“At the end of three years of my tenure, we had effectively given the Palestinians 2 percent of all the territories that had been fully under our control. ... They didn't live up to the rest; we didn't give them the rest (…) So in all that time, instead of withdrawing 95 percent, bringing Israel to be 10 miles wide, ... we were able to reduce it to 2 percent” (Benjamin Netanyahu after his first term as Israel’s Prime Minister 1996 – 1999) .
1. What are the Oslo Accords?
The ‘Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements” (DOP), more commonly known as “Oslo” is an agreement signed September 13, 1993. It was the conclusion of secret negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli envoys under the auspices of the Norwegian government. Oslo was preceded by letters between PLO and Israeli leaders providing for joint recognition; Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people, while the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist. In Oslo I, at “peace process” and timeline for negotiations was set out. During the interim period of negotiations, Israel would grant increasing authority to the Palestinian Authority to help build up the institutions, while the two sides would commence on negotiations related to final status issues. In ‘Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,’ Oslo II (1995), Israel and the PLO agreed on the temporary arrangements for a huge number of civil and security issues that would govern during the interim period.
2. By when was the Oslo Agreement supposed to be concluded?
Being defined as an Interim Arrangements or Agreement, Oslo set a timeframe of maximum five years to sign a Final Status Agreement between Israel and the PLO covering all final status issues, including: Jerusalem, borders, refugees and all other issues that were not resolved in the interim period. Under Oslo I, the final agreement should have been signed by May 1999.
3. Why an Interim Period?
The Interim period was supposed to be used in order to negotiate a final status agreement and build the institutions of the State of Palestine. One of the consequences of the Agreement was the creation of the Palestinian Authority, as an institution under the political umbrella of the PLO, with the main task of building lawmaking and state-building capacity for the independent State of Palestine.
4. What did Israel do during the Interim Period?
The Oslo I agreement specified that “[n]either 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.” Rather than abide by this in good faith, Israel continued to build settlements throughout this interim period, effectively gobbling up more and more land in the West Bank, and reducing the pie that we had to negotiate over. By the end of 1999, Israel had already added over 100,000 settlers to the occupied territory (from 257,700 in 1993 to 365,000 by the beginning of 2000 ). This directly contradicted the explicit obligation not to take steps to change the status of these areas pending final status negotiations.
5. How did the international community respond to Israeli violations?
Despite the fact that the International Community got involved in several state-building projects for Palestine, it did very little in the political and legal realm to stop systematic Israeli violations of the Oslo Accords by pre-judging the core final-status issues. Israeli settlements have more than doubled since the signing of Oslo, while their related infrastructure have cemented Israeli control over East Jerusalem, and made separation in the West Bank impossible. Instead of facing international pressure to conform to Oslo’s obligations and international law, after signing Oslo Israel was able to expand its international standing, signing several treaties such as its Association Agreement with the European Union. At the same time, Israeli leaders made every effort to prevent the actual establishment of a state. To quote newly elected (and current) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996:
“I have not drawn any precise maps to define what we have in mind for an agreement with the Palestinians. But I do know that I represent a very broad national consensus when I declare that the Jordan Valley must be Israel's strategic border, that Israel will not give up control of airspace and water resources, that it must keep strategic zones that it considers vital; that it will not allow a Palestinian army equipped with heavy weapons or nonconventional arms to form West of the Jordan, and, above all, that Jerusalem will stay the undivided capital of Israel forever." (Benjamin Netanyahu, 1996) .
6. Where does Oslo stand in 2018?
Israel has failed to meet various aspects of Oslo, including the final redeployment and the release of a fourth batch of prisoners. It has violated more overarching requirements of the agreement not to prejudge final status issues and to engage in good-faith negotiations on the basis of UNSC resolutions of 242 and 338.
Israel’s control of Palestinian lives has been strengthened over the past two decades. Almost 25 years after the Oslo Agreement was signed, and 19 years after the deadline for the Interim Period, Israel remains in full control of the land and the people of Palestine. From Israel’s rejection to release dozens of Palestinian political prisoners imprisoned before the Oslo Agreement was signed, to denying Palestinians right to freedom of movement within the occupied territory, daily military raids in Area A (supposedly under “full Palestinian control”), colonial-settlement expansion, having fully controlling over the Palestinian population registry and Palestinian natural resources and, preventing Palestinian development in the “Area C”.
7. What did the PLO Central Council state in its last meeting regarding the Oslo Agreement?
The Interim Period set by the Oslo Agreement ended almost 20 years ago and Israel, through its violations, has effectively killed the Oslo Agreement. The PLO Central Council stated that the “Oslo Framework” has been suspended and mandated the Executive Committee to implement this decision. The relations between Israel, the occupying power, and Palestine, under occupation, are to be based on international humanitarian law. The PLO Central Council stressed that steps must be taken to establish an independent Palestinian economy.
8. What went wrong with the Oslo Agreement?
A major part of Oslo’s failure was Israel’s impunity and the lack of any accountability mechanisms. Several countries have tended to ignore their obligations under international law and UN resolutions for the sake of a non-existent peace process. Instead of assuming their responsibility to see through the Oslo Accords and ensure good-faith negotiations by Israel, most countries have become complicit in permitting Israel’s impunity.
Instead of banning Israeli settlement products, several countries have continued to encourage colonization by trading with Israeli settlements and companies involved in the colonization of Palestine. In effect, Israel continued to be rewarded while more violations were being committed. The outcome of the Oslo Process shows that the cause of peace could never be based on impunity. On the contrary: the only way to achieve peace is through respect and adherence to international law and resolutions.