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17 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Twenty-five years on, the Oslo Accords are dead

Joseph Dana

This year is  the 25th since the Oslo Accords, when then Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed an agreement outlining a timeframe for a lasting Middle Eastern peace process. In a now infamous photo, Arafat and then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on September 13, 1993, on the lawns of the White House, overlooked by a congratulatory Bill Clinton. The accords saw Arafat, Rabin and Peres awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. Yet when the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is finally written in full, the Oslo period will go down as one of its darkest chapters.

Far from its promise of a two-state solution, the legacy of the Oslo Accords is little more than the steady advancement of Israeli interests and Palestinian fragmentation.

Since the agreement came into effect, Israel has rapidly deepened its West Bank settlement project while taking active measures to ensure geographic and political division among Palestinians. Israel’s matrix of control over Palestinian life is all but complete as its domination goes virtually unchallenged. With an eager partner in the White House and the two-state solution dying – if not already dead – Israel has thrust the conflict into a dangerous new phase, in which key Palestinian demands are simply removed from the negotiation table. Such moves would have been unthinkable when Oslo was crafted and that highlights how the accords have been deftly used to Israeli ends. The lofty promise of Oslo was, of course, branded very differently to what the reality on the ground portrays today. As a set of agreements signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the accords created a set of milestones to pave the road to a Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority, one of the crowning benchmarks, was created as an interim project in Palestinian self-governance.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip, while still under Israeli occupation, were divided into geographic chunks, with various types of jurisdiction split between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. Area C, which constitutes the vast majority of Palestinian land and includes all Israeli settlements, was left securely in Israeli hands. Area A, which encompasses the largest Palestinian cities such as Ramallah and Nablus, was handed to Palestinian security forces, who were trained and directed by Israeli and American handlers. Area B was designated as Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control. In practice, all of these distinctions were meaningless as Israel exercised its authority at will.

While the road to peace might have been paved with good intentions from the international community, the reality is that Israel never ceased its occupation, ceded any form of legitimate control to the Palestinians nor acted in good faith on the basic pretext of the accords. In fact, Israeli settlement activity exploded in the years following Oslo.

The writer is the editor of emerge85, a project exploring change in the emerging world and its global impact

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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