From the Oslo Accords to the Peace Summit Walkouts

A guest post fae Wullie Drennan

OSLO ACCORDS avi

The Oslo I Accord (1993), signed on the White House lawn in 1993, saw Israel recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and the PLO recognize the State of Israel’s right to exist. The Accords designed to establish an interim self-governing Palestinian elected council in the West Bank and Gaza. The Oslo I Accord provided that

Permanent status negotiations will commence as soon as possible, but not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period, between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian people representatives.

It is understood that these negotiations shall cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbours, and other issues of common interest.

The two parties agree that the outcome of the permanent status negotiations should not be prejudiced or pre-empted by agreements reached for the interim period. [SOURCE]

A year later, the Gaza-Jericho Agreement (1994) saw the interim council come into being and the five-year interim period actually begin. This council was the Palestinian National Authority (PA). The agreement also provided for Israeli troop redeployment from the majority of the Gaza strip and a 65 km square area encompassing Jericho and the surrounding area and the authority transferred to the newly formed PA. Israel was to remain in control of the borders, the Jewish settlements in Gaza, was to have responsibility from the roads leading from these settlements to Israel, and was to ensure safe passage for Palestinians between Gaza and the Jericho area.

The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (1995), or Oslo II Accord, outlined terms for the relationship between this Palestinian interim Council and Israel as follows

Israel and the Council shall seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and shall accordingly abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other and, without derogating from the principle of freedom of expression, shall take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups or individuals within their jurisdiction. [SOURCE]

The Oslo II Accord saw the division of the West Bank into three main areas with different degrees of control. Area A, the towns of Jenin, Qalqilya, Tulkarem, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron, was to be under complete Palestinian civilian and security control. Area B comprised of virtually all other Palestinian population centres save a number of refugee camps and was to be under Palestinian civil control but the overriding security responsibility of Israel. Area C was all Israeli settlements, military bases and state lands in the West Bank and these were under complete Israeli civilian and security control. The Accord provided that IDF troops were to redeploy from Palestinian territory in three phases of FRDs (further redeployments).

Israeli redeployment According to Geoffrey Aronson of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, by 20 October 1998,

The Oslo II agreement had resulted in the transfer of two percent of West Bank territory to Palestinian security and civil control (Area A) and 26 percent to Palestinian civil control only (Area B). Israel retained military and civil control over 72 percent of the West Bank (Area C). [SOURCE]

In a section titled ‘Where Things Now Stand’, from the same brief published in April 2000, he wrote

According to Amnesty International’s report, Israel and the Occupied Territories: The Demolition and Dispossession of Palestinian Homes (December 1999), the Oslo agreements have created 227 separate areas in the West Bank under partial or full Palestinian control. Of these, 199 measure less than two square kilometers. Some 40,000 Palestinians live in Area C; however, all Palestinians live within six kilometers of a location designated as Area C.

Israel has not evacuated any settlements in the course of the Oslo redeployments. The number of West Bank settlements it recognizes has actually increased by approximately 30, to more than 180, with a population of approximately 185,000. The total number of Israeli settlers throughout the Occupied Territories now numbers some 400,000.

The latest redeployment, which took place on 21 March 2000, is the third stage of the second FRD required by Oslo II. There is no agreed upon date for the implementation of the third FRD specified by Oslo II, nor is there a consensus about the amount of land to be transferred. On the latter score, Netanyahu indicated that he would transfer to PA control no more than one percent of Area C in fulfillment of Oslo II commitments. Current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has signaled that he will not be bound by Netanyahu’s intention, although he has not committed himself to either the size or date of that redeployment. The PA, on the other hand, expects that Israel’s full implementation of its Oslo II commitments will result in an Israeli redeployment from all but 12 percent of the West Bank. Their formal expectations regarding the Gaza Strip have never been declared. [SOURCE]

In 2000, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met with Bill Clinton at the Middle East Peace Summit. Both sides accused each other of failing to honour the agreements and of being inflexible. The Summit ended with both parties walking out.

If Israel’s main motivation when getting involved in the Oslo peace process was security, this was something that they ultimately did not receive. At the same time, there was little being offered to Palestine in exchange for this peace and emphatically Palestinian independence was absent from the terms. There was no prohibition on Israeli settler expansionism (settler colonisation) and the number of Israeli settlements was allowed to increase exponentially in the occupied territories. In 2001, Netanyahu explained how he abandoned the Oslo Accords in the late 90s by playing on the interpretation of what did and did not constitute a military zone.

It can be argued that the main and most damaging effect of the Oslo Accords was the atmosphere of civil war created by the Hamas / Fatah split. While Fatah, who dominated the PLO, promised non-violence in keeping with the terms of the Oslo Accords, Hamas believed that violent resistance should continue until the occupation was ended. The agreement promised security for land and neither was forthcoming. The split that occurred at this point shaped the Fatah-Hamas conflict that began in 2006 and which led to separate Gaza and West Bank governments, Fatah/PA sponsorship of the Blockade of the Gaza strip and a divided Palestine.

If the Imperialist Brits were looking to introduce a loyalist and dependent population when they sponsored a Zionist settlement in Palestine in the early 20th Century (to protect their interests in Egypt), it is interesting to ask whether or not the Oslo Accords had a similar goal of creating unwitting ‘collaborators’ in the PA.

A few months after the Middle East Peace Summit, Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount with authority from the PA and the IDF responded to civilian stone throwing with lethal ammunition, sparking The Second Intifada (also known as the Oslo War) in which over 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians lost their lives.

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