Text of the Mitchell Report
May 6, 2001
On October 17, 2000, at the conclusion of the Middle East Peace Summit
at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the President of the United States spoke on
behalf of the participants (the government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority,
the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and the United States, the United Nations,
and the European Union). Among other things, the President stated that:
The United States will develop with the Israelis and Palestinians, as
well as in consultation with the United States Secretary General, a committee
of fact-finding on the events of the past several weeks and how to prevent
On November 7, 2000, following consultations with the other participants,
the president asked us to serve on what has come to be known as the Sharm
el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee
After our first meeting, held before we visited the region, we urged
an end to all violence. Our meetings and our observations during our subsequent
visits to the region have intensified our convictions in this regard. It
will only make them worse. Death and destruction will not bring peace, but
will deepen the hatred and harden the resolve on both sides. There is only
one way to bring peace, justice and security in the Middle East, and that
is through negotiation.
Despite their long history and close proximity, some Israelis and Palestinians
seem not to fully appreciate each other's concerns. Some Israelis appear
not to comprehend the humiliation and frustration that Palestinians must
endure every day as a result of living with the continuing effects of occupation,
sustained by the presence of Israeli military forces and settlements in
their midst, or the determination of the Palestinians to achieve independence
and genuine self-determination. Some Palestinians appear not to comprehend
the extent to which terrorism creates fear among the Israeli people and
undermines their belief in the possibility of co-existence, or the determination
of the GOI to do whatever is necessary to protect its people.
Fear, hate, anger, and frustration have risen on both sides. The greatest
danger of all that the culture of peace, nurtured over the past decade is
being shattered. In its place there is a growing sense of futility and despair,
and a growing resort to violence.
Two proud people share a land and a destiny. Their competing claims
and religious differences have led to a grinding, demoralizing, dehumanizing
conflict. They can continue in conflict or they can negotiate to find a
way to live side-by-side in peace.
So much has been achieved. So much is at risk. If the parties are to
succeed in completing their journey to their common destination, agreed
commitments must be implemented, international law respected,
and human rights protected. We encourage them to return to negotiation,
however difficult. It is the only path to peace, justice and security.
The violence has not ended (since the Sharm el-Sheikh summit). It has
worsened. Thus the overriding concern of those in the region with whom we
spoke is to end the violence and to return to the process of shaping a sustainable
Their concern must be ours. If our report is to have effect, it must
deal with he situation that exists, which is different from that envisaged
by the summit participants. In this report, we will try to answer the questions
assigned to us by the Sharm el-Sheikh summit: What happened? Why did it
In light of the current situation, however, we must elaborate on the
third part of our mandate: How can the recurrence of violence be prevented?
The relevance and impact of our work, in the end, will be measured by the
recommendations we make concerning the following:
- Ending the Violence
- Rebuilding Confidence
- Resuming Negotiations
We are not a tribunal. We complied with the request that we do not determine
the guilt or innocence of individuals or of the parties
In late September 2000, Israeli, Palestinian, and other officials received
reports that Member of the Knesset (now Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon was
planning a visit to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Palestinian
and U.S. officials urged then Prime Minister Ehud Barak to prohibit the
visit. Mr. Barak told us that he believed the visit was intended to be an
internal political act directed against him by a political opponent, and
he declined to prohibit it.
Mr. Sharon made the visit on September 28 accompanied by over 1,000 Israeli
police officers. Although Israelis viewed the visit in an internal political
context, Palestinians saw it as highly provocative to them. On the following
day, in the same place, a large number of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators
and a large Israeli police contingent confronted each other. According to
the U.S. Department of State, "Palestinians held large demonstrations
and threw stones at police in the vicinity of the Western Wall. Police used
rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators,
killing 4 persons and injuring about 200." According to the GOI,
14 policemen were injured.
Similar demonstrations took place over the following several days. Thus
began what has become known as the "Al-Aqsa Intifada" (Al-Aqsa
being a mosque at the Haram al- Sharif/Temple Mount).
The GOI asserts that the immediate catalyst for the violence was the
breakdown of the Camp David negotiations on July 25, 2000 and the "widespread
appreciation in the international community of Palestinian responsibility
for the impasse." In this view, Palestinian violence was planned by
the PA leadership, and was aimed at "provoking and incurring Palestinian
casualties as a means of regaining the diplomatic initiative."
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) denies the allegation that
the Intifada was planned. It claims, however, that "Camp David represented
nothing ess than an attempt by Israel to extend the force it exercises on
the ground to negotiations." From the perspective of the PLO, Israel
responded to the disturbances with excessive and illegal use of deadly force
against demonstrators; behavior which, in the PLO's view, reflected Israel's
contempt for the lives and safety of Palestinians. For Palestinians, the
widely seen images of Muhammad al Durra in Gaza on September 30, shot as
he huddled behind his father, reinforced that perception.
From the perspective of the GOI, the demonstrations were organized and
directed by the Palestinian leadership to create sympathy for their cause
around the world by provoking Israeli security forces to fire upon demonstrators,
especially young people. For Israelis, the lynching of two military reservists,
First Sgt. Vadim Novesche and First Cpl. Yosef Avrahani, in Ramallah on
October 12, reflected a deep-seated Palestinian hatred of Israel and Jews.
What began as a series of confrontations between Palestinian demonstrators
and Israeli security forces, which resulted in the GOI's initial restrictions
of the movement of people and goods in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (closures),
has since evolved into a wider array of violent actions and responses.
In their submissions, the parties traded allegations about the motivation
and degree of control exercised by the other. However, we were provided
with no persuasive evidence that the Sharon visit was anything other than
an internal political act; neither were we provided with persuasive evidence
that the PA planned the uprising.
Accordingly, we have no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate
plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the first opportunity;
or to conclude that there was a delilberate plan by the GOI to respond with
However, there is also no evidence on which to conclude that the PA made
a consistent effort to contain the demonstrations and control the violence
once it began; or that the GOI made a consistent effort to use non-lethal
means to control demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians. Amid rising anger,
fear, and mistrust, each side assumed the worst about the other and acted
The Sharon visit did not cause the "Al-Aqsa Intifada." But
it was poorly timed and the provocative effect should have been foreseen;
indeed, it was foreseen by those who urged that the visit be prohibited.
More significant were the events that followed: The decision of the Israeli
police on September 29 to use lethal means against the Palestinian demonstrators;
and the subsequent failure, as noted above, of either party to exercise
Why did it happen?
The roots of the current violence extend much deeper than an inconclusive
summit conference. Both sides have made clear a profound disillusionment
with the behavior of the other in failing to meet the expectations arising
from the peace process.
Divergent Expectations: We are struck by the divergent expectations expressed
by the parties in relating to the implementation of the Oslo process. Results
achieved from this process were unthinkable less than 10 years ago. During
the latest round of negotiations, the parties were closer to a permanent
settlement than ever before.
Nonetheless, Palestinians and Israeli alike told us that the premise
on which the Oslo process is based that tackling the hard "permanent
status" issues be deferred to the end of the process has gradually
come under serious pressure.
The GOI has placed primacy on moving toward a Permanent Status Agreement
in a nonviolent atmosphere, consistent with commitments contained in the
agreements between the parties.
The PLO view is that delays in the process have been the result of an
Israeli attempt to prolong and solidify the occupation "In sum, Israel's
proposals at Camp David provided for Israel's annexation of the best Palestinian
lands, the perpetuation of Israeli control over East Jerusalem, a continued
military presence on Palestinian territory, Israeli control over Palestinian
natural resources, airspace and borders, and the return of fewer than 1%
of refugees to their homes."
Both sides see the lack of full compliance with agreements reached since
the opening of the peace process as evidence of a lack of good faith. This
conclusion led to an erosion of trust even before the permanent status negotiations
Divergent Perspectives: During the last seven months, these views have
hardened into divergent realities. Each side views the other as having acted
in bad faith; as having turned the optimism of Oslo into suffering and grief
of victims and their loved ones. In their statements and actions, each side
demonstrates a perspective that fails to recognize any truth in the perspectiv
of the other.
The Palestinian Perspective: For the Palestinian side, "Madrid"
and "Oslo" heralded the prospect of a State, and guaranteed an
end to the occupation and a resolution of outstanding matters within an
agreed time. Palestinians are genuinely angry at the continued growth of
settlements and at their daily experiences of humiliation and disruption
as a result of Israel's presence in the Palestinian territories. Palestinians
see settlers and settlements in their midst not only as violating the spirit
of the Oslo process, but also as application of force in the form of Israel's
overwhelming military superiority.
The PLO also claims that the GOI has failed to comply with other commitments,
such as the further withdrawal from the West Bank and the release of Palestinian
prisoners. In addition, Palestinians expressed frustration with the impasse
over refugees and the deteriorating economic circumstances in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip.
The Israeli Perspective: From the GOI perspective, the expansion of settlement
activity and the taking of measures to facilitate the convenience and safety
of settlers do not prejudice the outcome of permanent status negotiations
Indeed, Israelis point out that at the Camp David summit and during subsequent
talks, the GOI offered to make significant concessions with respect to the
settlements in the context of an overall agreement.
Security, however, is the key GOI concern. The GOI maintains that the
PLO has breached its solemn commitments by continuing the use of violence
in the pursuit of political objectives
According to the GOI, the Palestinian failure takes on several forms:
Institutionalized anti-Israel, anti-Jewish incitement; the release from
detention of terrorists; the failure to control illegal weapons; and the
actual conduct of violent operations The GOI maintains that the PLO has
significantly violated its renunciation of terrorism and other acts of violence,
thereby significantly eroding trust between the parties.
End the violence
For Israelis and Palestinians alike the experience of the past seven
months has been intensely personal. We were touched by their stories. Israeli
and Palestinian families used virtually the same words to describe their
grief. With widespread violence, both sides have resorted to portayals of
each other in hostile stereotypes. This cycle cannot be easily broken. Without
considerable determination and readiness to compromise, the rebuilding of
rust will be impossible.
Cessation of Violence: Since 1991, the parties have consistently committed
themselves, in all their agreements, to the path of nonviolence. To stop
the violence now, the PA and GOI need not "reinvent the wheel."
Rather they should take immediate steps to end the violence, reaffirm their
mutual commitments, and resume negotiations.
Resumption of Security Cooperation: Palestinian security officials told
us that it would take some time for the PA to reassert full control over
armed elements nominally under its command and to exert decisive influence
over other armed elements operating in Palestinian area. Israeli security
officials have not disputed these assertions. What is important is that
the PA make an all-out effort to enforce a complete cessation of violence
and that it be clearly seen by the GOI as doing so. The GOI must likewise
exercise a 100 percent effort to ensure that potential friction points,
where Palestinians come into contact with armed Israelis, do not become
stages for renewed hostilities.
The collapse of the security cooperation in early October reflected the
belief y each party that the other had committed itself to a violent course
of action. If parties wish to attain the standard of 100 percent effort
to prevent violence, the immediate resumption of security cooperation is
The historic handshake between Chairman Arafat and the late Prime Minister
Rabin at the White House in September 1993 symbolized the expectation of
both parties that the door to the peaceful resolution of differences had
been opened. Despite the current violence and mutual loss of trust, both
communities have repeatedly expressed a desire for peace. Channeling this
desire into substantive progress has proved difficult. The restoration of
trust is essential, and the parties should take affirmative steps to this
end. Given the high level of hostility and mistrust, the timing and sequence
of these steps are obviously crucial. This can be decided only by the parties.
We urge them to begin the process of decision immediately.
Terrorism: In September 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, the parties
pledged to take action against "any threat or act of terrorism, violence,
Terrorism involves the deliberate killing and injuring of randomly selected
noncombatants for political ends. It seeks to promote a political outcome
by spreading terror and demoralization throughout a population.
In its official submissions and briefings, the GOI has accused the PA
of supporting terrorism by releasing incarcerated terrorists, by allowing
PA security personnel to abet, and in some cases to conduct terrorist operations,
and by terminating security cooperation the GOI. The PA vigorously denies
the accusations. But Israelis hold the view that the PA's leadership has
made no real effort to prevent anti-Israeli terrorism. The belief that is,
in and of itself, it is a major obstacle to the rebuilding of confidence.
We believe that the PA has a responsibility to help rebuild confidence
by making it clear to both communities that terrorism is reprehensible and
unacceptable, and by taking all measures to prevent terrorist operations
and to punish perpetrators. This effort should include immediate steps to
apprehend and incarcerate terrorists operating within the PA's jurisdiction.
Settlements: The GOI also has a responsibility to help rebuild confidence.
A cessation of Palestinian-Israeli violence will be particularly hard to
sustain unless the GOI freezes all settlement construction activity. Settlement
activities must not be allowed to undermine the restoration of calm and
the resumption of negotiations.
On each of our two visits to the region, there were Israeli announcements
regarding expansion of settlements, and it was almost always the first issue
raised by Palestinians with whom we met. The GOI describes its policy as
prohibiting new settlements but permitting expansion of existing settlements
to accommodate "natural growth." Palestinians contend that there
is no distinction between "new" and "expanded" settlements;
and that, except for a brief freeze during the tenure of Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin, there has been a continuing, aggressive effort by Israel
to increase the number and size of settlements.
Reducing Tension: We were told by both Palestinians and Israelis that
emotions generated by the many recent deaths and funerals have fueled additional
confrontations, and, in effect, maintained the cycle of violence. Both sides
must make clear that violent demonstrations will not be tolerated. We can
and do urge that both sides exhibit a greater respect for human life when
demonstrators confront security personnel.
Actions and Responses: For the first three months of the current uprising,
most incidents did not involve Palestinian use of firearms and explosives
Altogether, nearly 500 people were killed and over 10,000 injured over the
past seven months; the overwhelming majority in both categories were Palestinian.
Israel's characterization of the conflict, as "armed conflict short
of war," does not adequately describe the variety of incidents reported
since late September 2000. Moreover, by thus defining the conflict, the
IDF has suspended its policy of mandating investigations by the Department
of Military Police Investigations whenever a Palestinian in the territories
dies at the hands of an IDF soldier in an incident not involving terrorism.
Controversy has arisen between the parties over what Israel calls "the
targeting of individual enemy combatants." The PLO describes these
actions as "extra-judicial" that is "in clear violation of
Article 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." The GOI states that, "whatever
action Israel has taken has been taken firmly within the bounds of the relevant
and accepted principles relating to the conduct of hostilities." We
are deeply concerned about the public safety implications of exchanges of
fire between populated areas. Palestinian gunmen have directed small arms
fire at Israeli settlements and at nearby IDF positions from within or adjacent
to civilian dwellings in Palestinian areas, thus endangering innocent Israeli
and Palestinian civilians alike. We condemn the positioning of gunmen within
or near civilian dwellings We urge that such provocations cease and that
the IDF exercise maximum restraint in its responses if they do occur. Inappropriate
or excessive uses of force often lead to escalation.
On the Palestinian side there are disturbing ambiguities in the basic
areas of responsibility and accountability. We urge the PA to take all necessary
steps to establish a clear and unchallenged chain of command for armed personnel
operating under its authority.
Incitement: In their submissions and briefings to the Committee, both
sides expressed concerns about hateful language and images emanating from
the other We call on the parties to renew their formal commitments to foster
mutual understanding and tolerance and to abstain from incitement and hostile
Economic and Social Impact of Violence: Further restrictions on the
movement of people and goods have been imposed by Israel on the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip. These closures take the three forms: Those which restrict
movement between the Palestinian areas and Israel; those which restrict
movement within the Palestinian areas; and those which restrict movement
from the Palestinian areas to foreign countries. These measures have disrupted
the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
Of particular concern to the PA has been the destruction by Israeli
security forces and settlers of tens of thousands of olive and fruit trees
and other agricultural property. The closures have also had other adverse
We acknowledge Israel's security concerns. We believe, however, that
the GOI should lift closures, transfer to the PA all revenues owed, and
permit Palestinians who have been employed in Israel to return to their
jobs. Closure policies play into the hands of extremists seeking to expand
their constituencies and thereby contribute to escalation. The PA should
resume cooperation with Israeli security agencies to ensure that Palestinian
workers employed within Israel are fully vetted and free of connections
to terrorist organizations.
Holy Places: It is particularly regrettable that the places such as
the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, Joseph's Tomb in Nablus,
and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem have been the scenes of violence, death and
injury. These are places of peace, prayer and reflection which must be accessible
to all believers. Places deemed holy by Muslims, Jews, and Christians merit
respect, protection and preservation.
International Force: One of the most controversial subjects raised during
our inquiry was the issue of deploying an international force to the Palestinian
areas. The PA is strongly in favor of having such a force to protect Palestinian
civilians and their property The GOI is just as adamantly opposed to an
"international protection force," believing it would prove unresponsive
to Israeli security concerns and interfere with bilateral negotiations to
settle the conflict.
We believe that to be effective such a force would need the support
of both parties.
Israeli leaders do not wish to be perceived as "rewarding violence."
Palestinian leaders do not wish to be perceived as " rewarding occupation."
We appreciate the political constraints on leaders of both sides. Nevertheless,
if the cycle of violence is to be broken and the search for peace resumed,
there needs to be a new bilateral relationship incorporating both security
cooperation and negotiations.
We cannot prescribe to the parties how best to pursue their political
objectives. Yet the construction of a new bilateral relationship solidifying
and transcending an agreed cessation of violence requires intelligent risk-taking.
It requires, in the first instance, that each party again be willing to
regard the other as a partner.
To define a starting point is for the parties to decide. Both parties
have stated that they remain committed to their mutual agreements and undertakings.
It is time to explore further implementation. The parties should declare
their intention to meet on this basis, in order to resume full and meaningful
negotiations, in the spirit of their undertakings at Sharm el-Sheikh in
1999 and 2000.
The GOI and the PA must act swiftly and decisively to halt the violence.
Their immediate objectives then should be to rebuild confidence and resume
End the violence
- The GOI and the PA should reaffirm their commitment to existing agreements
and undertakings and should immediately implement an unconditional cessation
- The GOI and PA should immediately resume security cooperation.
- Effective bilateral cooperation aimed at preventing violence will
encourage the resumption of negotiations We believe that the security
cooperation cannot long be sustained if meaningful negotiations are unreasonably
deferred, if security measures "on the ground" are seen as hostile,
or if steps are taken that are perceived as provocative or as prejudicing
the outcome of negotiations.
- The PA and GOI should work together to establish a meaningful "cooling
off period" and implement additional confidence building measures.
- The PA and GOI should resume their efforts to identify, condemn and
discourage incitement in all its forms.
- The PA should make clear through concrete action to Palestinians
and Israelis alike that terrorism is reprehensible and unacceptable, and
that the PA will make a 100 percent effort to prevent terrorist operations
and to punish perpetrators. This effort should include immediate steps
to apprehend and incarcerate terrorists operating within the PA's jurisdiction.
- The GOI should freeze all settlement activity, including the "natural
growth" of existing settlements. The kind of security cooperation
desired by the GOI cannot for long co-exist with settlement activity.
- The GOI should give careful consideration to whether settlements
which are focal points for substantial friction are valuable bargaining
chips for future negotiations or provocations likely to preclude the onset
of productive talks.
- The GOI may wish to make it clear to the PA that a future peace would
pose no threat to the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian State to
be established in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
- The IDF should consider withdrawing to positions held before September
28, 2000 which will reduce the number of friction points and the potential
for violent confrontations.
The GOI should ensure that the IDF adopt and enforce policies and procedures
encouraging non-lethal responses to unarmed demonstrators, with a view
to minimizing casualties and friction between the two communities.
- The GOI should lift closures, transfer to the PA all tax revenues
owed, and permit Palestinians who had been employed in Israel to return
to their jobs; and should ensure that security forces and settlers refrain
from the destruction of homes and roads, as well as trees and other agricultural
property in Palestinian areas.
- The PA should renew cooperation with Israeli security agencies to
ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that Palestinian workers employed
within Israel are fully vetted and free of connections to organizations
and individuals engaged in terrorism.
- The PA should prevent gunmen from using Palestinian populated areas
to fire upon Israeli populated areas and IDF positions. This tactic places
civilians on both sides at unnecessary risk.
- The GOI and IDF should adopt and enforce policies and procedures
designed to ensure that the response to any gunfire emanating from Palestinian
civilians, bearing in mind that it is probably the objective of the gunmen
to elicit an excessive IDF response.
- We reiterate our belief that a 100 percent effort to stop the violence,
an immediate resumption of security cooperation and an exchange of confidence
building measures are all important for the resumption of negotiations.
Yet none of these steps will long be sustained absent a return to serious
It is not within our mandate to prescribe the venue, the basis or the
agenda of negotiations. However, in order to provide an
effective political context for practical cooperation between
the parties, negotiations must not be unreasonably deferred
and they must, in our view, manifest a spirit of compromise,
reconciliation and partnership, notwithstanding the events of the
past seven months.
George J. Mitchell Chairman (Former member and Majority Leader
of the United States Senate)
Suleyman Demirel (9th President of the Republic of Turkey)
Thorbjoern Jagland (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway )
Warren B. Rudman (Former Member of the United States Senate)
Javier Solana (High European Representative for the Common Foreign
and Security Policy, European Union)
(Published by Ha'aretz)