The Oslo Accords Are Dead -- And the Palestinians Killed Them

Why the Palestinian Authority no longer has any legitimacy.

On August 13th the Jerusalem Post reported the release of a report on Palestinian incitement, authored by Strategic Affairs Ministry director-general Yossi Kuperwasser. Among other things Kuperwasser wrote:

The bottom line is that Palestinian incitement is “going on all the time,” adding that the phenomenon is “worrying and disturbing.” He said that at an institutional level the Palestinian Authority was continuously driving three messages home: that the Palestinians would eventually be the sole sovereign on all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea; that Jews, especially those who live in Israel, were not really human beings but rather “the scum of mankind”; and that all tools were legitimate in the struggle against Israel and the Jews, though the specific tool used at one time or another depended on a cost-benefit analysis.

The unceasing phenomenon of Palestinian anti-Israel incitement is prima facie evidence that Oslo is dead.

When international agreements like the Oslo Accords are born it is very difficult for them to go out of existence. In general in the world of international diplomacy, when two countries make a diplomatic agreement it is permanent, like a country’s laws or its constitution. Once the powers that be agree on the small print in the newly codified laws or the country’s venerable constitution these documents are solidified. They remain in existence and remain in force ad infinitum – just like the countries themselves.

When Israel and the Palestinians signed the Declaration of Principles for the Oslo Accords in September 1993, the general assumption then also was that the agreement would be permanent and provide a constellation for bilateral negotiations between the sides that would ultimately lead to a permanent settlement.

In fact a series of twisting, difficult negotiations took place between the sides all through the 1990s and these negotiations also produced viable agreements. It looked like Oslo really was the answer to reaching a permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Oslo 2 Agreement, for example, signed in 1995 turned control over to the Palestinian Authority in the following West Bank cities – Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Tulkarm, and some 450 villages. This agreement is a clear demonstration of Israeli good will and good intentions under Oslo. Oslo’s underlying purpose was to bring about the termination of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and here under Oslo 2 Israel was following the letter of the law.

Then PM Ehud Barak came along and attempted not only to negotiate territorial and political issues with the Palestinian side but go the whole nine yards and reach an end to the whole conflict.

Barak’s dramatic offer to Arafat at Camp David in the summer of 2000 reportedly included the following proposals to achieve an end to the conflict:

• Israeli redeployment from 95% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip;

• The creation of a Palestinian state in the areas of Israeli withdrawal;

• The removal of isolated settlements and transfer of the land to Palestinian control;

• Other Israeli land exchanged for West Bank settlements remaining under Israeli control;

• Palestinian control over East Jerusalem, including most of the Old City; and

• “Religious Sovereignty” over the Temple Mount, replacing Israeli sovereignty in effect since 1967.

Arafat for his part simply rejected the offer. Around January 2001 Clinton met with Arafat again in the White House but there were no developments. Except that President Clinton was deeply offended and insulted that Arafat turned down the best offer for a peace settlement anyone would ever offer him. Indeed, inexplicably Arafat and his team said no again to the US-brokered Israeli proposals and they had no proposals of their own to offer.

Of course the immediate Palestinian response following the failure of the Camp David summit was the bloody Second Intifada. The brutal terrorist violence of the Second Intifada lasted through 2004 and took the lives of 1000 innocent Israelis. One shift on the Palestinian side was that Arafat was pressured to surrender a measure of power, and he did so by appointing Abu Mazen as prime minister in 2003.

Abu Mazen later succeeded Arafat as Chairman of the Palestinian Authority and it was with him that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert conducted a long series of intense negotiations. These negotiations culminated in yet another extremely generous Israeli offer to the Palestinians that would conceivably answer all their needs and lead to a permanent settlement between the sides. However Abu Mazen just let Olmert’s offer roll off his back and did not respond one way or the other.

Olmert in fact concluded that if the Palestinians never respond to his plan there is no point in negotiating with them at all.

Although the Oslo Agreement is predicated on bilateral negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel it seems that 2008 is the last year in which the Palestinians willingly participated in such talks with Israel. Clearly PM Olmert went the extra mile to negotiate with the Palestinian side during his term of office. But almost from the moment he was replaced as PM by Benjamin Netanyahu the Palestinians chose to turn their backs on bilateral negotiations in favor of a unilateral attempt to achieve statehood recognition in the UN.

Their statehood scheme in the UN failed, however, because the UN Security Council would not approve, and the US threatened to veto the move. It goes without saying that from the moment the Palestinians chose the unilateral path to statehood in the UN, there have been no bilateral negotiations whatsoever. The Palestinians claim that if Israel will agree to withdraw to the 1967 lines and stop building in the Jewish settlements they will agree to resume negotiations. But these are totally unacceptable preconditions and Israel will not concede on them. Israel has repeatedly stated it will negotiate with the Palestinians without preconditions. But for the Palestinian side it seems to be standard operating procedure to refuse every offer to negotiate and seek their fate on a unilateral plane. Consequently this approach to the problem has led to a protracted stalemate. No negotiations. No agreements. No nothing.

The stalemate has lasted so long, however, that one must ask if the Oslo process isn’t just dead in the water – but actually dead with no chance of revival or arousal.

Common sense and a superficial review of history unfortunately lead to the conclusion that Oslo is dead – and the Palestinians killed it. But attributing blame for the demise of Oslo isn’t productive. The critical issue Israel faces as a result of the death of Oslo is how to cope with the social and political reality that exists without leaning on the agreement that effectively governed Palestinian/Israeli relations since 1993. How does Israel proceed into the future -- in other words, with the reality of occupying the West Bank and the lives of some 1.5 million Palestinians?

The answer isn’t a case of atomic science. Between 1967 and 1993 institutions and policies were established by the Israeli government that deal with the procedures in place for dealing with the Palestinian population in the West Bank. Since Hamas took over Gaza, that area is a no man’s land and will never be included in any negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. But the question is moot because there will never be any negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. The Palestinian desire for self-determination in the West Bank, in other words, is a complete hallucination. Oslo foresaw Palestinian self-determination at the end of the process, but the Palestinians have eviscerated Oslo. Israel’s only logical path facing a dead Oslo Agreement is to turn the clock back to before 1993 and deal with the West Bank as it was handled before 1993. Recognition of the Palestinian Authority and all dealings with it should be erased from the picture. It is an antagonist to Israel and its behavior proves it has thrown the positive substance and logic for which it was created in the garbage.

The country must adapt to the disappearance of the main historic framework for achieving a mutually acceptable settlement of the conflict. But better to adapt to this than to go on endlessly under the illusion that the Palestinian Authority has something positive to offer along the lines of peace.

The operation of the Palestinian Authority is based on finding any way under the sun to stab Israel in the back – and even though they know they will achieve nothing from stabbing Israel in the back, they persist in doing this because stabbing Israel in the back is what motivates them and gives them satisfaction in general.

That was not the character of the Palestinian side’s behavior when Oslo was born in 1993. But one would have to be blind to ignore the fact that today the Palestinian side wants nothing more than to stab Israel in the back. Consequently, Israel must make a severe assessment of the Oslo Agreement. And the assessment must be that the agreement is indeed dead and something needs to take its place. Insofar as the prospects for positive developments are incredibly dim, the logical approach is to revert to the status quo ante – the status quo before 1993 and let the chips fall where they may.

Once upon a time the Oslo process envisioned Palestinian self-determination and even Palestinian independence in the occupied territories. In 2012, however, the Palestinians have snubbed their noses at peace and coexistence with Israel, are making completely illogical and unattainable demands, and there is no profit for Israel in maintaining the illusion that the Palestinian side’s objectives have anything whatsoever to do with reality. In particular the Palestinians seem to think that the Oslo Accords are still operational but they aren’t. The Oslo Accords are dead and the Palestinians killed them.

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