Talks between the PLO and Israel resumed on 21 December to try to resolve outstanding issues between the two sides and open the way for Israel to start its withdrawal from the self-rule areas in January. The two sides still have to agree on security arrangements for border crossings between the Palestinian entity and Jordan and Egypt. In mid-December, two days of secret talks in Norway failed to bring the two sides together, although Oslo has said some progress was made.
On his way to the Paris meeting, the leader of the PLO delegation at the talks, Yasser Abed-Rabbo, said he would press for Palestinian control of the border crossings. ‘Israel may keep external security in its hands, but not at the expense of the Palestinian sovereignty on lands,’ he told Reuters.
According to the declaration of principles signed in Washington on 13 September. Israel will retain control over external security in the five- year transitional period, while the Palestinian police force will be responsible for domestic security. ‘In order to guarantee public order and internal security for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the council will establish a strong police force, while Israel will continue to carry the responsibility for defending against external threats…’ article eight of the declaration reads.
Tel Aviv argues that it has to maintain control of the international crossings, because once people have entered Gaza or Jericho, it will be more difficult to control their access into Israel.
Also under discussion in Paris will be the size of the Palestinian police force. Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Egeland said on 20 December that the two sides were approaching agreement but funding for the force was still under discussion. The PLO put forward plans in Oslo for a 15,000- strong force, although they may be willing to accept a force of about 10,000. The World Bank budget envisages a force of only 7,000 (see Gaza/West Bank).