War and Conflict

The Middle East

What is the Wye Accord?

Officially called the Wye River Memorandum, the accord outlined a limited and interim land-for-peace settlement between Israel and Palestine. It was signed October 23, 1998, by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (1949-) and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (1929–2004) at a summit held at Wye Mills, on the banks of Maryland’s Wye River. The meeting was the follow-up to the 1993 Middle East Summit in Oslo, Norway. There, after months of talks, both sides agreed to an interim framework of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Wye meeting was the opportunity for both sides to make good on the promises made in Oslo.

The Wye Accord was brokered after a 21-hour bargaining session mediated by U.S. president Bill Clinton (1946-). The points of the agreement included developing a security plan to crackdown on terrorism; the withdrawal of Israeli troops from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank (along with a commitment for future additional withdrawals); a transfer of roughly 14 percent of the West Bank from joint Israeli- Palestinian control to Palestinian control; Palestinian agreement that anti-Israeli clauses in its national charter would be removed; Israel’s guarantee that it would provide two corridors of safe passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; Israeli release of 750 Palestinian prisoners; and the opening of a Palestinian airport in Gaza.

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, approved the accords on November 17, 1998. But by December Israel suspended its obligations in the Wye, citing Palestinian failure to comply with the accords. Benjamin Netanyahu’s successor, Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1942-), pledged to resume implementing the Wye Accord but at the same time delayed its timetable, saying the measures should be included in a final peace agreement with the Palestinians. On September 4, 1999, the two sides met again at Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, where they agreed on a new timetable for the Wye. That document was signed by Barak and the Palestinian Authority’s Arafat and was witnessed by diplomats from Egypt, Jordan, and the United States (Secretary of State Madeleine Albright). But both Barak and Arafat faced mounting political opposition at home, posing immediate challenges to the revised agreement, which stalled again.


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