The Oslo ‘peace’ agreement, 20 years on

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has urged the US to make ‘the biggest effort in 20 years’ for a peace agreement. The last ‘big effort’ was the Oslo peace accords, signed at the White House 20 years ago, on 13 September 1993. Led by US President Bill Clinton and heralded with the (in)famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasir Arafat, the agreement ignored key issues – the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the status of Israel’s illegal settlements, and the borders of a future Palestinian ‘entity’ (the words ‘Palestinian state’ were not used). These issues were set aside for discussion as part of a five year process that never happened. In return for PLO recognition of Israel – a rejection of the right of return – the Palestinian leadership believed they would gain a state in the remaining 22% of historic Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital city. Mahmoud Abbas, today the unelected president of the Palestinian Authority, wrote the Palestinian documents submitted for Oslo. Robert Fisk writes that Abbas wrote ‘600 pages in which he did not once use the word occupation'. In which he referred only to the 'redeployment of the Israeli army rather than its withdrawal.’*

Since Oslo, more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces; over 86,000 Palestinians have been arrested; 5,000 remain in Israeli prisons, including children, plus 136 in ‘administrative detention’, without charge or trial. Since 1993 the Israeli state has been responsible for atrocities such as Jenin in 2002, the 2006 war on Lebanon, the continuing siege of Gaza and recent airstrikes on Syria, to name a few. It has built 441 miles of apartheid wall in the West Bank and destroyed over 12,000 Palestinian homes, bringing in more than 250,000 settlers.

Writing against the agreement in the London Review of Books, Palestinian writer Edward Said called Oslo ‘an instrument of Palestinian surrender’. Israeli liberal Avi Shlaim wrote an opposing article saying the agreement could lead to a Palestinian state. But in September 2013 he wrote, ‘From today’s perspective, 20 years on, it is clear that Said was right in his analysis and I was wrong.’

Palestinians today see Oslo as a great betrayal. Yazan, a student from occupied Jerusalem, told FRFI that, ‘For me Oslo was the third catastrophe that happened to Palestinians after the nakbah of 1948 and the naksa of 1967. Instead of being the end of a process (as many Palestinians incorrectly thought), it was the beginning of a process. But it has not been a process of peace, it has been a process of settlement expansions, dispossession, appropriation and killing. It has been a process characterised by racist Israeli policies, right-wing Israeli politicians, and the denial of our very existence.’

Louis Brehony

* Robert Fisk, The Great War For Civilisation, p1268

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013


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