun jammed. While Goldstein was trying to change the cartridge, one of the worshippers attacked and disarmed him. He was then attacked by other worshippers and killed. A total of 29 people praying in the Cave were killed in the incident and 129 were injured. The news soon spread in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and around the world. Serious riots broke out in the territories and in East Jerusalem, in which more people were killed and wounded by IDF soldiers. The media reported riots and demonstrations in the territories and inside Israel, and the reinforcment of the IDF and police forces in order to stop them.

Immediately after the news spread, Prime Minister and Defence Minister Rabin issued a strong condemnation: “A loathsome criminal act of murder was committed today in a site holy to both Jews and Arabs in Hebron. The prime minister and minister of defence, government ministers and the citizens of the State of Israel condemn in the most severe terms this terrible murder of innocent civilians”. Rabin asked Arabs and Jews alike to exercise restraint and not be drawn into violence that would worsen the situation, and promised to do everything possible to expedite the discussions in the peace process. Rabin also ordered the IDF and security forces to prevent further incidents of violence and bloodshed (Document 47, Prime Minister’s announcement, February 25, 1994).  The government also issued a resolution condemning the massacre and promising to compensate the families of the victims (Document 48, Government Resolution), but despite efforts to prevent further friction, reports continued to flow in of casualties in local disturbances

The response of the Palestinians and the Arab world

The massacre united the entire Palestinian political spectrum in harsh condemnation. The fact that Goldstein was in uniform and that IDF soldiers who were guarding the Cave did not prevent the massacre led to a belief that there was a widespread conspiracy. Opponents of the Oslo agreement in the PLO, and even its supporters, claimed that the delay in the talks had encouraged the massacre and demanded an international presence to protect the residents of Hebron. They also demanded evacuation of the settlers. Nabil Shaath, who just two days earlier had ended talks in Cairo with Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, said the parties were very close to announcing the signing date of the agreement and a withdrawal timetable, “but we cannot sweep under the rug what happened in Hebron. Although I do not support at all breaking off these discussions. I think peace is of great value.”

Among the Palestinian opposition, the PFLP’s representative on the PLO executive committee, ‘Abd al-Rahim Maluach, called on Arafat to resign and to establish a temporary leadership.  Some Fatah members in Tunis called on him to end the talks with Israel, to cancel the Oslo Accords and to return to negotiations based on a comprehensive solution and immediate Israeli withdrawal. A Hammas spokesmen in Jordan called for an emergency meeting of Arab states to end the talks with Israel and to intensify the Arab boycott.

Arafat himself was in a difficult situation. In interviews with the NBC and CNN stations, he said that the entire peace process had lost its credibility, that Rabin had delayed the process, and that the massacre was the result of a conspiracy involving the Israeli army. He announced the suspension of participation in talks in Washington, and called on the negotiators on behalf of the PLO in Egypt, Washington and Paris to return to Tunis for consultations. He accused the IDF of neglecting security in the holy places and called for an emergency Security Council meeting to condemn Israel and adopt his conditions for resuming talks:

  • Disarming the settlers
  • Dismantling the settlements in the Gaza Strip
  • Stationing a temporary international force in the territories
  • Restricting the movement of settlers in Kiryat Arba
  • Increasing the number of Palestinian police officers.

However, Arafat agreed in principle to an invitation issued by US President Bill Clinton to transfer the talks to Washington (see below). He announced that the decision to return to talks would be made after his talks with the negotiators (Document 50, Clinton statement, February 25, 1994, see also File A- 7707/5).

According to a foreign ministry analysis, Arafat was under American pressure not to harm the process. In his own interest he knew that he must continue the negotiations and even speed them up, in order to make the agreement a reality. His remarks showed that he wanted a respite in order to calm things down and give him a political achievement, both as a means of weakening the opposition in his camp, which was challenging his leadership in an unprecedented way, and of exploiting the situation to achieve some of his demands from Israel and the United States. According to the report, Arafat enjoys support in his organization – Fatah – and other organizations. “They continue to support the process but demand more democracy.”

In the Arab world, there is often a gap between positions expressed in the media and the official positions of Arab countries. The media reacted with furious condemnation of the massacre, but the Arab states involved in the peace process such as Egypt, Jordan and even Syria, responded with relative moderation. Arab states that opposed negotiations with Israel used harsh language and demanded an end to the process (Document 60, Characteristics of Reactions to the Hebron Massacre, March 1, 1994).

From a collection of cartoons from the Egyptian press about the massacre, File A 7707/7

For this chapter, see also Document 51, Foreign Ministry Report on the Responses of the Palestinians and the Arab World, 26.2.1994, Document 66, Center for Research and Planning to the Director General’s Office, 3.3.1994, Document 71, The Palestinian Camp Six Months after the Oslo Accord 8.3. 1994.

Israel’s response

PM Rabin’s briefing to the diplomatic corps in Israel, 26.2.1994. On his right, Danny Yatom, Central Command Commander, and Chief of Staff Ehud Barak, on his left, Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin. Photograph: Yaakov Saar, GPO

In a briefing to the foreign diplomatic corps on February 26, Rabin spoke about the attack and Goldstein’s personal background. He said that he had spoken to Arafat on the phone after the massacre and told him that there was no proof that that Goldstein had not acted alone. He was ashamed that a Jew and an Israeli had committed such an atrocity. Speaking  the next day at a conference of the Jewish media, Rabin repeated that although Goldstein had acted alone, he was ashamed of those who publicly supported his action. Goldstein had not only killed innocent Palestinians while praying, but in doing so joined Hamas and Islamic Jihad with the aim of killing the peace negotiations. The prime minister expressed the hope that the PLO would choose to continue the process, as the Israeli government had decided to continue despite terrorist attacks by  those opposed to the agreement. Rabin noted that he did not oppose President Clinton’s proposal to move the talks to Washington (Document 55, Rabin’s speech at the Jewish Media Conference).

In conclusion, the prime minister detailed the government decisions made that day to ensure the safety of the residents of the territories, which was Israel’s responsibility under international law (see Document 48 above). On February 27, the Israeli government decided to establish a state commission of inquiry to examine the events in the Cave of the Patriarchs and to take measures against extremists. The Attorney General was instructed to examine the possibility of outlawing the ‘Kach’ and ‘Kahana Chai’ organizations. (Document 56, Government Decision, 27.2.1994).

The commission of inquiry was headed by Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar and its members were Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, Nazareth District Court Vice President Abdel Rahman Zoabi, Open University President Menachem Yaari and former Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Moshe Levy. Its findings were presented to the prime minister and police minister on June 28. The government decided to adopt the report (see evidence before the committee, the main points of the report and the government’s decision in File A-7707/7).

The massacre in Hebron provoked a violent reaction in the Israeli public. Many heads of organizations and private citizens wrote to the prime minister, the president and the foreign minister. Many strongly condemned the massacre but some expressed concern that the government and the media were tarring all settlers with the same brush. Some challenged the possibility of a lasting peace agreement with the Palestinians, arguing that the situation was not yet ripe for an agreement between the peoples. There were strikes and demonstrations by the Arab public throughout the country, including violent outbursts. Arab representatives demanded that the prime minister outlaw the extremist movements and suppress them. (See Files GL-23306/6 and MFA-8559/6).

On February 28, a debate was held in the Knesset plenum on the massacre in Hebron. After condemning the massacre, Rabin said the Palestinians should strive to rise above it and to continue the peace process. He believed that the discussions would resume within a few days (Document 58, Prime Minister’s announcement, February 28, 1994). At the end of the debate, a summary was adopted by a majority of 93 Knesset members with one objection. It said that the Knesset expressed shock at the murder and shared the mourning of the families. It condemned the expressions of sympathy and understanding shown by individuals and extremists towards the massacre, but opposed any sweeping accusations against the settlers.

On March 13, the government decided to outlaw the Kach and Kahana Lives movements.

President Ezer Weizmann offers his condolences to the mayor of Hebron, 27.2.1994. Photograph: Avi Ohayon, GPO

Reaction in the United States and around the world

Following the massacre, the United States stepped up its involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian channel alongside its efforts to advance talks with Syria. At a White House news conference on February 25, President Clinton called on the parties to return quickly to the negotiating table and suggested that the negotiating teams be sent to Washington to conclude the negotiations. He claimed that it was no coincidence that the killer chose the month of Ramadan and a site sacred to Muslims and Jews alike. (Document 50, Clinton statement, February 25, 1994). A foreign ministry telegram quotes “knowledgeable American sources” who said that until now the  Administration had acted as an observer at the negotiations, but if they were moved to Washington, the Americans would take a more active role. State Department experts would play a role and, if necessary, take part in the talks themselves, but would not impose solutions or conditions on either party. As for the UN, Secretary-General Boutros Ghali wrote to Rabin, suggesting that despite Israel’s well-known opposition to the deployment of military observers in the territories, some UN presence should be considered in light of the circumstances, in cooperation with the Israeli government. (Document 52).

(See also Documents 54, 61. Additional responses from around the world are in File A-7707/6).

A message from French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe to Peres condemning the massacre, File MFA 8570/1

ה.2 | The debate in the Security Council and the question of Jerusalem

As mentioned, Arafat had called for an emergency debate of the Security Council  on the massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs. Apparently he believed that the resolution adopted by the council would determine the nature of the negotiations with Israel when the talks resumed. On February 28, the US and Egyptian delegations to the UN and PLO representatives met in New York to discuss a draft resolution, but did not reach agreement. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gad Yaacobi, reported that there were disagreements on issues of principle – Jerusalem, an international presence in the territories and the disarming of the settlers. The PLO representatives tried to improve their position in the negotiations so that Arafat could point to tangible achievements. They called on the international community to provide protection for the Palestinians and on Israel to begin practical steps to dismantle the settlements. In the longer term, they demanded that the discussion on  a permanent settlement be accelerated. (Document 65, Review by the Division of International Organizations).

The Palestinians demanded that Jerusalem be mentioned in the resolution as part of the territories. This aroused, as expected,  strong opposition in Israel, and the Americans did not agree. Ambassador Yaacobi reinforced US Ambassador Madeleine Albright in her opposition to the mention of Jerusalem. Albright replied that the most important thing was the peace talks and an attempt should be made to remove the issue from the agenda. In any case they would not agree to the mention of Jerusalem (Document 62. See also Document 57).

US ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, 1997. Wikimedia

Bringing Arafat back to the negotiating table

Parallel with the discussions on the wording of a Security Council resolution, the Americans and Israelis tried to meet other Palestinian demands in order to restart the negotiations. At a meeting at the foreign ministry on February 28, practical proposals were made, including a commitment for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho on April 13, even in the absence of an agreement, agreement on an international presence to act as a training force for the Palestinian police and help with the elections and public institutions. It was also proposed to speed up the discussion on the permanent agreement, to bring forward the entry of the Palestinian police into the area etc. (Document 59). At the same time, Israel demanded that the PLO act to calm the atmosphere. In the files of the political adviser we found a message sent to Arafat, apparently through a mediator, calling on him to prevent violence: “We are concerned that PLO factions in or near the territories may attempt to conduct terrorist operations in retaliation for the events in Hebron. You cannot allow this to happen “(Document 68, message to Arafat, March 4, 1994).

Foreign Minister Peres realized that Arafat was exploiting the situation to improve his position within the PLO, but at the same time believed that Israel should help him. He set out his view on March 2 at the Conference on Jewish Media: after the Israeli government had restored calm, it would be possible to return to the talks. When a permanent settlement was discussed, the government believed that the best solution was a confederation or federation with Jordan and not a Palestinian state. Peres also said that a referendum could be considered in Israel before territorial concessions, but there was no time to wait for its results. Thus they would act in accordance with the decisions made by the democratically elected government (Document 63).

Peres reiterated these principles at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov who had been sent by President Boris Yeltsin to increase Russian involvement in the process. After meeting with Arafat in Tunis, Ivanov said that in his opinion, if Arafat was satisfied with the international presence and ensuring Palestinian security in the Security Council resolution, he would not insist on his other demands – disarming the settlers and mentioning Jerusalem. Peres rejected a Russian proposal to reconvene the Madrid Conference, of which they were co-sponsors. He argued that an understanding must be reached in the Security Council and an Israeli-Palestinian meeting should be held without media attention to complete the negotiations on Gaza and Jericho and ensure speedy implementation. He expressed concern that the large number of emissaries and mediators would confuse the message to Arafat (Document 64).

Meanwhile the American decision to step up their involvement in the negotiations began to be felt. On March 3, Secretary Christopher said that Rabin and Arafat had accepted the president’s invitation to move the talks to Washington. He (Christopher) had talked at length with the parties on the phone in order to convene the meeting. According to him, the steps taken by Israel were not enough. Rabin was in no hurry to transfer the talks to Washington, but Arafat sent Nabil Shaath to the American capital, and he met with Dennis Ross. Ross told the Israelis that the PLO’s intentions were serious and that it was important for them to meet the April 13 deadline. It was clear to them that in order to do so they would have to resume negotiations within a reasonable time. However, the PLO still refused to waive the inclusion of Jerusalem in the introduction to the Security Council resolution (Document 67, Israel Ambassador in Washington to Rabin and Peres).

Slowly the tension began to relax and the contacts gained renewed momentum. After Neriah suggested that Rabin reach an advance understanding with Arafat, on March 7 Neriah was sent to Cairo with Amos Gilad, the assistant to Rabin’s military secretary, to meet with Arafat. Neriah told him that the prime minister proposed they return to negotiations in Cairo (rather than Washington), in order to finish them and to implement the agreement within six weeks based on previous understandings. Rabin wanted to achieve historic change and to help Arafat overcome his difficulties. Arafat said the main problem was calming the Muslim world. He reiterated his demands and proposed placing observers in Hebron. Only the Palestinian police and the IDF would be allowed to carry weapons. Neriah tried to find out if Arafat’s demands were a condition for returning to negotiations and offered a meeting between him and the prime minister.  Arafat was evasive and said that “The date for completing the withdrawal is not a matter for agreement between me and the prime minister because the date is fixed [April 13]. The points are things that indicate that we can continue on our path together.” Arafat added that the proposed SC resolution did not contain new wording that had not appeared in previous ones, and therefore Israel could express reservations but should not prevent its adoption (Document 69, Neriah and Gilad’s mission to Arafat, see also Yohanan Bein on the US position at the United Nations, Document 72).

Parallel with these efforts, discussions were held in Jerusalem on an “Israeli package” to be offered to the Palestinians. The Foreign Ministry files and Neriah’s documents contain proposals for this package deal, which included attempts to satisfy some of the Palestinian demands, such as allowing the entry of Palestinian police advance units, increasing the police force, separating the settlers and the Palestinian population, acting against extremist settlers and creating an international presence.  (Document 70, Proposals for the resumption of negotiations, Additional proposals in Files A-7763/28, MFA-8621/9, MFA-8568/2)

Some positive signals were also heard from the Palestinian side. When he met journalists in Cairo on March 10, Arafat said that he had told Christopher that he was ready to resume negotiations, and asked Fatah leaders in the territories not to sever ties with the Israelis, which were important to the Palestinians. Unlike those who saw the massacre as an opportunity to evade a flawed agreement, Arafat said the agreement would mean a Palestinian state, and its importance should not be discounted (Document 73).

Direct negotiations with US participation in Tunis

After Neriah and Gilad met with Arafat, Rabin called the PLO chairman and proposed another meeting in which Peres and two other people would participate. They would discuss Israel’s proposals and other proposals from the Norwegians, which met some of the Palestinians’ demands. Rabin told Arafat about the threats he was receiving and personal attacks on him in Israel. He said that he wanted to take more drastic action against the extremists, but Israeli law and the courts restricted him from doing so, and he was forced to exercise his powers under emergency regulations. Arafat, for his part, told Rabin about the opposition among his public (Document 74, Rabin-Arafat conversation, March 13, 1994).

Part of Rabin’s talk with Arafat, 13.3.1994

Although Arafat was not interested in a meeting with Peres, the Americans initiated another meeting of representatives of the parties in Tunis and tested various formulae for resumption of the talks. We did not find any documentary record of this meeting, which was attended by Neriah, Savir and Dayan, Arafat and PLO representatives and the American peace team led by Ross, joined by Terje Larsen. According to the memoirs of some of the participants, Ross hinted to Arafat that the United States would veto the Security Council resolution if the PLO did not return to the negotiating table. Arafat refused to link the two issues and insisted on his demand that Israel take concrete steps on the ground. There was great pressure on Rabin to remove the settlers from Hebron, but he feared the reaction of their supporters and wanted to keep his promise that no settlement would be evacuated under the interim agreement. Meanwhile, Larsen, who remained in Tunis, suggested that the Hebron settlers be transferred to Kiryat Arba. Savir suggested another formula: a limited international presence in Hebron alongside unarmed Palestinian police.

On March 15, Rabin arrived in Washington for meetings with Administration officials and also appeared at the AIPAC conference. In his speech, Rabin admitted that meeting Arafat a few months earlier at the White House had been difficult for him: “The person …..whose hand I shook, was the same person that ordered his people to squeeze the trigger, to kill women and murder children.” He did so not as an individual, but as the prime minister of Israel, as the representative of a people who are willing to fight for their survival but long for peace. He knew it would not be easy and that the enemies of peace would do their best to stop the process. Rabin pointed to the deaths of 33 Israeli victims since September 13, 1993, and wanted to make clear to the Palestinians that Israel’s demands for the security of its citizens would not change. There would be no more gestures or concessions, and the window of opportunity to reach the implementation phase was shrinking (Document 75). Rabin and the Americans also tried to restart negotiations with Syria to increase the pressure on Arafat.

Another attempt to reach a breakthrough was a meeting between Faisal al-Husseini and Peres arranged by Yair Hirschfeld and Ron Pundak, the team who had initiated the Oslo talks. Husseini met the  Foreign Minister at his home on March 18. Peres compared the two prominent Palestinian leaders – the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and Arafat. While the Mufti had taken a hard line and brought tragedy on the Palestinian people, Arafat had turned to pragmatism, which is much less popular but is the only path that will yield achievements. However, the deadline set for the Israeli withdrawal could not be met as long as the Palestinians were absent from the negotiating table. Peres detailed the steps that Israel was ready to take to bring the PLO back to the discussions. In response, Husseini (whose father, the leader of the Arab uprising ‘Abd al-Qader al-Husseini, was killed in 1948) recalled memories of the defeat of the Palestinians. He asked why the Israeli government could not expel the settlers from Hebron at the request of the Palestinians. Peres replied that there was a legal reason and also recalled the  massacre of Jews in Hebron in 1929: “The Jewish side also has bitter memories of murder and bloodshed in Hebron. There has been Jewish property in the town for many years. I agree that settling Jews in Hebron was a mistake.” Peres dismissed Husseini’s attempts to raise issues connected with the permanent settlement. During the meeting, Peres received a call from Rabin, who said that Arafat had agreed to another preliminary low-level meeting and then one with Peres (Document 77).

In his phone call with Arafat, Rabin referred to the vote in the Security Council. He understood that Arafat was concerned about developments at the UN, but added that he did not care so much about their result. He said that 40,000 people had taken part in a demonstration against him, urging Arafat to conclude the negotiations and move forward. He expressed willingness to adopt Larsen’s  proposals on Hebron if Arafat would do so. Arafat agreed to receive another delegation in Tunis, and Rabin suggested that Peres head it and enjoy full powers. (Document 76, Rabin-Arafat call, March 18, 1994). Later Arafat accepted the agenda for the Tunis talks and Rabin again tried to persuade him to agree to Peres’ arrival, without success (Document 76A, second Rabin-Arafat call, March 18, 1994).

The Security Council resolution – The American veto that wasn’t

In the run-up to the vote that same day, the US Administration found itself in a dilemma. Earlier, it had threatened to veto the proposed resolution if Arafat did not commit to resuming negotiations, but was clearly reluctant to exercise that option for fear of a confrontation with the PLO, now that unofficial talks with Arafat were under way. At the same time, senators began signing an appeal to the administration to veto the resolution, as well as an attempt by supporters of Israel to get AIPAC and the Presidents’ Conference to increase their discreet and overt pressure on the administration. Clinton did receive a letter in this spirit signed by many senators, and a similar letter from ten members of Congress.

However, on the afternoon of 18 March the administration made a final decision not to cast a veto and to support the resolution condemning the massacre, but to abstain on the section in the Introduction referring to Jerusalem as part of the occupied territories and on another section. According to Christopher, the decision was made after President Assad had agreed that the United States would announce the resumption of peace talks with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon in Washington in April. An Israeli-Palestinian agreement was also reached to resume contacts and it was decided that the American peace team would leave for the Middle East (Document 78, Document 80, Summary of political activity, March 18, 1994). Thus Arafat obtained the condemnation he wanted, but agreed to return to the talks before his additional demands were met.

In the evening, the Security Council passed Resolution 904 on the issue of Hebron. Ambassador Yaacobi summed up by saying that the original proposal for a resolution was much more far-reaching and radical than the one adopted. The resolution did not condemn Israel itself but rather the massacre; there was a call to hasten the peace process; there was no decision to establish an international or foreign force or to send observers, but rather an international or foreign presence, as agreed in the Declaration of Principles. On the other hand, the resolution did include the reference to Jerusalem in the context of the territories and a demand to disarm the settlers (Document 79).


ה.3 | Agreement on Hebron and preparations for renewal of the Gaza and Jericho talks

The end of the Security Council debate led to some movement in the political stalemate. In an assessment by Knei-Tal of the Foreign Ministry’s Political Research and Planning Division, he wrote that Arafat understood the importance of maintaining his credibility as a reliable negotiating partner. Knei-Tal recommended speeding up the talks and going into detail only on issues central for Israel.  The points already agreed upon should be implemented without waiting for clarification of the rest. For example it was not necessary to wait until special structures at the crossing points were built in order to open them. It would also be worthwhile to hold an evacuation ceremony from Jericho in order to emphasize Israel’s commitment to the process. Israel would have to decide about Arafat’s requests for items which were clearly symbols of sovereignty, such as issue of a Palestinian passport, a stamp, a dialling code and the stationing of a police officer on the Allenby Bridge. Arafat could also be allowed to appoint members of the Palestinian Authority (Document 81).

On March 20, Rabin sent another delegation to Tunis – Shahak, Singer, Neriah and Savir. According to Savir, at the beginning of the meeting, Arafat insisted that the Hebron issue should be addressed first and only then they should move forward on Gaza and Jericho. Meanwhile, Rabin had decided to postpone the planned evacuation of the Hebron settlers for fear of inciting the far right. In a private conversation, Shahak told Arafat that Rabin, who was under pressure from home, needed time to come towards him. As a result, Arafat decided to make a difficult decision: to return to the talks on Gaza and Jericho, although his demands on the Hebron issue had not yet been met and there was much criticism of him in the territories.

It was decided to hold a meeting in Cairo on March 23, a day before a meeting with the countries contributing to the establishment of the Palestinian police. There they would discuss an international or temporary foreign presence in Hebron, the deployment of the Palestinian police and joint patrols in the city. On March 24, the parties would resume talks to implement the Declaration of Principles. The parties reiterated their commitment to begin negotiations on a permanent settlement, no later than the beginning of the third year of the Interim Settlement (Document 82, Summary of Talks in Tunis).

Message from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry about the decisions in Tunis, with an invitation to the meeting in Cairo, 22.3.1994, File MFA-10427/10

On March 24, representatives of the 25 donor countries gathered in Cairo for a conference led by Norway and sponsored by the United States and Russia. It was decided to establish a small committee  to speed up the establishment of the Palestinian police force. Norway itself had already transferred 3,000 police uniforms and would transfer 7,000 more (Document 84, Norwegian Government Communique, for the summary of the meeting see File MFA-10427/10).

On March 25, a meeting was held at the Defence Minister’s bureau attended by Rabin, Peres, Minister Yossi Sarid, CIGS Barak, Defence and Foreign Ministry officials, and representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office. Shahak updated them on the progress of the Hebron talks, which focused on the composition of the international presence, the source of authority of the Palestinian police in Hebron and the joint patrols. Rabin said that in his view it was not the Palestinian police that was a problem, but rather the international presence. It would be a precedent for international supervision of Israeli-controlled territory. Rabin and Peres discussed the possibility of including more economists, doctors and consultants on municipal affairs and reducing the number of security observers. Rabin corrected the participants who used the term “international force” and insisted on the term “presence” (Document 83).

In another meeting three days later, Shahak described the remaining gaps between the parties. Barak pressed the legal advisers to say to whose authority the Palestinian police in Hebron would be subordinate. Singer explained that the police were  subordinate to a joint committee of which the military governor was also a member, and that it would coordinate the Palestinian police operations with the Israel Police and the IDF. They discussed whether ambiguity in this context would serve the Israeli interest. Peres commented: “Of course we are taking a risk… Any formula that is too explicit, too pointed, in my opinion puts the whole thing in question.” General Yatom warned that the ambiguity would not be resolved in practice and would lead to disintegration. In his opinion, the powers of the police should be defined as clearly as possible, since they were talking about Hebron, the most complex city to manage in all of Judea and Samaria (Document 85).

Despite the difficulties, the talks progressed towards an agreement on Hebron. However, an incident in the Gaza Strip, in which six armed members of the “Fatah Hawks” organization were killed by IDF forces, cast a cloud over the next meeting in Cairo (Document 86). The Palestinians reacted angrily, but in the end the negotiations were successfully concluded. On March 31, an agreement was signed in Cairo on security arrangements in Hebron and the resumption of negotiations on Gaza and Jericho. The parties agreed on measures including the establishment of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH),  with the help of the Norwegians, Italians and Danes. The mandate of the force was limited to 3 months, with the possibility of an extension. Its members would wear white uniforms and armbands marked with the word “Observers” in English, Arabic and Hebrew. In a joint statement, the two sides expressed their determination to reach an agreement on Gaza and Jericho as soon as possible and for the gradual entry of Palestinian police into these areas the following week. Israel agreed to shorten the time required to deploy its forces to meet the deadlines set in the Declaration of Principles. The two delegations expressed their gratitude to the President of Egypt, his government and the Egyptian people for their help. The agreement was signed by Deputy CIGS Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Dr. Nabil Shaath (Document 87, draft of the Hebron Agreement, March 31, 1994, Document 88, Press Release, March 31, 1994).

TIPH observers in Hebron, 8.5.1994. Photograph: Zvika Yisraeli, GPO

After a delay of more than a month caused by the massacre, the Israelis and Palestinians could now proceed to negotiations on the main issue – implementation of the Gaza and Jericho agreement.