Lexicon of the Hamas Organization

The Oslo Accords

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Israel PM Rabin, PLO president Araffat and USA President Bill Clinton signing Oslo Accords. Credit: ‘History in Pictures’ FB page.

 

The Oslo Accords, a cornerstone in the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict, represent a pair of pivotal agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Initiated with the Oslo I Accord in Washington, D.C., in 1993, and followed by the Oslo II Accord in Taba, Egypt, in 1995, these accords marked the commencement of the Oslo process. This peace process aimed at achieving a peace treaty based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, focusing on the Palestinian right to self-determination. The Oslo process began after secret negotiations in Oslo, Norway, leading to mutual recognition between the PLO and Israel. The PLO recognized Israel’s statehood, while Israel acknowledged the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and a partner in bilateral negotiations.

The Oslo Accords were rooted in the 1978 Camp David Accords, sharing similarities in their approach to peace. The Camp David Accords envisioned autonomy for the local Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza. At that time, Israel considered the PLO a terrorist organization and preferred to negotiate with Egypt and Jordan instead. The Oslo negotiations differed as they were direct dialogues between Israel and the PLO, aiming for an interim agreement to pave the way for a complete settlement.

Negotiation Partners

The negotiation process only gained momentum after Israel’s acceptance of the PLO as a negotiation partner. In the Letters of Mutual Recognition, signed just days before the Oslo I Accord, each party agreed to accept the other as a negotiation partner. The PLO acknowledged the State of Israel, and Israel recognized the PLO as “the representative of the Palestinian people”.

Outline of the Peace Plan

The Oslo Accords set goals including Palestinian interim self-government and a permanent settlement of unresolved issues within five years, based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. A core aspect was the withdrawal of the Israeli military from Palestinian territories, planned to be executed in phases. This withdrawal was to be accompanied by a transfer of security responsibilities to Palestinian authorities. The first step involved a partial Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho and the transfer of some civil responsibilities to the interim Palestinian Authority.

Israel’s Withdrawal from the West Bank

The Oslo Accords stipulated the Israeli military’s withdrawal from populated Palestinian areas and the establishment of Palestinian elections to form a council that would replace the Palestinian Authority and dissolve the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank. Further redeployments of Israeli troops were planned upon the inauguration of the council, with the aim of dissolving the Israeli military government in the West Bank.

Permanent status negotiations on remaining issues were scheduled to start by May 1996 and conclude by May 1999. These negotiations were intended to lead to a peace treaty to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Contextual History of the Israeli-Arab Conflict

The Oslo Accords were born from a historical context of complex and prolonged conflict. The Israeli-Arab conflict has roots in the early 20th century, evolving through various phases, including the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Six-Day War of 1967, and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. These conflicts led to significant territorial changes and political shifts in the region, setting the stage for the eventual Oslo Accords.

Opposition and Criticism

The Oslo Accords faced significant opposition from both sides. Many Palestinians, including various militant groups, opposed the accords, with Palestinian-American philosopher Edward Said likening them to a “Palestinian Versailles.” 

Conclusion

The Oslo Accords stand as a landmark in the Israeli-Arab conflict, representing a unique attempt at peace between Israel and the Palestinians. While they laid a foundation for future negotiations and temporary governance structures, the accords did not lead to a definitive resolution of the conflict. The creation of the Palestinian National Authority and the international acknowledgment of the PLO as Israel’s partner in negotiations were significant outcomes. However, the accords left many issues unresolved, including the status of Jerusalem, security control, and the Palestinian right of return.

The legacy of the Oslo Accords remains mixed. They symbolize a significant step towards peace but also highlight the complexities and enduring challenges of achieving a lasting resolution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

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