Wed 13 Sep 2023 5:15 pm - Jerusalem Time

30 years after "Oslo"... Palestinian lives are getting worse

On September 13, 1993, the world witnessed the handshake of the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, and the Prime Minister of Israel at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, in the White House garden, a moment that observers considered an “amazing moment.” The famous handshake between the enemies also marked the beginning of what became known as the Oslo Accords. It is a framework for talks between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators, mediated by the Americans.

The idea was that the Palestinians would eventually be empowered through open negotiations and confidence-building measures to control their own affairs in the territories occupied in 1967, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. After a five-year transitional period, the prevailing belief was that a Palestinian state would survive. Together with Israel. Through this two-state solution, peace can be achieved between Israel and the Palestinians.

Today, thirty years later, experts believe, it has become clear that the Oslo Accords did not achieve peace or a two-state solution. Especially since - according to all statistics - more than 200 Palestinians and about 30 Israelis have been killed so far in 2023 alone, and Israel is led by a government that is the most right-wing and extremist in its history, while the Palestinian leadership suffers from weakness and division, while there is no possibility, even if it is weak, of a return. To negotiations any time soon.

In America, successive American administrations from 2014 until today abandoned the idea of sponsoring negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, and abolished the position of “peace envoy” and replaced it with the position of “normalization envoy,” which gives priority in American policy towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the vigorous pursuit of normalization deals between Arab countries. And Israel, as we saw in the so-called “Abraham Accords,” and its current persistent effort to annex the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to these agreements.

While many wonder how this bitter reality emerged (currently) from the high hopes in 1993, others point to violations of the terms of the agreements on both sides. Others blame a lack of accountability, which has allowed these abuses to go unchecked.

Some experts believe that the Oslo peace process failed because the framework itself was flawed and largely flawed in three key areas: first, the agreements ignored the power imbalance between the two sides; Second, it focused on ending violence committed by Palestinian armed groups while condoning violence committed by the Israeli occupying state, and third, the Oslo Accords sought peace as the ultimate goal, rather than justice.

The Palestine Liberation Organization implicitly recognized Israel in 1988 (National Council in Algeria on November 15, 1988). But when a more formal statement was needed for Israel to agree to the talks, letters were exchanged on September 9, 1993, and Yasser Arafat wrote in his letter to Rabin: “The Palestine Liberation Organization recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” According to experts then, by officially recognizing Israel's right to exist, the Palestine Liberation Organization had practically abandoned its sole sovereign claim to 78% of the historic homeland of the Palestinians that Israel now claims.

In response, Rabin wrote to Arafat that Israel would "recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people" without recognizing the Palestinians' right to form their own state.

In the “Declaration of Principles” signed by Arafat and Rabin at the White House on September 13, it was stated that the goal of the talks was “to implement Security Council Resolutions No. 242 (from 1967) and 338 (from 1973, which called on Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 and explicitly calls for To establish a Palestinian state.

Since then, Israel has expropriated nearly half of the West Bank for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers, in violation of international law and routinely withdraws water from Palestinian aquifers for use by settlers, while denying Palestinians access to their own water.

By most estimates, Palestinian lives became worse during the post-Oslo years under these measures, not better. As Palestinians lost more control over their lands, homes, and resources, their ability to establish a state became more elusive.

According to experts, by insisting on holding bilateral negotiations between the strong state of Israel, supported unconditionally by America and Europe, and a people without a state, and without the auspices of the United Nations or any other international body, the Oslo framework ignored the imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians, while the American mediators insisted. However, both sides need to reach a settlement through concession, at a time when Israel possesses hundreds of times more military, economic and diplomatic power than the Palestinian side.

By ignoring this power imbalance, the Oslo Accords effectively allowed Israel to continue expropriating land and resources without any consequences. With 60% of the West Bank under Israeli control, the prospects for a viable, independent Palestinian state have been undermined.

The 1994 follow-up agreement also stipulated that “the two sides shall take all necessary measures to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against each other.” She added, "The Palestinian side will take all necessary measures to prevent such hostile actions directed against the settlements, the infrastructure that serves them, and the area of military installations."

Successive Israeli governments have interpreted the term “hostile acts” loosely, allowing them to target, arrest, imprison, and shoot Palestinians who defended their lands through non-violent means by Israeli occupation soldiers.

The agreement also stipulated that "the Israeli side will take all necessary measures to prevent such hostile actions emanating from the settlements and directed against the Palestinians." The agreement did not mention the daily violence of the Israeli military occupation against Palestinian civilians.

It is noteworthy that one month after the famous handshake (September 13, 2023), the late Palestinian writer Edward Said described the Oslo Accords as “a tool for Palestinian surrender,” while a group of senior political scientists recently called on decision-makers in the United States to completely abandon the Oslo framework and the two-state solution. .

They call on the United States instead to "defend the equality, citizenship, and human rights of all Jews and Palestinians living within the single state dominated by Israel."


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