The actual reality in Palestine today is a direct result of the Oslo Accords and is precisely what Israel had always wanted: advancing deeper and more entrenched Israeli control over the lives, land and resources in Palestine while maintaining the appearance of a peace process, the failure of which is blamed on the Palestinians.
WASHINGTON — The intention behind the Oslo Accords, one can argue, was made evident when, almost to the day on the 25th anniversary of the accords, the U.S. closed the PLO mission in Washington. The State Department cited the Palestinian failure to “advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” according to a report in the The New Yorker. The Head of Mission, Husam Zomlot, was then, like a criminal, deported, his personal bank account frozen, and his children taken out of school.
Misconceptions regarding Oslo
Though the prevailing opinion regarding the Oslo Agreements is that they were intended to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace but failed, the fact is that Israel’s intentions were very different. The actual reality in Palestine today is a direct result of the Oslo Accords and is precisely what Israel had always wanted: advancing deeper and more entrenched Israeli control over the lives, land and resources in Palestine while maintaining the appearance of a peace process, the failure of which is blamed on the Palestinians.
Article I of the Oslo Accords states:
Aim of negotiations:
The aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, the elected Council (the “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 Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).
Neither one of these UN resolutions, 242 or 338, touches on the rights of the Palestinians to self-determination. In fact, the Palestinian people are not mentioned at all in these resolutions, other than a short, vague comment in resolution 242 stating that the Security Council affirms the necessity “for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.” But the resolution offers no specifics. One has to wonder, then, what was the aim of the negotiations?
It is interesting to juxtapose the Zionist attitudes towards Palestine with those of the Palestinian national movement, which is represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization, the PLO. The Zionist movement fought hard to receive international recognition and its crowning achievement was the passing of UN resolution 181, on November 29, 1947. This resolution called for the partition of Palestine and legitimized the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. While the Zionists always maintained that they had accepted the resolution and that the “Arabs” rejected it, within a month of this resolution being passed Zionist militia were already destroying villages and communities throughout the country, shelling Palestinian neighborhoods in the port city of Haifa, and forcing Palestinian into exile. They continued these attacks for over a year until the majority of the country was in their hands and the majority of the Palestinian people were out.
Palestinians took some time to recover from the destruction, forced exile, and violent takeover of their land, and it wasn’t until the mid-1960’s that the PLO had emerged as a national resistance movement demanding the liberation of the land that was rightfully theirs and the return of the refugees. After the 1967 Mideast War, Israel was presented with a second opportunity to implement the partition of Palestine, only this time the Palestinian’s would get only the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel responded with continued mass forced exile, destruction of Palestinian towns and communities, and massive building for Jews only.
By the mid-1970’s the Palestinian demand went from the freeing all of Palestine to a call for a democratic state with equal rights. From there it evolved to accepting whatever part of Palestine could be freed, until the 1988 declaration by Yasser Arafat that announced the full recognition of the state of Israel, dropping the armed resistance and a readiness to engage in peace talks. This gave the Palestinians nothing until, in 1993 as a result of the Oslo Accords, the PLO got Jericho and Gaza in which to establish some autonomy. Israel in the meantime had integrated the West Bank, now called Judea and Samaria, with cities and towns, highways and shopping malls all built for Jews only; and the Palestinians who remained in what used to be the West Bank were, and still are, living in small enclosures surrounded by checkpoints and bypass roads.
The end of Oslo
One may argue that the closure of the PLO mission in Washington is the official end of the Oslo process. U.S. policies since the end of 2017 could not have been more aligned with Israeli interests and the current U.S. administration could not be more friendly to Israel. Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, pulling out of the Iran agreement, and ceasing the funding of key UN Palestinian relief organization UNRWA all served Israeli interests. As for the closure of the PLO mission, now that Israel has achieved its goals there is no need for pretense, and the mission was merely part of the facade, as though there was any intention to allow for a Palestinian state to emerge.
The Palestinian national movement dropped its armed struggle and its demands for a free Palestine, heeded the advice of so-called friends, and succumbed to the pressures of the U.S. in the hopes of a peace agreement that would at the very least satisfy the Palestinian desire for self-determination. Instead, 25 years after the Oslo Accords were signed in Washington, they got the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Nation-State Law that declares that Palestinians have no right to self-determination on their own land, and the closure of their mission in Washington.
One wonders whether in retrospect — with hindsight being the 20/20 vision it is — the Palestinian national movement would have done better had it continued to fight. As the Vietcong did, defeating the U.S. in Vietnam; the FLN did, defeating France in Algeria; and Hezbollah did, defeating Israel in Lebanon, perhaps the PLO would have defeated the Zionists and freed its people and its land.
Top Photo | In this photo taken Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, a Palestinian woman walks on a street in the West Bank town of Abu Dis, along a barrier separating from east Jerusalem. Twenty years after the two sides signed the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn, the words that launched Israeli-Palestinian talks on dividing the Holy Land into two states ring hollow. Nasser Nasser | AP
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”