28 May 2004
Letters Exchanged Between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush
1. Background - Political and Security Implications
The State of Israel is committed to the peace process and aspires to reach an agreed resolution of the conflict based upon the vision of US President George Bush.
The State of Israel believes that it must act to improve the current situation. The State of Israel has come to the conclusion that there is currently no reliable Palestinian partner with which it can make progress in a two-sided peace process. Accordingly, it has developed a plan of revised disengagement (hereinafter - the plan), based on the following considerations:
One. The stalemate dictated by the current situation is harmful. In order to break out of this stalemate, the State of Israel is required to initiate moves not dependent on Palestinian cooperation.
Two. The purpose of the plan is to lead to a better security, political, economic and demographic situation.
Three. In any future permanent status arrangement, there will be no Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, it is clear that in the West Bank, there are areas which will be part of the State of Israel, including major Israeli population centers, cities, towns and villages, security areas and other places of special interest to Israel.
Four. The State of Israel supports the efforts of the United States, operating alongside the international community, to promote the reform process, the construction of institutions and the improvement of the economy and welfare of the Palestinian residents, in order that a new Palestinian leadership will emerge and prove itself capable of fulfilling its commitments under the Roadmap.
Five. Relocation from the Gaza Strip and from an area in Northern Samaria should reduce friction with the Palestinian population.
Six. The completion of the plan will serve to dispel the claims regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Seven. The process set forth in the plan is without prejudice to the relevant agreements between the State of Israel and the Palestinians. Relevant arrangements shall continue to apply.
Eight. International support for this plan is widespread and important. This support is essential in order to bring the Palestinians to implement in practice their obligations to combat terrorism and effect reforms as required by the Roadmap, thus enabling the parties to return to the path of negotiation.
2. Main Elements
A. The process:
The required preparatory work for the implementation of the plan will be carried out (including staff work to determine criteria, definitions, evaluations, and preparations for required legislation).
Immediately upon completion of the preparatory work, a discussion will be held by the Government in order to make a decision concerning the relocation of settlements, taking into consideration the circumstances prevailing at that time - whether or not to relocate, and which settlements.
The towns and villages will be classified into four groups, as follows:
1) Group A - Morag, Netzarim, Kfar Darom
2) Group B - the villages of Northern Samaria (Ganim, Kadim, Sa-Nur and Homesh).
3) Group C - the towns and villages of Gush Katif
4) Group D - the villages of the Northern Gaza Strip (Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nissanit)
It is clarified that, following the completion of the aforementioned preparations, the Government will convene periodically in order to decide separately on the question of whether or not to relocate, with respect to each of the aforementioned groups. 3. The continuation of the aforementioned process is subject to the resolutions that the Government will pass, as mentioned above in Article 2, and will be implemented in accordance with the content of those resolutions.
3.1 The Gaza Strip
1) The State of Israel will evacuate the Gaza Strip, including all existing Israeli towns and villages, and will redeploy outside the Strip. This will not include military deployment in the area of the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt ("the Philadelphi Route") as detailed below. 3.2 The West Bank
2) Upon completion of this process, there shall no longer be any permanent presence of Israeli security forces in the areas of Gaza Strip territory which have been evacuated.
3) The State of Israel will evacuate an area in Northern Samaria (Ganim, Kadim, Sa-Nur and Homesh), and all military installations in this area, and will redeploy outside the vacated area. 3.3 The intention is to complete the planned relocation process by the end of 2005.
4) Upon completion of this process, there shall no longer be any permanent presence of Israeli security forces in this area.
5) The move will enable territorial contiguity for Palestinians in the Northern Samaria area.
6) The State of Israel will assist, together with the international community, in improving the transportation infrastructure in the West Bank in order to facilitate the contiguity of Palestinian transportation.
7) The process will facilitate normal life and Palestinian economic and commercial activity in the West Bank.
B. The Security Fence:
The State of Israel will continue building the Security Fence, in accordance with the relevant decisions of the Government. The route will take into account humanitarian considerations.
3. Security Situation Following the Relocation
One. The Gaza Strip:
1) The State of Israel will guard and monitor the external land perimeter of the Gaza Strip, will continue to maintain exclusive authority in Gaza air space, and will continue to exercise security activity in the sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
2) The Gaza Strip shall be demilitarized and shall be devoid of weaponry, the presence of which does not accord with the Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
3) The State of Israel reserves its fundamental right of self-defense, both preventive and reactive, including where necessary the use of force, in respect of threats emanating from the Gaza Strip.
Two. The West Bank:
1) Upon completion of the evacuation of the Northern Samaria area, no permanent Israeli military presence will remain in this area.
2) The State of Israel reserves its fundamental right of self-defense, both preventive and reactive, including where necessary the use of force, in respect of threats emanating from the Northern Samaria area.
3) In other areas of the West Bank, current security activity will continue. However, as circumstances require, the State of Israel will consider reducing such activity in Palestinian cities.
4) The State of Israel will work to reduce the number of internal checkpoints throughout the West Bank.
4. Military Installations and Infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria
In general, these will be dismantled and evacuated, with the exception of those which the State of Israel decides to transfer to another party.
5. Security Assistance to the Palestinians
The State of Israel agrees that by coordination with it, advice, assistance and training will be provided to the Palestinian security forces for the implementation of their obligations to combat terrorism and maintain public order, by American, British, Egyptian, Jordanian or other experts, as agreed therewith.
No foreign security presence may enter the Gaza Strip and/or the West Bank without being coordinated with and approved by the State of Israel.
6. The Border Area Between the Gaza Strip and Egypt (Philadelphi Route)
The State of Israel will continue to maintain a military presence along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt (Philadelphi Route). This presence is an essential security requirement. At certain locations, security considerations may require some widening of the area in which the military activity is conducted.
Subsequently, the evacuation of this area will be considered. Evacuation of the area will be dependent, inter alia, on the security situation and the extent of cooperation with Egypt in establishing a reliable alternative arrangement.
If and when conditions permit the evacuation of this area, the State of Israel will be willing to consider the possibility of the establishment of a seaport and airport in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with arrangements to be agreed with Israel.
7. Real Estate Assets
In general, residential dwellings and sensitive structures, including synagogues, will not remain. The State of Israel will aspire to transfer other facilities, including industrial, commercial and agricultural ones, to a third, international party which will put them to use for the benefit of the Palestinian population that is not involved in terror.
The area of the Erez industrial zone will be transferred to the responsibility of an agreed upon Palestinian or international party.
The State of Israel will explore, together with Egypt, the possibility of establishing a joint industrial zone on the border of the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Israel.
8. Civil Infrastructure and Arrangements
Infrastructure relating to water, electricity, sewage and telecommunications will remain in place.
In general, Israel will continue, for full price, to supply electricity, water, gas and petrol to the Palestinians, in accordance with current arrangements.
Other existing arrangements, such as those relating to water and the electro-magnetic sphere shall remain in force.
9. Activity of Civilian International Organizations
The State of Israel recognizes the great importance of the continued activity of international humanitarian organizations and others engaged in civil development, assisting the Palestinian population.
The State of Israel will coordinate with these organizations arrangements to facilitate their activities.
The State of Israel proposes that an international apparatus be established (along the lines of the AHLC), with the agreement of Israel and international elements which will work to develop the Palestinian economy.
10. Economic Arrangements
In general, the economic arrangements currently in operation between the State of Israel and the Palestinians shall remain in force. These arrangements include, inter alia:
One. The entry and exit of goods between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the State of Israel and abroad.
Two. The monetary regime.
Three. Tax and customs envelope arrangements.
Four. Postal and telecommunications arrangements.
Five. The entry of workers into Israel, in accordance with the existing criteria.
In the longer term, and in line with Israel's interest in encouraging greater Palestinian economic independence, the State of Israel expects to reduce the number of Palestinian workers entering Israel, to the point that it ceases completely. The State of Israel supports the development of sources of employment in the Gaza Strip and in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, by international elements.
11. International Passages
a. The International Passage Between the Gaza Strip and Egypt
1) The existing arrangements shall continue.
2) The State of Israel is interested in moving the passage to the "three borders" area, south of its current location. This would need to be effected in coordination with the Government of Egypt. This move would enable the hours of operation of the passage to be extended.
b. The International Passages Between the West Bank and Jordan:
The existing arrangements shall continue.
12. Erez Crossing Point
The Erez crossing point will be moved to a location within Israel in a time frame to be determined separately by the Government.
The goal is that implementation of the plan will lead to improving the situation and breaking the current deadlock. If and when there is evidence from the Palestinian side of its willingness, capability and implementation in practice of the fight against terrorism, full cessation of terrorism and violence and the institution of reform as required by the Road Map, it will be possible to return to the track of negotiation and dialogue.