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The Oslo Accords 1993–2013

The Oslo Accords 1993–2013: A Critical Assessment

Petter Bauck
Mohammed Omer
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    The Oslo Accords 1993–2013
    Book Description:

    Twenty years have passed since Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization concluded the Oslo Accords, or Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements for Palestine. It was declared “a political breakthrough of immense importance." Israel officially accepted the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and the PLO recognized the right of Israel to exist. Critical views were voiced at the time about how the self-government established under the leadership of Yasser Arafat created a Palestinian-administered Israeli occupation, rather than paving the way towards an independent Palestinian state with substantial economic funding from the international community. Through a number of essays written by renowned scholars and practitioners, the two decades since the Oslo Accords are scrutinized from a wide range of perspectives. Did the agreement have a reasonable chance of success? What went wrong, causing the treaty to derail and delay a real, workable solution? What are the recommendations today to show a way forward for the Israelis and the Palestinians?

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-336-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Desmond Tutu

    Those who follow the news know that history is made every day. But to appreciate the significance of history usually requires the distance of a little time, the benefit of hindsight.

    While a twenty-year span is but a flash in the history of time, it is just about a wide-enough prism through which to view events in some perspective. This book therefore adds valuable context to our collective understanding of the making and unraveling of a peace process. To revisit these events is important not just for history’s sake, but to inform the journey ahead.

    Twenty years ago much of...

  5. Foreword
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Össur Skarphéðinsson

    There was excitement in the air in 2010 as delegates to the United Nations General Assembly sat down to listen to U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech. Two years earlier, he had given the world new hope with his optimistic battle cry of “Yes, we can!“ The speech was the performance of a virtuoso. On the Israeli–Palestinian issue, the president played all the diplomatic strings required to satisfy most of his audience, but nevertheless did not shy away from stressing the need to expand the moratorium on settlements being built by the Israelis. Dramatically, Obama tossed his audience a thinly...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. xxi-xxviii)
    Petter Bauck and Mohammed Omer

    Twenty years have passed since Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), on August 13, 1993, concluded the Oslo Accords, or the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, signed on the White House lawn in Washington, D.C., on September 13, 1993. One reaction to the process was that this was a political breakthrough of immense importance. Israel officially accepted the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and the PLO recognized the right of Israel to exist.

    Critical views of the accords soon were voiced. Some focused on how the selfgovernment to be established under the leadership...

  7. Chapter 1 The Oslo Accords: Their Context, Their Consequences
    (pp. 1-12)
    Noam Chomsky

    In September 1993, United States President Bill Clinton presided over a handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn—capping off a “day of awe, ” as the press described it with reverence. The occasion was the announcement of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) for political settlement of the Israel–Palestine conflict, which resulted from secret meetings in Oslo sponsored by the Norwegian government.

    Independent negotiations had been underway between Israel and Palestinians since November 1991, initiated by the United States during the glow of success after the...

  8. Chapter 2 Revisiting 1967: The False Paradigm of Peace, Partition, and Parity
    (pp. 13-28)
    Ilan Pappé

    The view that the realities in Israel and Palestine are an example of settler colonialism has wide implications for our understanding of the present debacle in the region’s ‘peace process.’ The scholarly debate on the peace process more often than not lacks a historical dimension, and the analyses of failure and progress are based on power relations, the intentions of the local actors, and opportunities.

    The chief aim of this chapter is to examine the peace process historically as a strategy of the settler colonialist state and as a native response to it. This chapter also argues that the peace...

  9. Chapter 3 Champions of Peace? Tools in Whose Hands? Norwegians and Peace Brokering in the Middle East
    (pp. 29-40)
    Hilde Henriksen Waage

    On September 13, 1993, Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Jørgen Holst was among the prominent international actors strolling in the sun on the White House lawn in Washington, D.C. The Oslo Accords were to be signed. Through a series of secret talks held in and around Oslo, representatives of the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships had managed to agree on a declaration of principles that paved the way for the establishment of the Palestinian Self-Government Authority and mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

    Norway had made a decisive contribution to this, one of the most serious attempts at...

  10. Chapter 4 The Oslo Accords and Palestinian Civil Society
    (pp. 41-50)
    Liv Tørres

    Civil society plays a pivotal role in struggles for liberation and democracy in many parts of the world. Social movements, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and organizations such as civics, women’s groups, trade unions, and student groups generate ideas, enhance political skills, build social capital, and mobilize people for collective action. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), both social capital and collective muscles would come in handy. Palestinian organizations have developed in the absence of the state, independence, sovereignty, and citizenship (Costantini et al. 2011). Still, organizational capacity and activism are an efficient tool and building block for unity and power here...

  11. Chapter 5 ʺWe Have Opened Doors, Others Have Been Closedʺ: Women under the Oslo Accords
    (pp. 51-62)
    Lotta Schüllerqvist

    The majority of Palestinian women are seldom seen or heard in public. They have strong voices and strong minds, but the patriarchal culture requires them to keep their opinions and experiences within the family. A strong culture of silence hides most of the daily life and struggle of Palestinian women.

    As in all societies, however, there are exceptions: strong and brave women who have made remarkable careers, both in politics and society. Three of them will tell their stories in this chapter.

    The chapter will also discuss several Palestinian organizations that work actively to support women’s rights and improve their...

  12. Chapter 6 Oslo +20: A Legal Historical Perspective
    (pp. 63-74)
    Richard Falk

    When the Oslo Accords were signed on September 13, 1993, and confirmed for the world with the famous handshake on the White House lawn between Yasser Arafat and Yitzak Rabin with a smiling Bill Clinton looking on, many thought that finally the Israel–Palestine conflict was winding down or, at worst, entering its final phase. It seemed like there was a shared commitment between the parties, with strong backing from the United States, to strike a compromise more or less along the borders established by the 1948 armistice agreement that enlarged Israeli territory from the 57 percent of the British...

  13. Chapter 7 A Legal Perspective on Oslo
    (pp. 75-82)
    John V. Whitbeck

    The announcement on August 13, 1993, that secret Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, facilitated by the government of Norway, had produced the agreement which, exactly one month later, was signed between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements” (the DOP) came as not only a surprise but also a shock to many people.

    It should be recalled that the State of Palestine had been proclaimed on November 15, 1988, and rapidly recognized diplomatically by some hundred other states. Furthermore, official Israeli–Palestinian negotiations in Washington, D.C., which had been launched...

  14. Chapter 8 The Oslo Accords: A Common Savior for Israel and the PLO in Exile?
    (pp. 83-98)
    Petter Bauck

    The breakthrough in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership-in-exile, ending in the Oslo Accords, or the Declaration of Principles signed on September 13, 1993, is most often explained with the fact that Yasser Arafat supported Iraq’s Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War. As a consequence of this position, a number of Arab states terminated or drastically reduced their support to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its main member Fatah. Transfers of money from Palestinians in the Gulf states were also substantially reduced (Bishara 2001: 100). The near bankruptcy of the PLO is used as an explanation...

  15. Chapter 9 Out of the Ashes of Oslo: The Rise of Islamism and the Fall of Favoritism
    (pp. 99-108)
    Ahmed Yousef

    The implementation of the Oslo Accords, or lack thereof, provided the greatest platform for the strengthening of Palestinian opposition groups in the Occupied Territories, at the same time weakening the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Islamism in particular grew rapidly in the years that followed the 1993 signing. Organized political and militant Islamist groups first emerged in the early days of the first Intifada, which began in 1987. It was not until six years later, however, that they overshadowed the PLO in Palestinians’ minds as the carriers of the torch of resistance. Thirteen years later that shift in allegiance was evident...

  16. Chapter 10 Hamas in Transition: The Failure of Sanctions
    (pp. 109-134)
    Are Hovdenak

    Since Hamas’ electoral victory in 2006, Palestinian democratization has become heavily dependent on developments within Hamas, including its attitude to democracy, its policies toward Israel, and its international relations. The starting point of this analysis is the observation that Hamas, an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement), has undergone a rapid deradicalization process over a relatively short period of time. After having performed as a classical spoiler throughout most of the Palestinian–Israeli peace process during the 1990s (Malka 2005: 42), actively by its military operations against Israeli targets and passively by its boycott of the first Palestinian...

  17. Chapter 11 Palestinian Prisoners from Oslo to Annapolis
    (pp. 135-146)
    Sufian Abu Zaida

    The issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is considered one of the most sensitive for the Palestinian people. It is central to all of the different Palestinian organizations, their supporters, and their social and national bases. The issue started with the creation of Israel in 1948 and became a central part of the conflict after the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in 1967.

    Since then, according to statistics provided by the International Red Cross, which has been tracking the issue of prisoners for decades, the total number of Palestinian prisoners has reached more than 650,000. According to Palestinian estimates,...

  18. Chapter 12 Some Gaza Impressions, Twenty Years after Oslo
    (pp. 147-158)
    Mohammed Omer

    Twenty years have passed since the Oslo Accords and the sole responsibility for the Palestinian people has supposedly shifted from the Israeli occupation forces to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which now is tasked with the functions of healthcare, education, civil administration, and all the accounting, economical processes of the Palestinian population in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

    A forty-two-year-old Palestinian nurse working for the PA walks into a supermarket in Tal al-Hawwa, Gaza City. He has been waiting two months for his monthly pay and has just received half of it. Now he has to find a...

  19. Chapter 13 The Shattered Dream
    (pp. 159-164)
    Gideon Levy

    I, too, fell for the oh-so-promising sweet trap: the Oslo Accords worked like magic on me. The previously unthinkable handshakes on the White House lawn, Yasser Arafat shaking hands with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, President Bill Clinton standing between them, and then the similarly dramatic scenes when the Palestinian Authority entered occupied Palestine, Arafat’s festive helicopter landings in several cities, and both sides’ mutual obligation to forge a final agreement within five years. Compared to all we had known up to then, these events were unprecedented and mesmerized me. Still, the element that worked the spell on me and...

  20. Chapter 14 Palestinian Identity in the Aftermath of Oslo
    (pp. 165-178)
    Ahmed Abu Rtema

    Palestinian sociology professor Shokry al-Hazil describes the Palestinian created by Oslo as a negative, dependent being who is oblivious to national causes and whose perception of the world is personal and materialistic.¹ He or she is indifferent to the condition of his or her home and people. The culture of the aftermath of Oslo is that of the salary, the job, and indifference.²

    This is the ‘new’ Palestinian, as described by former U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Keith Dayton,³ whose role was enchanced after Hamas was elected in 2006 and whose “mission was not only...

  21. Chapter 15 Israeli Impunity
    (pp. 179-192)
    Mads Gilbert

    Several months have passed since Operation Pillar of Defense hit Gaza, four years since Operation Cast Lead, and twenty painful years since the Oslo Accords were officially signed on September 13, 1993. The negotiators proclaimed that the accords would serve as interim agreements that would lead to a final peace agreement and an independent Palestinian state within five years. Recently, Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouti stated that the accords turned out to be “a transition to nothing” and had been used as a cover by Israel “to consolidate a system of apartheid.”²

    Twenty years later, thousands of Palestinians are...

  22. Chapter 16 Public and Primary Healthcare before and after the Oslo Accords: A Personal Reflection
    (pp. 193-204)
    Haakon Aars

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties (signatories) to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005 have given the ICRC a mandate to protect victims of international and internal armed conflicts. Such victims include war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other noncombatants.

    The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, along with the ICRC and 187 distinct ‘national societies.’ IFRC, founded in 1919 and also based in Geneva,...

  23. Chapter 17 Facts in the Air: Palestinian Media Expression since Oslo
    (pp. 205-216)
    Matt Sienkiewicz

    Writing just before the signing of the Oslo Accords, Edward Said remarked with a certain sense of incredulity on the inability of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to control its own public profile. He argued that a “semiotic warfare” was waged against the organization as it attempted to stake its claim as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people (Said 1992: xix). This ‘war,’ though symbolic in its form, manifested itself concretely in the terms on which negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians took place. According to Said, the media campaign against various Palestinian leaders resulted in an unprecedented situation in...

  24. Chapter 18 Networking Palestine: The Development and Limitations of Television and Telecommunications since 1993
    (pp. 217-230)
    Helga Tawil-Souri

    While the Oslo Accords enabled Palestinian state building, they also set the stage for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to have their own technology and media infrastructures. Between 1948 and 1967, television and radio broadcasts occurred extraterritorially, under Jordanian and Egyptian control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, respectively, or through political parties in exile beaming signals from Amman, Beirut, or Cyprus. Under Israeli occupation from 1967 to 1993, Palestinians could watch and listen to Israeli broadcasts (some of which were in Arabic) or obtain signals from neighboring countries. During that time telephone lines were extremely difficult to...

  25. Chapter 19 The European Union and Israel since Oslo
    (pp. 231-240)
    Harry van Bommel

    Never before had the hope for a Palestinian state and thus an end to the Israeli occupation been so great as it was twenty years ago when the Oslo Accords were signed.¹ Since the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, however, there has no longer been any room for doubt about the failure of ‘Oslo.’ Subsequent peace initiatives have produced even less noteworthy results and died a comparatively early death.

    On both the Palestinian and the Israeli side, one can pinpoint reasons for the failure of Oslo and of later peace initiatives. On the Palestinian side, for example,...

  26. Chapter 20 A War of Ideas: The American Media on Israel and Palestine Post Oslo
    (pp. 241-258)
    Laura Lewis

    I am neither an academic nor a public figure. I am one of the millions of ordinary people throughout the world on every continent, of every faith, ethnicity, and political persuasion, who work behind the scenes toward peace and justice. Many of us, myself included, originally approached the issue of Israel and its occupation as strong supporters of Zionism. We failed to notice the inequities, unasked questions, and lack of historical context in the reporting until, one day, something caused each of us to question. For me it was the news coverage following September 11, 2001, an article about the...

  27. Chapter 21 Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Abuses under Oslo
    (pp. 259-270)
    Yasmine Gado

    “The people want the downfall of Oslo” was the protesters’ call in recent demonstrations in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, echoing the popular chant of protesters elsewhere in the region demanding the downfall of dictatorial regimes.

    Palestinian opposition to the Oslo ‘peace process’ is widespread, with many viewing boycotts, civil disobedience, and hunger strikes as more effective mechanisms to assert their rights than a negotiated settlement with Israel. This loss of faith is not surprising given the dramatic worsening in living conditions over the twenty years since the first Oslo agreement was signed. In the forty-sixth year of the...