The Oslo accords, signed in 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), were hailed as a historic breakthrough that would pave the way for a lasting peace in the Middle East. The accords, which were negotiated secretly in Norway, established a framework for mutual recognition, interim self-government, and final status negotiations between the two parties. The accords also envisioned the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel within five years.
However, 30 years later, the Oslo accords have not delivered on their promise of peace and justice for the Palestinians and Israelis. Instead, they have resulted in a prolonged occupation, a deepening apartheid, and a worsening humanitarian crisis for the Palestinians. The accords have also failed to address the core issues of the conflict, such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, and security.
One of the main criticisms of the Oslo accords is that they did not end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, but rather restructured it into a more sophisticated and oppressive system of control. The accords divided the West Bank into three areas: Area A under full Palestinian control, Area B under joint Israeli-Palestinian control, and Area C under full Israeli control. Area C constitutes about 60 percent of the West Bank and includes most of the Israeli settlements, roads, checkpoints, and military bases.
The division of the West Bank into these areas has enabled Israel to consolidate its control over the land and resources, while limiting the Palestinian authority and mobility. Israel has also continued to confiscate land, demolish homes, build walls and fences, and restrict access to water and electricity in Area C. The Palestinians living in Area C face constant harassment and violence from Israeli soldiers and settlers, as well as denial of basic services and rights.
The accords also created the Palestinian Authority (PA), which was supposed to be an interim administration that would prepare the ground for statehood. However, the PA became a subordinate entity that depended on Israel for its security, economy, and political legitimacy. The PA also became a repressive apparatus that suppressed any dissent or resistance against the occupation and collaborated with Israel in arresting and torturing Palestinian activists.
The PA has been widely criticized by many Palestinians for its corruption, nepotism, authoritarianism, and lack of democracy. The PA has not held any elections since 2006, when Hamas won a majority in the legislative council. It has also failed to deliver any tangible benefits to the Palestinian people in terms of development, welfare, or sovereignty, and has been reduced to a bureaucratic body that administers the occupation on behalf of Israel.
The Oslo accords also ignored the rights and aspirations of millions of Palestinian refugees who were expelled or fled from their homes in 1948 and 1967. The accords deferred the issue of refugees to the final status negotiations, which never materialized. The accords also excluded the Palestinians in Israel, who constitute about 20 percent of the population and face systematic discrimination and marginalization.
The refugees are one of the most vulnerable and neglected segments of the Palestinian population. They live in overcrowded camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and the West Bank, where they suffer from poverty, unemployment, poor health, and lack of education. They are also denied their right to return to their homes or to receive compensation for their losses. The Palestinians in Israel are also treated as second-class citizens who are subject to racist laws and policies that deny them equal rights in land ownership, housing, education, employment, health care, and political representation.
Moreover, the Oslo accords did not stop or reverse the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, which are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to peace. Since 1993, the number of settlers has more than tripled, reaching over 600,000 today. The settlements are connected by a network of roads and barriers that fragment the Palestinian land and isolate its communities.
The settlements are not only a violation of Palestinian rights but also a threat to Israeli security and democracy. The settlements consume large amounts of water and natural resources that belong to the Palestinians. They also create friction and violence between Israelis and Palestinians that often escalate into wider clashes. These settlements also undermine the possibility of a two-state solution by making it impossible to draw viable borders between Israel and Palestine.
The Oslo accords also did not prevent or resolve the outbreaks of violence that have erupted periodically between the Palestinians and Israelis. The most notable ones are the first and second intifadas (uprisings) in 1987 and 2000, respectively, which were met with brutal Israeli repression and resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries on both sides. The accords also did not prevent or end the Israeli siege and blockade of Gaza, which has been imposed since 2007 and has caused a humanitarian catastrophe for its two million inhabitants.
The intifadas were spontaneous and popular expressions of frustration and anger by the Palestinians against the occupation and the failure of the peace process. The intifadas also challenged the legitimacy and authority of the PA, which was seen as complicit with Israel and the US. The uprisings were met with disproportionate and indiscriminate force by Israel, which used tanks, helicopters, missiles, and snipers to crush the resistance, and also triggered waves of suicide bombings and rocket attacks by Palestinian militant groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which targeted Israeli civilians and soldiers.
The siege of Gaza is one of the most severe forms of collective punishment in modern history. Israel has imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on Gaza, restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the enclave. Israel has also launched several military assaults on Gaza, such as Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014, which killed thousands of civilians and destroyed much of the infrastructure. The siege has created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where people suffer from shortages of food, water, electricity, medicine, and fuel. The siege has also isolated Gaza from the rest of the world and from the West Bank, deepening the political division between Hamas and Fatah.
The Oslo accords have been widely denounced by many Palestinians and their supporters as a betrayal of their rights and aspirations. They have also been criticized by many Israelis and their allies as a concession to terrorism and violence. The accords have been violated and undermined by both sides over the years, leading to a loss of trust and hope for peace. The accords have also been overshadowed by other regional developments, such as the Arab Spring, the Syrian war, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Abraham Accords.
The Oslo accords have proven to be neither an avenue for peace nor a framework that will bring the Palestinian people any closer to realizing their inalienable right to self-determination. If anything, they have made Palestinians weaker and more fragmented and the prospects of statehood – let alone equality, justice, and freedom – more distant. The Oslo accords have also failed to bring security and stability to Israel or to improve its relations with its neighbors. The Oslo accords have become a symbol of a failed promise of peace after 30 years.
|The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Al-Sarira.|