Israel’s Violations of the Oslo Agreements

May 31, 2011


The PLO made a historic compromise in 1988, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over 78 percent of historic Palestine with the understanding that the Palestinians would be able to live in freedom on the remaining 22 percent under occupation since 1967. In 1993, the PLO made the decision to pursue Palestinian independence through negotiations and accordingly, the PLO and Israel signed a number of agreements between 1993 and 1999, known collectively as the “Oslo Agreements.”1

The Oslo Agreements were premised on the idea that the parties would gradually develop a relationship of trust thereby allowing them to resolve the larger, more difficult permanent status issues. Certain core principles were agreed under these agreements: (i) the interim period would be of a limited duration; (ii) nothing would be done to prejudice the outcome of permanent status negotiations; and (iii) the final settlement would be consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338 which reaffirm that territory cannot be acquired by military force.

Despite the signing of the Oslo Agreements, Israel has repeatedly violated both their word and their core principles.

Israel’s Violations of the Oslo Agreements 

1. Israel Has Failed to End its Occupation

The Oslo Agreements provide that Palestinians would have their freedom by May 1999. To adate, Israel’s military occupation not only continues, but intensifies. The Declaration of Principles provides that the interim period is not to exceed five years (Article 1), from May 4, 1994. This is confirmed in Article 4 of the Wye River Memorandum. The interim period commenced with Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho on May 1994. By May 1999, the interim period was to have ended and Palestinians were to be given their freedom. To date, Israel has failed to end its military occupation.

After missing this deadline, Israel renegotiated a new deadline with the PLO. Under Article 1 of the Sharm El-Sheikh Memorandum, the Palestinians were to be given their freedom on September 13, 2000. By September 13, 2000, the Palestinians were still living under military occupation and continue to do so.

2. Israel Continues to Build and Expand Its Illegal Colonies

The Fourth Geneva Convention, ratified by Israel in June 1951 and which was not superceded by the Oslo Agreements, prohibits Israel from establishing colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention states “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The Oslo Agreements reaffirm this position. Article 31 of the Interim Agreement provides that “the two parties view the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will be preserved during the interim period.” Article 31 also provides that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”

Despite these articles and in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has since 1993:

Doubled the number of settlers living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There are now approximately 400,000; 2

Increased the number of illegal housing units in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (excluding Occupied East Jerusalem) by 62%; 3

Confiscated more than 60,000 acres of Palestinian land for colony construction and related by-pass roads, uprooted 220,000 trees and demolished 690 homes in the West Bank alone; 4 and

Removed from official government maps the Green Line separating Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, thereby failing to recognize the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a “single territorial unit”. (See official Touring Map of Israel issued by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism).

3. Israel Fails to Withdraw from Palestinian Territories

Under the Oslo Agreements, Israel’s occupation forces were to have withdrawn from substantially all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by July, 1997 – more than four and a half years ago. The process of withdrawal was to be carried out in three phases, beginning in October 1996 and ending in July 1997 and would have transferred approximately 88 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian control. Israel delayed each and every phase of the withdrawal. The Palestinian Authority has only full jurisdiction over 17.2 percent of the West Bank.

4. Israel Fails to Release Political Prisoners

Throughout Israel’s 35-year occupation of the Palestinian Territories, Israel imprisoned and detained thousands of Palestinians. Israel’s rate was so widespread that Palestinians suffered from one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world.

The Oslo Agreements contain a number of provisions regarding the release of political prisoners.

Article 20 of the Gaza Strip and Jericho Agreement required Israel to release over 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners. Article 16 of the Interim Agreement provided for further releases of Palestinian prisoners in three phases, the last of which was to occur during permanent status negotiations. Finally, Article 3 of the Sharm El-Sheikh Memorandum provided for the release of 350 political prisoners in September and October of 1999 and in December 1999 and January 2000. Despite these agreements, as of December 2000, approximately 1,350 Palestinians remained in Israeli custody, in violation of the Oslo Agreements.5

5. Israel Fails to Open the Northern Safe Passage Route between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and Closes the Southern Safe Passage Route

Under the Interim Agreement (Annex I, Article 10) and the Sharm El-Sheikh Memorandum (Article 5), Israel was required to open both a northern and a southern safe passage route to connect the West Bank to the Gaza Strip for the movement of persons, vehicles and goods. The southern safe passage route was closed on October 8, 2000. The northern safe passage route was never opened.

6. Israel Fails to Co-operate on Security Matters

The Interim Agreement requires Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate on security matters. (Annex I, Article 3). Since October 2000, Israel unilaterally decided not to cooperate with the PA on security matters. Repeated calls by the PA to resume security cooperation have been ignored by Israel.

7. Israel Uses Lethal Force

The Interim Agreement provides clear rules of engagement for Israeli soldiers:

The use of firearms…shall not be allowed, except as a last resort after all attempts at controlling the act or the incident, such as warning the perpetrator or shooting in the air, have failed or are ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result in the circumstances. Use of firearms should be aimed at deterring or apprehending, and not killing the perpetrator. The use of firearms shall cease once the danger is past. (Interim Agreement, Annex I, Article XI (3)(c)).

Despite this provision, Israeli soldiers have deliberately aimed at killing Palestinian protestors and have not used live fire as a last resort. After conducting an inquiry into the Israel’s practices during the current uprising, Physicians for Human Rights (USA) concluded that the “IDF soldiers are not firing only in life-threatening situations and they are firing at heads and thighs in order to injure and kill, not to avoid loss of life and injury.”6 Furthermore, even non-violent demonstrations (including those that do not involve stone-throwing), have met with violent responses by Israeli occupation forces. 7

8. Israel Denies Palestinians Freedom of Movement

The Interim Agreement compels both sides to “respect[] and preserv[e] without obstacles, normal and smooth movement of people, vehicles and goods within the West Bank, and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” (Interim Agreement, Annex I, Article 1 (2)).

In contravention of these obligations, Israel has repeatedly imposed severe restrictions on the movement of persons, vehicles and goods through the establishment of more than 120 checkpoints in the West Bank alone, (dividing the West Bank into 64 cantons) 8 and through Israel’s destruction of Palestinian roads and bridges.9

9. Israel Fails to Prosecute Israeli Settlers for Crimes Committed Against Palestinians

Under the Interim Agreement, Israel is required to prosecute Israelis for crimes committed against Palestinians (Annex I, Articles 2 and 3). Since the signing of the Interim Agreement, there have been hundreds of attacks against Palestinians and Palestinian property. Since October 2000 alone, 44 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers, and there have been hundreds of attacks on Palestinian property. 10 Israel has not prosecuted ANY of these settlers for their crimes.11

  • 1. The Oslo Agreements are comprised of: The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (September 13, 1993); The Gaza-Jericho Agreement, (May 4, 1994); The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (September 28, 1995); The Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron (January 17, 1997); The Wye River Memorandum (October 23, 1998) and the Sharm El-Sheikh Memorandum (September 4, 1999).
  • 2. Applied Research Institute Jerusalem, Monitoring Israeli Colonizing Activities in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza: An Overview of Israel’s Colonization Policy and the Discontents with the Peace Process, January 2002,
  • 3. Peace Now, 832 Housing Starts in the Settlements in the First Half of 2001, October 16, 2001.
  • 4. font-family:Garamond"> See, Applied Research Institute Jerusalem, Monitoring Israeli Colonizing Activities in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza: An Overview of Israel’s Colonization Policy and the Discontents with the Peace Process, January 2002, supra note 2.
  • 5. See U.S. Dep’t of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2000, released February 23, 2001. http://www.state.giv/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/nea/882.htm
  • 6. Physicians for Human Rights, Evaluation of the Use of Force in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank: Medical and Forensic Investigation, November 3, 2000, Israel’s flagrant violations are also documented by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.
  • 7. Amira Haas, On the Edge of the Non-Violent Demonstrations, Ha’Aretz, February 6, 2002font-family:Garamond">, at 5.
  • 8. See, Applied Research Institute font-family: Garamond">Jerusalem font-family:Garamond">,
  • 9. For more information, see B’Tselem, Civilians Under Siege: Restrictions on Freedom of Movement as Collective Punishment, January 2001.
  • 10. See, The Palestine Monitor, Fact Sheet, February 3, 2002.
  • 11. See, B’Tselem, Tacit Consent: Israeli Policy on Law Enforcement Towards Settlers in the Occupied Territories, March 2001.
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