This posting has these items on the Oslo Accords and the twenty years since they were signed.
1) Guardian: It’s now clear: the Oslo peace accords were wrecked by Netanyahu’s bad faith, Avi Shlaim explains why Edward Said was right and he was wrong to hope the Oslo accords would lead to an independent Palestine;
2) Al Ahram: New peace talks haunted by failures of Oslo;
3) Mondoweiss: Timeline: Twenty years of failed US-led peace talks comprehensive list of the US attempts to fix Israel/Palestine;
4) Al Jazeera Infographic: Twenty years of Oslo, Ben White introduces the infographic of Palestinian life after Oslo;
Palestine imagined as an archipelago – or a piece of Swiss cheese (item 2). From Strange Maps.
I thought the peace accords 20 years ago could work, but Israel used them as cover for its colonial project in Palestine
By Avi Shlaim, Guardian,
September 12/13 2013
Exactly 20 years have passed since the Oslo accords were signed on the White House lawn. For all their shortcomings and ambiguities, the accords constituted a historic breakthrough in the century-old conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. It was the first peace agreement between the two principal parties to the conflict: Israelis and Palestinians.
The accords represented real progress on three fronts: the Palestine Liberation Organisation recognised the state of Israel; Israel recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people; and both sides agreed to resolve their outstanding differences by peaceful means. Mutual recognition replaced mutual rejection. In short, this promised at least the beginning of a reconciliation between two bitterly antagonistic national movements. And the hesitant handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat clinched the historic compromise.
Critical to the architecture of Oslo was the notion of gradualism. The text did not address any of the key issues in this dispute: Jerusalem; the right of return of 1948 refugees; the status of Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian land; or the borders of the Palestinian entity. All these “permanent status” issues were deferred for negotiations towards the end of the five-year transition period. Basically, this was a modest experiment in Palestinian self-government, starting with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.
The text did not promise or even mention an independent Palestinian state at the end of the transition period. The Palestinians believed that in return for giving up their claim to 78% of historic Palestine, they would gain an independent state in the remaining 22%, with a capital city in Jerusalem. They were to be bitterly disappointed.
Controversy surrounded Oslo from the moment it saw the light of day. The 21 October 1993 issue of the London Review of Books ran two articles; Edward Said put the case against in the first. He called the agreement “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles”, arguing that it set aside international legality and compromised the fundamental national rights of the Palestinian people. It could not advance genuine Palestinian self-determination because that meant freedom, sovereignty, and equality, rather than perpetual subservience to Israel.
In my own article I put the case for Oslo. I believed that it would set in motion a gradual but irreversible process of Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and that it would pave the way to Palestinian statehood. From today’s perspective, 20 years on, it is clear that Said was right in his analysis and I was wrong.
In 2000 the Oslo peace process broke down following the failure of the Camp David summit and the outbreak of the second intifada. Why? Israelis claim that the Palestinians made a strategic choice to return to violence and consequently there was no Palestinian partner for peace. As I see it, Palestinian violence was a contributory factor, but not the main cause. The fundamental reason was that Israel reneged on its side of the deal.
Sadly, the Jewish fanatic who assassinated Rabin in 1995 achieved his broader aim of derailing the peace train. In 1996 the rightwing Likud returned to power under the leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu. He made no effort to conceal his deep antagonism to Oslo, denouncing it as incompatible with Israel’s right to security and with the historic right of the Jewish people to the whole land of Israel. And he spent his first three years as PM in a largely successful attempt to arrest, undermine, and subvert the accords concluded by his Labour predecessors.
Particularly destructive of the peace project was the policy of expanding Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. These settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a huge obstacle to peace. Building civilian settlements beyond the Green Line does not violate the letter of the Oslo accords but it most decidedly violates its spirit. As a result of settlement expansion the area available for a Palestinian state has been steadily shrinking to the point where a two-state solution is barely conceivable.
The so-called security barrier that Israel has been building on the West Bank since 2002 further encroaches on Palestinian land. Land-grabbing and peace-making do not go together: it is one or the other. Oslo is essentially a land-for-peace deal. By expanding settlements all Israeli governments, Labour as well as Likud, contributed massively to its breakdown.
The rate of settlement growth in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem is staggering. At the end of 1993 there were 115,700 Israeli settlers in the occupied territories. Their number doubled during the following decade.
Today the number of Israeli settlers on the West Bank exceeds 350,000. There are an additional 300,000 Jews living in settlements across the pre-1967 border in East Jerusalem. Thousands more settlement homes are planned or under construction. Despite his best efforts, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, failed to get the Netanyahu government to accept a settlement freeze as a precondition for renewing the peace talks suspended in 2010. As long as Netanyahu remains in power, it is a safe bet that no breakthrough will be achieved in the new round of talks. He is the procrastinator par excellence, the double-faced prime minister who pretends to negotiate the partition of the pizza while continuing to gobble it up.
The Oslo accords had many faults, chief of which was the failure to proscribe settlement expansion while peace talks were in progress. But the agreement was not doomed to failure from the start, as its critics allege. Oslo faltered and eventually broke down because Likud-led governments negotiated in bad faith. This turned the much-vaunted peace process into a charade. In fact, it was worse than a charade: it provided Israel with just the cover it was looking for to continue to pursue with impunity its illegal and aggressive colonial project on the West Bank.
Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister, signs the Oslo accords at the White House on 13 September 1993. Onlookers include Israel’s PM, Yitzhak Rabin; Bill Clinton; and the PLO’s Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Photo by J David AKE/AFP
On the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians remain dismayed at the continued failure of peace talks
By Nadeen Shaker, Ahram Online
September 13, 2013
Twenty years ago today, the Oslo Accords took the world by surprise. Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sealed the historical agreement with a handshake that was broadcast to the world.
The Oslo I Accords was the result of fourteen secret meetings between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. These meetings culminated in an agreement that envisaged a ten-month timetable leading up to elections for a Palestinian government to rule over the Palestinian Territories for five years, during which both sides would negotiate a permanent settlement. According to the agreement, Israel would withdraw all troops from the Palestinian Territories by the end of the next year.
The Oslo II Accords divided the occupied territories into three regions: Area A, Area B, and Area C. The Palestinian Authority (PA) took control over the majority of these areas; however, Israel retained complete military and administrative control over the largest territory, Area C, which made up 61 percent of the West Bank.
On the 13 September anniversary of the Oslo Accords, memories of the once promising deal have generated an outpouring of frustration, dismay, and disappointment at the shortcomings that followed it.
Many Palestinians initially celebrated the Accords as a promise of eventual Palestinian statehood, but such dreams were derailed as the agreed-upon “self-rule” became a murky semblance of sovereignty, and progression toward an independent Palestinian state seemed to stall indefinitely.
As a result of the Oslo Accords’ failure to achieve Palestinian sovereignty, many denounced the role of the PLO in negotiations. “Before Oslo, Palestinians more or less felt that they were represented,” Palestinian journalist and activist Maath Musleh told Ahram Online. “Now, that does not exist either.”
With regard to the Accords, Musleh explains that the “Zionist regime” wanted to “cut their spending on the occupied people, as international law requires of them, and they wanted to put the Israeli militants in a safer position without loosening their military grip on the population in the West Bank and Gaza. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Yet, the Oslo Accords’ main failures were in their inability to resolve outstanding issues that have thwarted the peace process ever since: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and borders.
“The Oslo Accords are nothing more than a failure to the Palestinian community,” Palestinian blogger Mariam Ibrahim told Ahram Online. “Since Oslo, more Palestinian land has been stolen by the ongoing Israeli annexation of Palestinian land and the multiplication of illegal, Jewish settlements.”
“Oslo has left Palestine like a piece of Swiss cheese, and the continued negotiations after Oslo have been never ending… Palestinians are sick of fruitless negotiations,” Ibrahim says. Oslo has transformed into an anti-peace chant in Palestinian rallies, she explains, because it set the precedent for twenty years of failed peace talks.
The latest round of peace talks began in August after a three-year stall in negotiations. The unresolved issue of Israeli settlements was the first topic of conversation, with Israel’s recently-announced plans to build 3,100 new settler homes in the Occupied Territories.
The issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails was also high on the agenda. Palestinian prisoner Sawer Issaway’s highly-publicised eight-month hunger strike drew considerable attention to this issue. At this point, Israel has agreed to the release of 26 prisoners previously convicted of carrying out deadly attacks against Israeli citizens.
Jerusalem – a holy city for Muslims, Christians and Jews – was not addressed in the most recent discussions. Although Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, the Israeli state does not want to abandon East Jerusalem or West Bank settlements.
Musleh believes recent US-led negotiations will fail because “they are not based on justice… The US continuously says that its aim is to end the ‘conflict’ and get the Palestinians to end their demands. The aim is not to give people their rights. So no negotiations within the current parameters will ever succeed.”
On the twentieth anniversary of the Accords, many Palestinians have taken the opportunity to draw attention to the continued failures of the peace process. Organisers of a Facebook page “Down with Oslo” have called for the Oslo Accords to be dissolved, arranging protests in Palestine, Jordan, Canada, Lebanon and Sweden. Another group is currently planning an “Electronic Day against all Negotiations,” speaking out against the concessions offered by the Accords.
An Israeli army dog attacks a Palestinian woman during an army raid in the West Bank village of Obadiyah, near Bethlehem, Wednesday, March 21, 2007. The IDF controls, attacks, destroys with impunity. Photo by Kevin Frayer /AP
September 11, 2013
The Institute for Middle East Understanding published the following resources to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Oslo Accords on September 13, 2013.
A TIMELINE: 20 YEARS OF FAILED US-LED PEACE TALKS
December 1987: The First Intifada
After 20 years of repressive Israeli military rule, Palestinians in the occupied territories launch a large-scale popular uprising, or Intifada. The mostly unarmed rebellion, and Israel’s attempts to crush it with brutal force, gains widespread international sympathy for the Palestinian cause. (See here for more on the First Intifada.)
December 1988: PLO Recognizes Israel
The PLO officially recognizes Israel and agrees to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in just 22% of historic Palestine. Israel dismisses this groundbreaking compromise and continues to refuse to negotiate with the PLO.
June 1990: Mounting US Pressure on Israel to Negotiate
Frustrated at Israel’s intransigence, US Secretary of State James Baker, who is trying to organize an international peace conference, reads the White House switchboard telephone number during congressional testimony, adding to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who isn’t present, “When you’re serious about peace, call us.”
October 1990: Haram al-Sharif Massacre
In October 1990, a group of Jewish extremists attempts to lay a cornerstone for a Jewish temple in the highly sensitive Haram al-Sharif mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. In the unrest that follows, Israeli forces kill at least 20 Palestinians using live ammunition. Israel’s use of lethal, disproportionate force against Palestinian protesters prompts international condemnation, including from the US government, and increases pressure on Israel to talk peace.
1991: The First Gulf War
An international coalition led by the US ejects occupying Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the First Gulf War, heralding a new post-Cold War era in the Middle East in which the US is the sole superpower. Following its victory, the US seeks to take advantage of the new geopolitical reality, increasing its efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
October 1991: Madrid Conference
Following threats by the administration of George H.W. Bush to withhold $10 billion in loan guarantees unless Israel ends settlement construction, Israeli Prime Minister Shamir agrees to meet with Palestinian representatives, but not PLO officials, despite the fact that the PLO is considered the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the UN and international community. Talks between Israeli officials and Palestinians based in the occupied territories, who are in close contact with PLO officials behind the scenes, begin in Madrid, Spain, in late October 1991.
October 18, 1991: US Letter of Assurance to the Palestinians
In a letter of assurance sent to the Palestinian delegation prior to the Madrid conference, US Secretary of State James Baker pledges that the US does “not recognize Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem or the extension of its municipal boundaries, and we encourage all sides to avoid unilateral acts that would exacerbate local tensions or make negotiations more difficult or preempt their final outcome… In this regard the United States has opposed and will continue to oppose settlement activity in the territories occupied in 1967, which remains an obstacle to peace.”
1992: Secret Talks Under Oslo
While the Madrid talks flounder due to continued Israeli intransigence, the Israeli government bypasses the Palestinian representatives sent to Madrid and begins secret negotiations, sponsored by the Norwegian government, with the PLO, weakened politically since the disaster of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the PLO’s support for Iraq during the First Gulf War, believing it will be more willing to compromise on issues such as settlement construction and fundamental Palestinian rights like the right of return for refugees expelled from their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-9.
The Fafo Foundation, Oslo which hosted the first secret talks arranged by Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Jorgen Holst. These talks initially took place between two Israeli academics, Yair Hirschfeld and Ron Pundik, and a high-ranking official from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Ahmad Qurai. They led to the first Declaration of Principles.
August 1993: Oslo I Announced
The agreement resulting from the secret PLO-Israel negotiations, known as the Declaration of Principles (or Oslo I), is publicly announced. The Oslo process creates the Palestinian National Authority (PA) and is supposed to lead to a final peace agreement by 1999, however the ultimate goal of talks is vague, with Israel still refusing to formally accept the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel subsequently allows Yasser Arafat and other exiled PLO leaders to return to Gaza and the West Bank to head the PA and institute limited Palestinian self-rule in some areas, while the Israeli military continues to maintain overall control of the occupied territories.
September 9, 1993: Official Exchange of Letters Between the PLO and Israel
On September 9, 1993, the PLO and the government of Israel exchange official letters in which the Palestinians formally recognize “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” In return, Israel acknowledges the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people but does not endorse the creation of a Palestinian state.
September 13, 1993: Arafat-Rabin Handshake on White House Lawn
In what is widely hailed as an historic moment, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sign theDeclaration of Principles (also known as Oslo I) on the White House lawn with US President Bill Clinton overseeing the proceedings.
1994-2000: Increased Restrictions on Movement & Rapid Expansion of Settlements
As the terms of Oslo begin to be implemented, Israel imposes increased restrictions on Palestinian movement between Israel and the occupied territories, between the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and within the occupied territories themselves. This is part of an Israeli policy designed to separate Palestinians and Israelis, and to separate the West Bank from Gaza, which are supposed to be a single territorial unit under Oslo. Successive Israeli governments also rapidly accelerate the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law. Between 1993 and 2000, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), nearly doubles, from 110,900 to 190,206 according to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Accurate figures for settlements in occupied East Jerusalem are harder to obtain, but as of 2000 the number of settlers in East Jerusalem stands at more than 167,000 according to B’Tselem.
February 25, 1994: Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre
Brooklyn-born settler Baruch Goldstein murders 29 Palestinians as they pray in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. In the ensuing unrest, 19 more Palestinians are killed by Israeli soldiers. Following the massacre, Israel fails to remove Hebron’s extremist settler enclave, instead increasing restrictions on Palestinian residents. Just over a month later, the Islamist militant group Hamas, which was formed a few years earlier during the First Intifada, launches its first suicide bombing against Israeli civilians.
May 1994: Gaza-Jericho Agreement Signed
On May 4, the Gaza-Jericho Agreement is signed. A much longer document than the Declaration of Principles, Gaza-Jericho spells out in greater detail the role of the Palestinian Authority and its relationship with Israel, and calls for a final peace agreement to be reached within five years.
September 1995: Oslo II Signed
On September 28, 1995, Israel and the PLO sign an agreement known as Oslo II, which provides for a redeployment of the Israeli military from some parts of the occupied territories and divides the West Bank into three separate administrative units, Areas A, B, and C. As a result, Israel maintains full control over most of the West Bank while turning over responsibility for Palestinian population centres to the PA. (For more on Areas A, B, and C, see section above on Oslo II.)
November 1995: Yitzhak Rabin Assassinated
On November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by Yigal Amir, a right-wing Jewish extremist opposed to the Oslo Accords.
May 1996: Benjamin Netanyahu Elected Prime Minister for First Term
Following Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, hardliner Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party, an outspoken opponent of the Oslo Accords, defeats Shimon Peres in elections and becomes prime minister of Israel. Apparently taking the advice of his predecessor as Likud leader, Yitzhak Shamir, who stated following his 1992 electoral defeat: “I would have conducted negotiations on autonomy for 10 years and in the meantime we would have reached half a million [settlers in the occupied West Bank],” Netanyahu drags out talks while simultaneously expanding Jewish settlements. Netanyahu later brags about sabotaging the Oslo process, telling a group of settlers in 2001: “I de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords.”
January 1997: Hebron Protocol Signed
In 1997, Netanyahu and Arafat sign the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, which delineates further phased withdrawals of Israeli soldiers from sections of Hebron and other parts of the West Bank. Netanyahu later boasts that with the Hebron Protocol he undermined Oslo by insisting that Israel wouldn’t withdraw soldiers from “specified military locations,” and that Israel would unilaterally decide what constituted a military location. Netanyahu later explains to a group of settlers: “Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo Accords.”
October 1998: Wye River Memorandum Signed
In October 1998, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators sign the Wye River Memorandum, which is intended to facilitate the implementation of parts of the Oslo II agreement which Israel failed to carry out previously, including further redeployments of Israeli forces.
May 1999: Deadline for Final Agreement Expires
Deadline for signing an agreement on final status issues as outlined in the Declaration of Principles and the Gaza-Jericho Agreement passes.
May 1999: Ehud Barak Elected Prime Minister
After defeating Netanyahu in elections in May, Labour party leader Ehud Barak becomes prime minister in July and declares his intention to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. However, at the same time, Barak further ramps up settlement growth, undermining Palestinian confidence in his intentions. By the end of his short term in office (July 1999-March 2001) Barak approves more settlements than his more right-wing predecessor, Netanyahu, did in his three years in power.
September 1999: Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum Signed
Similar to the Wye River Memorandum, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, signed by Arafat and Barak, was intended to implement sections of Oslo II that Israel failed to enact previously, in particular further redeployments of Israeli soldiers. It also called for a permanent agreement on final status issues to be reached by September 2000.
July 2000: Camp David Summit
In July 2000, at the invitation of President Clinton, then in the final months of his second term in office, Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet at Camp David to negotiate final status issues for a hoped-for permanent peace agreement. In secret talks preceding Camp David, Palestinian negotiators offer far-ranging concessions beyond the international consensus of what the outlines of a peace agreement should look like. In contrast to the widely circulated story of the “generous offer” allegedly made by Barak, in reality the Israelis never actually make a formal offer at Camp David, submitting no written proposals. The only proposals offered by the Israelis are conveyed orally, mostly through US officials, and lack detail. The Camp David summit ends without an agreement, after which President Clinton praises Prime Minister Barak’s “courage,” and, contrary to an earlier promise made to the Palestinians who came to Camp David reluctantly, blames the failure on Arafat and the Palestinian leadership. This distorted, one-sided narrative quickly takes hold in Israel and the US, allowing Israeli leaders to claim that they have “no Palestinian partner” for peace. (See here for more on the talks at Camp David.)
October 2000: Outbreak of the Second Intifada
Palestinian frustration at seven years of fruitless negotiations, during which time Israel massively expands settlements and entrenches its occupation rather than rolling it back, boils over into a second, more violent uprising, sparked by a provocative visit by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, who is reviled by Palestinians for his brutal record as an officer in the Israeli military and as defense minister, to the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem.
January 2001: Taba Summit
Following the failure at Camp David and the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators meet again in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001. Although both sides subsequently agree that progress is made at Taba, by this time Barak is a lame duck prime minister, with polls predicting a massive defeat for his Labor party in elections scheduled for February.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE OSLO ACCORDS
After more than a half-century of bloody conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Zionist Jews, in 1993 Israeli and Palestinian leaders sat down face to face at the negotiating table for the first time in an attempt to forge peace.
Oslo marked the beginning of a bilateral negotiations process, with international mediation monopolized by the US, Israel’s greatest patron, that would become the model for all subsequent negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Oslo created the Palestinian Authority (PA), a supposedly interim self-rule government that governs Palestinian population centres in the occupied West Bank and Gaza under overall Israeli military control.
WHY DID OSLO FAIL?
Israeli leaders never accepted the creation of a genuinely independent Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution, continuing to colonize Palestinian land and deepen their control of Palestinians in the occupied territories while supposedly negotiating an end to the occupation.
The hardline positions of successive Israeli governments were supported by the Clinton administration, and subsequently the administration of George W. Bush, which both failed to do anything to stop settlement construction or other Israeli violations of signed agreements and international law. Instead of serving as an honest broker, the US acted as “Israel’s attorney,” in the words of longtime senior US State Department official Aaron David Miller.
The direct bilateral negotiations framework of Oslo accentuated the massive power imbalance between the two parties, which was further reinforced by the failure of the US to act as an even-handed mediator.
While massively expanding settlements and attendant infrastructure such as Israeli-only roads on occupied Palestinian land, Israel began to place severe restrictions on Palestinian movement, both within the occupied territories themselves and between the territories and the outside world. Rather than gaining their freedom from decades of Israeli military rule, during the Oslo years most Palestinians instead witnessed a deepening of Israel’s control over their lives and their land, causing widespread frustration and disillusionment with the peace process.
A close examination of the agreements comprising the Oslo Accords and Israeli actions on the ground, most notably rapidly expanding settlement construction, indicate that Oslo was intended by its Israeli and American architects to cement Israeli control over the occupied territories while shifting responsibility for policing the Palestinian population from the Israeli army to the security forces of the PA, thus “streamlining” the occupation for Israel.
Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem where Israel is building an extra 1,500 homes. Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
RESULTS OF OSLO ON THE GROUND
Between 1993 and 2000, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), nearly doubled, from 110,900 to 190,206 according to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Today, 20 years after the start of Oslo, there are more than 300,000 Israeli settlers living on Palestinian land in the West Bank, and another 200,000 in East Jerusalem.
Between 1993 and 2000, almost 1700 Palestinian homes in the occupied territories were destroyed by Israel,according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
Oslo fragmented the West Bank into three separate administrative districts, Areas A, B, C, and Gaza was separated from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (See below section on Oslo II for more on Areas A, B, and C.)
Occupied East Jerusalem was virtually severed from the rest of the West Bank as a result of Israel’s construction of a ring of settlements around the city’s expanded municipal boundaries. (See here for map of settlements around East Jerusalem.)
Oslo resulted in increased restrictions on Palestinian movement within the occupied territories and between the occupied territories and the outside world. Today, at any given time, there are approximately 500 barriers to Palestinian movement in the West Bank, an area smaller than Delaware.
The restrictions on Palestinian movement and frequent curfews and closures imposed on the occupied territories during the Oslo years and subsequently devastated the Palestinian economy, which has become largely dependent on Israeli tax transfers and international aid.
The accords have sped up Israeli colonisation and cemented an apartheid regime of control and discrimination.
By Ben White, Al Jazeera
September 12, 2013
This Friday will mark 20 years to the day since Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chair Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, signing an agreement that established the Palestinian Authority (PA) and a framework for negotiations that has lasted to this day.
On the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, the infographic below demonstrates what these years of the US-led peace process have produced for Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip: an acceleration of Israeli colonisation and a cementing of an apartheid regime of control and discrimination. The infographic is far from comprehensive: The last two decades have also seen the siege and brutalisation of the Gaza Strip, the consolidation of the checkpoint and permit system, land confiscations, settler outposts expanding, and the detention and torture of thousands.
It is important to understand that such policies have been implemented not in spite of the peace process, but often thanks to the peace process. Oslo has served to provide Israel with the cover it needs to continue its systematic breaches of international law, acting as a shield to protect Israel from accountability and democratisation. In addition, the establishment of the PA has given Israel a valuable partner in administering (and subduing) the millions of Palestinians living under military occupation – as well as providing an “address” for a periodic disciplining of the colonised.
Even as he was signing up to Oslo all those years ago, Rabin was authorising construction plans for illegal Israeli settlement expansion on occupied land. Two years later in 1995, shortly before his assassination, Rabin made it clear that Oslo was about creating a Palestinian “entity which is less than a state” to “independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority”, while Israel would keep a “united Jerusalem” and the major settlement blocks.
Fast forward to 2013, and an Israeli government participates in peace talks whose ministers oppose Palestinian rights and openly flout international law. Not withstanding the impact of Oslo on the struggle of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and refugees in the diaspora, 20 years of Oslo has meant what Edward Said recognised it would be, earlier than many others did.
To Israelis, Rabin and Peres spoke openly about separation – not as providing Palestinians with the right to self-determination but as a way of marginalising and diminishing them, essentially leaving the land to the more powerful Israelis. Separation in this perspective becomes synonymous with apartheid, not with liberation. “Self-rule” is Netanyahu’s euphemism for it.
The Israeli ‘separation barrier’ between the Jewish settlement of Pisgat Zeev (L/top) and the Shuafat Refugee Camp, which is home to tens of thousands of Palestinians. Photo by EPAliberation.