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and Arab–Israeli conflict series
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a The Golan Heights are not part of the Israeli-Palestinian process.

Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and Yasser Arafat at the Oslo Accords signing ceremony on 13 September 1993

The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements[1] or Declaration of Principles (DOP) became a milestone toward the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one of the major continuing issues within the wider Arab-Israeli conflict. It was the first direct, face-to-face agreement between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It was intended to be the one framework for future negotiations and relations between the Israeli government and Palestinians, within which all outstanding "final status issues" between the two sides would be addressed and resolved.

Negotiations concerning the agreements, an outgrowth of the Madrid Conference of 1991, were completed secretly in Oslo, Norway on 20 August 1993; the Accords were subsequently officially signed at a public ceremony in Washington, DC on 13 September 1993, in the presence of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and US President Bill Clinton. The documents themselves were signed by Mahmoud Abbas for the PLO, foreign Minister Shimon Peres for Israel, Secretary of State Warren Christopher for the United States and foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev for Russia.

The Oslo Accords were a framework for the future relations between the two parties. The Accords provided for the creation of a Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The Palestinian Authority would have responsibility for the administration of the territory under its control. The Accords also called for the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

It was anticipated that this arrangement would last for a five-year interim period during which a permanent agreement would be negotiated (beginning no later than May 1996). Permanent issues such as positions on Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and borders were deliberately left to be decided at a later stage. Interim Palestinian self-government was to be granted by Israel in phases.

Support for the Accords, of the concessions made and the process were not free from criticism on all sides. The repeated public posturing of all sides has discredited the process, and put the possibility of achieving peace into question[citation needed].

Further strain was put on the process after Hamas democratically won the 2006 Palestinian elections. Hamas has often offered Israel long term ceasefires, but refuses to recognize it[2], or accept agreements previously made by the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority.

Contents

Background

From the first negotiations at the 1949 Armistice Agreements to the most recent at the Madrid Conference of 1991,[3] there were many failed attempts for a settlement to bring about a lasting end to the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. What made the Oslo Accord negotiations different however, was the new Israeli government's decision to finally hold direct, face-to-face negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as the representative of the Palestinian people.

A renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian quest for peace began at the end of the Cold War as the United States took the lead in international affairs. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Western observers were optimistic, as Francis Fukuyama wrote in an article, titled "The End of History". The hope was that the end of the Cold War heralded the beginning of a new international order. President George H. W. Bush, in a speech on 11 September 1990, spoke of a "rare opportunity" to move toward a "New world order" in which "the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony," adding that "today the new world is struggling to be born".[4][5]

The Gulf War (1990-1991) did much to persuade Israelis that the defensive value of territory had been overstated, and that the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait psychologically reduced their sense of security.[6] The Gulf War had also shown that a superior air force and technology was more important than territory in winning a war. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) realized the loss of its most important diplomatic patron, due to the deterioration of the Soviet Union that started in 1989, and Arafat's failing relationship with Moscow. Another factor which pushed the PLO to the accords was the fallout from the Gulf War; because Arafat took a pro-Iraqi stand during the war, the Arab Gulf states cut off financial assistance to the PLO. The PLO was not invited to the Madrid Conference of 1991 at which Israel discussed peace with Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Palestinian groups that were not associated with the PLO, although the behind the scenes coordination of the Palestinian delegation at Madrid by the PLO was an open secret.

In December 1992, in the background of the official "Madrid negotiations" in London, Israeli vice-minister of foreign affairs Yossi Beilin and Norwegian researcher Terje Rød-Larsen set up a secret meeting for PLO representative Ahmed Qurei and Israeli history professor Yair Hirschfeld. Qurei and Hirschfeld made a connection and decided to meet again in what was going to be a series of 14 meetings in Oslo. During the first few meetings, a concept of an accord was discussed and agreed upon. The Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, was interested and sent the highest-ranking non-political representative and a military lawyer to continue the negotiations. In contrast to the official negotiations in Madrid, where actual meetings between the delegations were often limited to a few hours a day, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations in Norway were usually accommodated in the same residence, they had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same table, resulting in mutual respect and close friendships. The Norwegian government covered the expenses, provided security and kept the meetings away from the public eye, using the research institute Fafo as a front.[7]

In August 1993, the delegations had reached an agreement which was signed in secrecy by Peres while visiting Oslo. Peres took the agreement to the United States to the surprise of US negotiator Dennis Ross. However, the Palestinians and Israelis had not yet agreed on the wording of the agreement, in which the PLO would acknowledge the state of Israel and pledge to reject violence, and Israel would recognize the (unelected) PLO as the official Palestinian authority, allowing Yasser Arafat to return to the West Bank. Most of the negotiations for this agreement were carried out in a hotel in Paris, now in full view of the public and the press. An agreement was reached and signed by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, just in time for the official signing in Washington.[7]

The optimism of the moment appealed to Israelis, and 60% of them supported the Oslo Accords when they were first presented.[8] Some Israelis had become tired of the constant violence of the First Intifada, and many were willing to take risks for peace.[8] Some wanted to realize the economic benefits in the new global economy.

Principles of the Accords

In essence, the accords called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and affirmed a Palestinian right of self-government within those areas through the creation of a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority. Palestinian rule was to last for a five-year interim period during which "permanent status negotiations" would commence - no later than May 1996 - in order to reach a final agreement. Major issues such as Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, and security and borders were to be decided at these permanent status negotiations (Article V). Israel was to grant interim self-government to the Palestinians in phases.

Along with the principles, the two groups signed Letters of Mutual Recognition - the Israeli government recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, while the PLO recognized the right of the state of Israel to exist and renounced terrorism as well as other violence, and its desire for the destruction of the Israeli state.

The aim of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, an elected Council, for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, and 338, an integral part of the whole peace process.

In order that the Palestinians govern themselves according to democratic principles, free and general political elections would be held for the Council.

Jurisdiction of the Palestinian Council would cover the West Bank and Gaza Strip, except for issues that would be finalized in the permanent status negotiations. The two sides viewed the West Bank and Gaza as a single territorial unit.

The five-year transitional period would commence with Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. Permanent status negotiations would begin as soon as possible between Israel and the Palestinians. The negotiations would cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest.

There would be a transfer of authority from the Israel Defence Forces to the authorized Palestinians, concerning education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation, and tourism.

The Council would establish a strong police force, while Israel would continue to carry the responsibility for defending against external threats.

An Israeli-Palestinian Economic Cooperation Committee would be established in order to develop and implement in a cooperative manner the programs identified in the protocols.

A redeployment of Israeli military forces in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would take place.

The Declaration of Principles would enter into force one month after its signing. All protocols annexed to the Declaration of Principles and the Agreed Minutes pertaining to it, were to be regarded as part of it.

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Annexes of the accords

Annex 1: Conditions of Palestinian Elections

This annex covered election agreements, a system of elections, rules and regulations regarding election campaigns, including agreed arrangements for the organizing of mass media, and the possibility of licensing a TV station. (Source: Reference.com)

Annex 2: Withdrawal of Israeli forces

An agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. This agreement will include comprehensive arrangements to apply in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal. Internal security and public order by the Palestinian police force consisting of police officers recruited locally and from abroad (holding Jordanian passports and Palestinian documents issued by Egypt). Those who will participate in the Palestinian police force coming from abroad should be trained as police and police officers.

  • A temporary international or foreign presence, as agreed upon.
  • Establishment of a joint Palestinian-Israeli Coordination and Cooperation Committee]] for mutual security purposes.
  • Arrangements for a safe passage for persons and transportation between the Gaza Strip and Jericho area.
  • Arrangements for coordination between both parties regarding passages: Gaza - Egypt; and Jericho - Jordan.

Annex 3: Economic cooperation

The two sides agree to establish an Israeli-Palestinian continuing Committee for economic cooperation, focusing, among other things, on the following:

  • Cooperation in the field of water
  • Cooperation in the field of electricity
  • Cooperation in the field of energy
  • Cooperation in the field of finance
  • Cooperation in the field of transport and communications
  • Cooperation in the field of trade and commerce
  • Cooperation in the field of industry
  • Cooperation in, and regulation of, labor relations
  • Cooperation in social welfare issues
  • An environmental protection plan
  • Cooperation in the field of communication and media

Annex 4: Regional development

The two sides will cooperate in the context of the multilateral peace efforts in promoting a Development Program for the region, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, to be initiated by the G7.

Agreed minutes of the accords

Minute A: General understandings

Any powers and responsibilities transferred to the Palestinians through the Declaration of Principles prior to the inauguration of the Council will be subject to the same principles pertaining to Article IV, as set out in the agreed minutes below.

Minute B: Specific understandings

Article IV: Council's jurisdiction

It was to be understood that: Jurisdiction of the Council would cover West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that would be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations.

Article VI (2): Transferring authority

It was agreed that the transfer of authority would be as follows: The Palestinians would inform the Israelis of the names of the authorized Palestinians who would assume the powers, authorities and responsibilities that would be transferred to the Palestinians according to the Declaration of Principles in the following fields: education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation, tourism, and any other authorities agreed upon.

Article VII (2): Cooperation

The Interim Agreement would also include arrangements for coordination and cooperation.

Article VII (5): Israel's powers

The withdrawal of the military government would not prevent Israel from exercising the powers and responsibilities not transferred to the Council.

Article VIII: Police

It was understood that the Interim Agreement would include arrangements for cooperation and coordination. It was also agreed that the transfer of powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian police would be accomplished in a phased manner.

Article X: Designating officials

It was agreed that the Israeli and Palestinian delegations would exchange the names of the individuals designated by them as members of the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Committee which would reach decisions by agreement.

Annex XI: Israel's continuing responsibilities

It was understood that, subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal, Israel would continue to be responsible for external security, and for internal security and public order of settlements and Israelis. Israeli military forces and civilians would be allowed to continue using roads freely within the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area.

Reaction

In Israel, a strong debate over the accords took place; the left wing supported them, while the right wing opposed them. After a two-day discussion in the Knesset on the government proclamation in the issue of the accord and the exchange of the letters, on 23 September 1993 a vote of confidence was held in which 61 Knesset members voted for the decision, 50 voted against and 8 abstained.

Palestinian reactions were also divided. Fatah, the group that represented the Palestinians in the negotiations, accepted the accords. But Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine objected to the accords because their own charters refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist in Palestine.

On both sides there were fears of the other side's intentions. Israelis suspected that the Palestinians were entering into a tactical peace agreement, and that they were not sincere about wanting to reach peace and coexistence with Israel. They saw it as part of the Ten Point Program which calls for a national authority over any piece of liberated Palestinian land, and for a secular democratic bi-national state in Israel/Palestine with equal rights for all its citizens. For evidence they brought statements by Arafat in Palestinian forums, in which he compared the accord to the Hudaibiya agreement that Muhammad signed with the sons of the tribe of Quraish. They understood those statements as an attempt to justify the signing of the accords in accordance with historical-religious precedent, with step agreements to reach final goal.

After the signing of the agreements, Israel refrained from building new settlements although the Oslo agreements stipulated no such ban. However, it continued expanding existing settlements which fell far short of the Shamir government's 1991-92 level. Construction of Housing Units Before Oslo: 1991-92 14,320 units. After Oslo: 1994-95 3,850 units; 1996-1997 3,570 units [9] although the settler population in the West Bank continued growing by around 10,000 per year.[10] The Palestinians built throughout area C administered by Israel without permit.[11]

According to the Israeli government, the Israeli's trust in the accords was undermined by the fact that after the signing, the attacks against Israel intensified,[12] which some explained as an attempt by certain Palestinian organizations to thwart the peace process. Others believed that the Palestinian Authority had no interest in stopping these attacks and was instead endorsing them. As evidence, they showed that when violence flared up in September 1996, Palestinian police turned their guns on the Israelis in clashes which left 61 Palestinians and 15 Israeli soldiers dead.[13] Important sections of the Israeli public opposed the process; notably, the Jewish settlers feared that it would lead to them losing their homes.

Many Palestinians feared that Israel was not serious about dismantling their settlements in the West Bank, especially around Jerusalem. They feared they might even accelerate their settlement program in the long run, by building more settlements and expanding existing ones.[14]

Criticisms

Legal scholar Louis René Beres has called the Oslo Accords "patently moribund", since they are "ill-founded agreements unambiguously destroyed by persistent and egregious Arab violations".[15]

The Oslo Accords may appear not to have considered factors that would influence its interpretation. For example, the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, in which at least 39 Palestinians were killed, is often blamed for undermining Palestinian trust in the process. Similarly, the expansion of Israeli settlements[16] and blockades caused the deterioration of economic conditions, and much frustration for Palestinians. These factors caused a drop in support for the accord and for those who supported it. However, the PA acknowledges that the settlements have actually provided 12,000 temporary jobs to Palestinian construction workers.[17]

There have been suggested alternatives to boundary setting and creating principles that divide Israelis and Palestinians. One alternative is to move a peace process towards the creation of a bi-national state, a "one-state solution", that promotes co-existence rather than to continuing to divide. An argument for this as a possible way of reconciliation is that neither side can wholly justify a claim for homogeneity. Palestine has a varied history of occupancy, such as the Canaanites, Hittites and Ammonites in ancient times.[18] Also, some Israeli and Palestinian thinkers have previously argued for a bi-national state as a more attractive alternative to separatism.[19]

Norwegian academics, including Norway's leading authority on the negotiations, Hilde Henriksen Waage, have focused on the flawed role of Norway during the Oslo process. In 2001, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) commissioned Waage to produce an official, comprehensive history of the Norwegian-mediated back channel negotiations. In order to do the research, she was given privileged access to all relevant, classified files in the ministry's archives. The MFA had been at the heart of the Oslo process. Waage was surprised to discover "not a single scrap of paper for the entire period from January to September 1993 - precisely the period of the back channel talks". Waage has written that, "Had the missing documents been accessible, there seems no doubt they would have shown the extent to which the Oslo process was conducted on Israel’s premises, with Norway acting as Israel's helpful errand boy".[20]

Subsequent negotiations

In addition to the first accord, namely the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government, other more specific accords are often informally also known as "Oslo":

Oslo 2

Additional agreements

Additional Israeli-Palestinian documents related to the Oslo Accords are:

Loss of credibility

Since the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada, the Oslo Accords are viewed with increasing disfavor by both the Palestinian and Israeli public. In May 2000, seven years after the Oslo Accords and five months before the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada, a survey by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at the University of Tel Aviv found that 39% of all Israelis supported the Accords and that 32% believed that the Accords would result in peace in the next few years.[21] By contrast, the May 2004 survey found that 26% of all Israelis supported the Accords and 18% believed that the Accords would result in peace in the next few years. Many Palestinians believed that the Oslo Accords had turned the PLO leadership into a tool of the Israeli state in suppressing their own people. While benefiting a small elite, the conditions of most Palestinians worsened. This was seen as one of the causes for the al-Aqsa Intifada.

Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy and treaties

See also

Issues

People

References

  1. ^ Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements
  2. ^ Dershowitz, Alan. The Case for Israel. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003. p. 3.
  3. ^ Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement Jewish Virtual Library
  4. ^ President Bush's speech to Congress al-bab.com
  5. ^ A Chronological History of the New World Order Constitution Society
  6. ^ the gulf conflict 1990-1991: Diplomacy and war in the new world order, Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh
  7. ^ a b Gaza First: the secret Norway channel to peace between Israel and the PLO, Jane Corbin
  8. ^ a b The Israel-Palestine Conflict, James L. Gelvin
  9. ^ Foundation for Middle East Peace
  10. ^ Foundation for Middle East Peace, statistics
  11. ^ http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=1127 Independent Media Review Analysis
  12. ^ In 5 Years Since Oslo, More Israelis Have Been Killed by Palestinian Terrorists than in the 15 Years Prior to the Accord Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 September 1998
  13. ^ The Palestinian Army Christians for Israel
  14. ^ Existential Threats to Israel and Palestine: Suicides and Settlements Al-Ittihad, 26 May 2002 (republished on the Nixon Center website)
  15. ^ Louise René Beres: Why Palestinian Demilitarization Won`t Work United Coalition for Israel, June 15, 2009.
  16. ^ Settlements information, Foundation for Middle East Peace. "Sources of Population Growth: Total Israeli Population and Settler Population, 1991 - 2003". http://www.fmep.org/settlement_info/stats_data/settler_population_growth/sources_population_growth_1991-2003.html. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  17. ^ http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1245924932645
  18. ^ R. Garaudy ‘The Case of Israel’ London, Shorouk International. p 32.
  19. ^ Truth and reconciliation Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue 412
  20. ^ Postscript to Oslo: The Mystery of Norway's Missing Files, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 1 (Autumn 2008)
  21. ^ Statistics on Israeli support of the Oslo Accords by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research
  • Bregman, Ahron Elusive Peace: How the Holy Land Defeated America.
  • Clinton, Bill (2005). My Life. Vintage. ISBN 1-4000-3003-X.
  • Eran, Oded. "Arab-Israel Peacemaking." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002.

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