Struggle of Peace in the Middle East (1945 – )
6 minute podcast.
You will need to include discussion of the course of these processes and evaluate the short-term and long-term impacts of peace process and settlements.
• The role of key individuals, movements, nations, regional governments, international powers, and the UN in brokering ceasefires and peace settlements
• The terms of peace settlements, including how they were negotiated, and how they were viewed by parties to the conflict (s)
• The process of monitoring peace and preventing further conflict.
Today we are going to talk about the Oslo Accords, a set of agreements signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1993 and 1995.
You see, the peace process in the Middle East wasn’t going particularly great in the 1990s. Many Israelis considered the Palestine Liberation Organisation a terrorist organisation. The PLO, at the meantime, refused to acknowledge the existence of the Jewish state. Furthermore, as the Palestinian uprising of the First Intifada intensified, chaos started to emerge in the Israeli occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.
In 1993, Israeli officials led by Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leaders from the PLO led by Yasser Arafat started to strive for a peaceful solution for the long-lasting conflict through secret negotiations in Oslo, Norway. With the Norwegians acting as mediators, an agreement was reached upon the Oslo I Accord, officially known as the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements on 1 September.
A crucial milestone in the Oslo peace process was the signing of a “Letter of Mutual Recognition”. On 9 – 10 September 1993, just days before the formal signing of Oslo I, Arafat and Rabin exchanged letters in which the PLO agreed to recognise the state of Israel, and the Israelis acknowledged the PLO as a “representative of the Palestinian people.” However, it’s worth noticing that Rabin neither made any commitments beyond recognition, nor did he acknowledge Palestine as a state. This reflected the asymmetry nature of the Oslo Accords and Israeli dominance toward PLO.
Now let’s talk about the actual accords. The accords were divided into two: The first chapter Oslo I detailed a declaration of principles on Interim Palestinian self-government; while the second chapter Oslo II was finalised in 1995 and included an expansion of the Palestinian Authority’s territories, mutual security engagements and the regulation of Israeli-Palestinian relations.
The Oslo Accords shared considerable similarity with the 1978 Camp David Accords, as it merely aimed at an interim agreement that allowed setting up a framework that would lead to the resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
The terms of peace settlements
On 13 September, witnessed by American President Bill Clinton, Oslo I Accord were signed in the presence of PLO leader Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Rabin in Washington. As an accord that based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, it was agreed that Israel would gradually withdraw from the Palestinian territories over to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. The document also promises the establishment of a Palestinian National Authority (PNA) (Palestinian Legislative Council???) which assumed governing responsibilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over a five-year interim period. The following year in May 1994, the first phase of the Oslo Accords was implemented through the signing of the Cairo Agreement, which finalised Israel’s withdrawal from most of Gaza and Jericho. As part of the agreement, Israel also released 5,000 Palestinian prisoners.
?Where should I put this paragraph??Although the agreements recognise the Palestinian “legitimate and political rights,” they remain silent about their fate after the interim period. The Oslo Accords neither define the nature of the post-Oslo Palestinian self-government and its powers and responsibilities, nor do they define the borders of the territory it eventually would govern.
End of the First Intifada
By recognising Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, the signing of Oslo I Accord put an end to the first Intifada, which had lasted for six years. However,
On both sides of the Israeli – Palestinian divide, the Rabin – Arafat deal provoked strong opposition on the part of the hardliners.
Both leaders were accused of a traitor who betrayed his country. In Israel, leaders of the right-wing parties including Likud and other nationalistic parties attacked Rabin for his departure form the policy of refusing to negotiate with the PLO, calling the Oslo Accords “the end of Great Israel.”
A contemporary Gallup poll showed, however, 65 % of the Israelis approved the peace accord, with only 13% describing themselves as ‘very much against’, indicating considerable support for the prime minister.
Within the Palestinian camp the accord also encountered opposition. Despite of the oppositions from the radical nationalists including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Damascus-based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Arafat succeeded in mustering support from the majority of the PLO Executive Committee.
Outside the PLO, the Oslo Accord aroused the implacable wrath of the militant resistance groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who regarded any compromise with the Jewish state as anathema.
Despite of the domestic opposition from both sides, Israel and Palestine reached further agreement in September 1995 with the signing of Oslo II in Taba, Egypt, formally known as the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement.
The Oslo II agreement divided the West Bank into separate areas: Area A, which was under Palestinian control; Area B, which was under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control; and Area C, which was to be under Israeli control. The idea was that this arrangement would be a temporary one of around five years during which time the two parties would work out a permanent agreement. Unfortunately, no final settlement has been reached ever since, Israel still has control of 61% of the West Bank in 2013.
The fragmentation of the West Bank had enormous impacts on the West Bank. Israeli troops were redeployed to specified military positions to ensure security, while the Palestinian Authority started to exercise its autonomy by replacing Israeli military forces in Area A with Palestinian Police.
Oslo II also set provisions for elections, civil/legal affairs, and other bilateral Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on various issues. Not only a protocol for free elections for Palestinian Authority leadership was created, parameters for economic and political cooperation between the two sides were also established. The economic relationship is implanted based on the 1994 Paris Protocol signed. The protocol integrated the Palestinian economy into the Israeli one by creating a customs union, under which Israel collects taxes and customs duties on the Palestinians’ behalf, and laid out detailed arrangements for imports and exports from the West Bank and Gaza.
How the both sides perceive Oslo II
The collapse of the Oslo Accords
When it seemed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may actually result in peace, the process took a turning point at the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995. Rabin’s murder was followed by a string of terrorist attacks by Hamas, weakening the fragile peace that had just been established.
Worried that the peace process might collapse, the Clinton administration involved itself more actively in Israeli-Palestinian peace process, facilitating negotiations including Hebron Protocol and Wye Memorandum, calling for further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank and Hebron.
However, these attempts were proved ineffective, as in 1998, Palestinian officials accused Israel of not following the accords of withdrawing troops from Gaza and Hebron. And, after initially slowing down settlement construction in the West Bank, the building of Israeli housing began to expand again in the early 2000s.
Clinton organised a summit at Camp David in July 2000, where he, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, and Arafat attempted to revive the spirit of the Oslo Accords, and reach a final agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Accounts differ as to why Camp David failed, but it is clear that despite additional concessions by Barak, the Israelis and Palestinians remained strongly at odds over borders, Jerusalem, and whether Israel would recognise Palestinian refugees’ “right of return.” The summit ended without a settlement, leading to the end the Oslo peace process and the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000.
By the end of 2000, the prospect of ending the Arab-Israeli conflict looked more distant than it had eight years earlier. However, the Oslo Accords did accomplish something. It set the foundations for Palestinian self-rule. Also, the negotiations helped Israel and the Palestinians break numerous diplomatic taboos and establish a basis for what a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace might look like. Unfortunately, a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict remained absent.