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Alana Glickman
May 22, 2014
An Examination of the Legacy of the Oslo Accords
A famous moment in history was captured on September 13, 1993. This is the day that
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin shook hands under the watch of US President Bill Clinton at the White House.
They had approved a document that potentially laid the roadmap to put an end to the violent
conflict that had been taking place between the Israelis and the Palestinians for decades. This
document, officially titled The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government
Arrangements, was meant to provide the groundwork to allow Israelis and Palestinians to
negotiate peacefully. Originally discussed in secret by delegates in Norway, the agreements
known as the Oslo accords seemed like a promising shift in history from violence to peace in the
Middle East. Among other stipulations, the agreement called for an end to violent terror attacks
and for the creation of an independent Palestinian government over parts of Gaza and the West
Bank. The agreement included a five year transition period for permanent status negotiations to
take place. In other words, the agreement was not a final peace deal, but the start of a peace
process with a plan for further negotiations in the future. Before Oslo, it was illegal for Israelis to
negotiate with the PLO, and the Palestinians did not recognize Israel's right to exist. One of the
first steps in the Oslo peace process was the two parties' mutual recognition. The world was very
optimistic about outcome of the Oslo Accords; in fact, the leaders involved, Yitzhak Rabin,
Shimon Perez, and Yasser Arafat, shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 (5). Unfortunately, over
twenty years after the Oslo Accords took place, peace does not exist in the Middle East. Due to
lack of compliance by both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, the Oslo Accords did not breed their
desired outcome in solving the conflict.
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Through various discussions during the Oslo accords, Arafat came to accept several
commitments in order to push the region in the direction of peace. Importantly, Arafat agreed to
end all PLO terrorist activities (1). This agreement paved the way for national recognition of the
PLO as the Palestinian's official delegation to represent its people. The legitimized group became
known as the Palestinian National Authority, or PA. Arafat pledged through the Oslo agreements
to destroy all terror groups, and to solve all future negotiations by means other than terror (1).
The idea was that terrorists could be controlled much more effectively by their own government
than by the Israeli army (4). Arafat promised to amend the Palestinian National Charter, which
commits to destroy all of Israel through violence. Finally, Arafat committed to altering the
education system to by structured towards peace (1).
Unfortunately, in the years following the Oslo accords, a reduction in Palestinian terror
was not seen. In fact, more Israelis were killed in the 4 years following Oslo than in the previous
15 years combined (4). Punishments for these acts of terror were virtually unseen, and when they
did occur, they were very short lived. In January 1998, Arafat was seen on television publically
praising Hamas terrorists (4). It became clear that Arafat had no intention to stop terrorism. The
PA was very involved in terror as well; records reveal that the PA had been supplying terror
groups with funds, resources, and arms to carry out their attacks for years (4). To this day, the
Palestinian National Charter has only undergone very minor amendments concerning the
legitimate recognition of Israel and a peaceful coexistence. Still, the charter states, "Armed
struggle is the only way of liberating Palestine... it is an Arab national duty to liquidate the
Zionist presence" (6). The failure to remove this language from the Palestinian National Charter
hints at the premonition that Palestinians do not sincerely want a two state solution. In terms of
educating children for peace, this goes unseen in Palestinian schools. In their textbooks,
Palestinian children learn about hatred and are taught that suicide bombers are the ideal role
model (4). Even though the PA formally recognized Israel in the Oslo accords, Palestinian
children are indoctrinated to believe that Israel does not and should not exist. They especially do
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not learn about peaceful solutions. These many examples of Arafat and the Palestinians failing to
comply with the Oslo agreements helped lead to the accords' failure.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is never one sided; There are several instances of Israelis
going against the spirit of the Oslo accords as well. Rabin and the Israelis were bound to several
commitments in accordance to the Oslo agreements. Israel agreed that it would recognize the PA,
and allow the creation of a PA police force of up to 10,000 members (1). Under the assumptions
that there would be no terrorists on staff, Israel would supply weapons to the Palestinian police
force so that the PA could effectively lead its people and control terror. Rabin promised to
transfer land to the Palestinians, allowing for the eventual creation of two states for two peoples.
Israel agreed to withdraw from certain portions of the West Bank, Gaza, and Jericho, and to
grant governing authority to the PA (1). Finally, Israel pledged to educate its children for peace.
While the Israelis technically complied with their duties according to the Oslo accords,
the Palestinians were disappointed with Israel's weak contribution in terms of land allocation.
According to the Oslo accords, the West Bank was divided into three zones, labeled Areas A, B,
and C, with complete PA control in Area A, complete Israeli control over area C, and joint
responsibilities in area B (1). This limited the PA to control of about 50% of the West Bank, far
less than the 95% or more that the Palestinians had originally expected. On top of this, Israel was
building and expanding settlements in the West Bank at the time the Oslo agreements were
signed. Between 1993 and 2000, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank nearly
doubled, from 110,900 to 190,206 (2). Although settlement building was not technically
prohibited by the Oslo accords, it clearly went against their character. Palestinians saw this as
undermining the creation of a future Palestinian state.
Both the Israelis and The Palestinians had doubts about the other party's willingness to
negotiate peacefully. When examining the refusal to amend the Palestinian National Charter,
continued terror attacks towards Israel, as well as the continued violence based education in the
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school systems, it was clear to Israelis that the Palestinians had no intention of creating a
peaceful state side by side with Israel. The Palestinians thought similarly about the Israelis, who
promised land in turn for peace but then continued to build Israeli settlements on the space that
was understood to eventually belong to the Palestinians, seeming to complicate further the
creation of an eventual independent Palestinian state. With both parties feeling threatened at their
own existence, it proved to be difficult for them to carry out the requirements of the Oslo
accords. On another note, the idea of the Oslo accords was to sidestep the major issues in order
to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding until each party felt ready for
permanent negotiations. However, such a point was never reached. Crucial issues such as
Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with
other neighbors, and other issues of common interest were never discussed. Because of this, the
Oslo accords did not even attempt to settle several central issues, and therefore the fighting
continued.
The Oslo peace process was essentially halted with Rabin's assassination in 1995, but
several other models for negotiations have been implemented since then. The Camp David Talks,
Taba Egypt Talks in 2001, and those in 2007 all failed to find resolutions to the issues mentioned
in the Oslo Accords (3). Many would argue that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are worse
off since the signing of the Oslo accords. In terms of the accords, Palestine's over-arching goal
was the acquisition of a land they could call their own. Because of the small percentage of land
allotment, addition of Israeli settlements, and road blocks, the Palestinians felt as though land
was unjustly being taken away from them. Israel's ultimate goal, however, was an end to the
terror attacks so they can live in peace and security. In the years following Oslo, violence and
terror drastically increased (4). It is unfortunate that peace was not produced with the single
document ever to be signed by both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Although most would
consider the accords largely unsuccessful, their legacy lives on. Because of the drastic failure of
Oslo, some people are persuaded to think that negotiations in the future should deal with more
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specific issues with concrete deadlines and consequences for inaction rather than simply
providing a framework for future negotiations. Many are discouraged by the failure of Oslo and
believe it was the only chance for the Middle East to attain peace, but in my opinion there is still
hope for the future. The ideology of the Oslo accords was radical, so who is to say that another
radical, unique idea will not surface in the next few decades?

Refrences:
1. Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. Web. Israeli Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. September 13, 1993
2. Hareuveni, Eyal, Yael Stein, and Zvi Shulman. By Hook and by Crook: Israeli Settlement
Policy in the West Bank. Jerusalem: B'Tselem, 2010.
3. Hellman, Ziv. "Why the Oslo Accords Failed: What Went Wrong?" MyJewishLearning. Web.
4. Relentless - The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East. Dir. Wayne Kopping and Brian K.
Spector. HonestReporting, 2003.
5. "The Nobel Peace Prize 1994". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2013. Web.
6. The Palestinian National Charter. Web. Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. July 17, 1968