Since President Clinton presided over the signing of the Wye Agreement in October, the land-for-security agreement has hit one snag after another. Israel froze implementation of the accord altogether, accusing Arafat of violating the deal and inciting violent street protests. At the time of the visit in December, both Clinton and Netanyahu were experiencing shaky political futures, with the former facing indictment for his role in the Lewinsky scandal, while the latter is fighting for his political survival as Parliament prepares for a no-confidence vote in January.
98.10.23 - After nine days of intense negotiations in Maryland, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have signed the Wye Agreement. This agreement calls for Israel to withdraw its troops from land in the West Bank, which it has occupied since the Six Day War in 1967. The land will be turned over to Palestinian control, giving the Palestinians hegemony over about 40 percent of the West Bank. In return the Palestinians agreed to a comprehensive security plan to protect Israel from terrorist attacks by Islamic militants. They also agreed to remove language in their international charter that called for the destruction of the Jewish state.
98.10.30 - Palestinians approve Wye River Peace Accord.
98.11.06 - Israel suspends decisionon the Wye Accord.
98.11.17 - Israeli parliament approves aforementioned agreement.
98.11.27 - White House formally announces that President Clinton will travel to Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel on a four-day trip that will begin on December 12.
98.12.07 - Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares that Clinton's upcoming trip will have value only if he strengthens the Palestinian fulfillment of their obligations under the Wye Agreement.
98.12.08 - Controversy brews over the arrival of the first family in the Middle East on board Air Force One. It is believed by some to be an unwarranted acknowledgment of Palestine proposed statehood. (Palestine pledges to declare its statehood on May 4, 1999.) As a concession, Clinton agreed to take the trip via helicopter instead.
98.12.13 - Clinton meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu to rescue the Wye Agreement. The joint press conference was dominated by questions directed at Clinton about the impending impeachment process. Admonishing the press to return to its attention to the Middle East peace process, Netanyahu redirects the focus to the planned proceedings. Despite the recent eruption of violence and serious political restraints on a settlement, Clinton insists that progress towards peace has been made.
Following the news conference, Clinton stops for a private visit to the grave of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli opposed to the peace process. He also met privately with Rabin's widow, Leah Rabin.
Clinton is told by Netanyahu that the US should not expect that next Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank to be carried out on Friday, December 18, as Israel is committed to do under the Wye Agreement timetable.
98.12.14 - President Clinton arrives in Gaza for the first visit by a US President to Palestinian-ruled soil. Clinton and Yasser Arafat made a ceremonial tour of the new airport, and participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark to airport's official opening.
The Palestinian National Council (PNC) votes nearly unanimously to remove clauses from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) charter that calls for the destruction of Israel, thereby affirming the right of Israel to exist. Approximately 450 members of the PNC attended the meeting. The meeting was one of the requirements listed in the Wye accord.
98.12.15 - Clinton, Arafat and Netanyahu meet for two hours at the Erez crossing near the Israel-Gaza border on the final day of the President's trip to the Middle East. They review committess created by the Wye Agreement to deal with issues such as prisoner releases and street violence. A few hours after the summit, Isreal released a 12-point list of alleged Palestinian peace deal violations. The list included demands that Israel confiscate illegal weapons, cut the size of the Palestinian police force and crack down on anti-Israel incitement and violence.
98.12.16 - Israel confirms that it will not proceed with further withdrawal from the West Bank land on Friday as scheduled. Before Israel will hand over more land, Netanyahu wants the Palestinians to stop West Bank violence and renounce plans to proclaim a Palestinian state in May. Also, the Israeli leader is urging the Palestinians to accept Israel's criteria for the release of Palestinian prisoners. US Secretary of State Madeline Albright urges the Israelis to continue with the scheduled deployment.
Wye River Accord - agreement reached by Clinton, Arafat and Netanyahu in October 1998 at Wye, MD, which discusses measures to ensure progress in peace talks and solutions.
PNC - Palestinian National Council
PLO - Palestine Liberation Organization