The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles (DOP) was a milestone in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was the first direct, face-to-face agreement between Israel and political representatives of Palestinians. It was the first time that some Palestinian factions publicly acknowledged Israel's right to exist. It was intended to be a framework for the future relations between Israel and the anticipated Palestinian state, when all outstanding final status issues between the two states would be addressed and resolved in one Package Agreement
The Accords were finalized in Oslo, Norway on 20 August 1993, and subsequently officially signed at a public ceremony in Washington D.C. on 13 September 1993, with Yasser Arafat signing for the Palestine Liberation Organization and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signing for the State of Israel. It was witnessed by Warren Christopher for the United States and Andrei Kozyrev for Russia, in the presence of US President Bill Clinton.
The Oslo Accords were a framework for the future relations between the two parties. The Accords provided for the creation of a Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority would have responsibility for the administration of the territory under its control. It also called for the withdrawal of the Israel Defence Forces 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 Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and borders were deliberately left to be decided at a later stage. Interim 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. The repeated public posturing of all sides has discredited the process, not to mention putting into question the possibility of achieving peace, at least in the short-term. The momentum towards peaceful relations between Israel and the Palestinians as demonstrated by the signing of the Oslo Accords has been seriously jolted by the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.
Further strain was put on the process after Hamas won 2006 Palestinian elections. Although offering Israel a number of longterm ceasefires and accepting the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, Hamas has repeatedly refused to officially recognise Israel, to renounce violent resistance, or accept some agreements previously made by the Palestinian Authority, claiming it is being held to an unfair standard and points out the fact that Israel has not recognized a Palestinian state, renounced violence or lived up to all pledges it has made during previous negotiations. Hamas has always renounced the Oslo Accords.
From the Rhodes conference in 1949 to the Madrid Conference of 1991 there were many failed attempts for a settlement to bring about a lasting end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, what made the Oslo negotiations different was the decision to hold direct, face-to-face talks, between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
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.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, optimism was high, 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.
Despite that, the hope of a New World Order was short-lived; for Israelis the optimism of the moment appealed to them, as some had become tired of the constant violence of the First Intifada, and started to look at realizing the economic benefits in the new global economy. Many were willing to take risks for peace.
Furthermore, 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. The Gulf War had also shown that a superior air force and technology was more important than territory in winning a war.
As a result of these and other factors, as much as sixty percent of Israelis supported the Oslo Accords when they were first presented.
For the Palestine Liberation Organization, the deterioration of the Soviet Union, starting in 1989, presented them with the loss of their most important diplomatic patron, along with a failing relationship between Moscow and Arafat.
Another event which pushed the PLO to the accords was the fallout from the Gulf War, which was the cutting off of financial assistance from the Arab Gulf states as a result of Arafat having taken a pro-Iraqi stand. This culminated with the PLO not being invited to the Madrid Conference of October 1991 at which Israel discussed peace with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestinian groups who were not associated with the PLO.
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 fourteen meetings in Oslo. During the first few meetings a concept of an accord was discussed and agreed upon. Israeli minister of foreign affairs 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 were able to keep the meetings away from the public eye, using the research institute Fafo as a front.
In August 1993, the delegations had reached an agreement which was signed in secrecy by Shimon Peres while visiting Oslo, after which Shimon Peres took the agreement to the United States to the surprise of US negotiator Dennis Ross. The Palestinians and Israelis still had one more obstacle; they did not yet agree on the wording of a mutual agreement, in which the PLO would acknowledge the state of Israel and pledge to reject violence, and Israel would recognise the 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.
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 Authority. Palestinian rule was to 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 Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, and security and borders were deliberately excluded from the Accords and left to be decided. The interim self-government was to be granted in phases. Until a final status accord was established, West Bank and Gaza would be divided into three zones:
Together 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, violence and its desire for the destruction of Israel.
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 should 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 the Gaza Strip 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 IDF 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, should be regarded as part of it.
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.
The Palestinian reactions to the accords were not homogeneous, either. 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, which were known as the "refusal organizations", objected to the accords because their 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 at all to reach peace and coexistence with Israel, but saw it as part of the Ten Point Program (which is called in Israel Tokhnit HaSHlavim or Torat HaSHlavim). For evidence they brought statements of Arafat's in Palestinian forums in which he compared the accord to the Hudaibiya agreement that Muhammad signed with the sons of the tribe of Quraish. Those statements would then be understood as an attempt to justify the signing of the accords in accordance with historical-religious precedent, with no intention of honoring it.
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 and the population of settlers in the West Bank continued growing with the same speed of around 10.000 yearly, although the construction of housing units slowed down sharply . The Israeli's trust in the accords was undermined by the fact, according to the Israeli government, that after the signing of the accords the attacks against Israel did not cease and even intensified, 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. 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.
Some academics have argued that the principles of the Oslo Accord simply cannot be accepted by both parties as it could serve only to separate further still the Israelis and Palestinians: both of whom believe they have a valid claim to the land they are fighting over, by creating a superior one over an inferior other.
There have been suggested alternatives to boundary setting and creating principles that divide the Israeli and Palestinians. One alternative that has the potential to be accepted by both parties is to rethink the principles of the Oslo Accord and move a peace process towards the creation of a bi-national state 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. Also, some Israeli and Palestinian thinkers have previously argued for a bi-national state as a more attractive alternative to separatism.
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":
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.. 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.
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