Since President Shimon Peres went public regarding his opinion that Israel
should not attack Iran without fully coordinated with the US, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and others have started attacking the president for
overstepping his legitimate role, and have reverted to attacking Peres for what
they regard as his mistaken judgments over the years on major political issues.
One of these “mistaken judgments” is the 1993 Oslo Accords.
In one of his
appearances last week in the media on this issue, coalition chairman MK Ze’ev
Elkin commented that “there is a general consensus that Oslo was a complete
While it is perfectly legitimate for Elkin and his colleagues
to believe that the Oslo Accords were a complete failure, or a “crime,” there is
certainly no consensus in Israel on this issue.
True, the Oslo Accords
have not led Israel and the Palestinians to a permanent settlement.
sides are to blame for this fact, and not just the Palestinian side. But this
does not mean that if observed from a broader perspective the accords were in
fact a monumental failure that those who supported them are required to
apologize for, as the uncouth, hatred-ridden Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded of the
late Yitzhak Rabin’s granddaughter, No’a Rotman, in a boisterous confrontation
last week outside the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv.
From the very start
former minister and MK Yossi Beilin, who was one of the initiators of the
accords, pointed out that if the Israelis and Palestinians opted for a
settlement by stages, the whole thing was liable to fail, since this would give
the opponents of a settlement on both sides an opportunity to grow stronger and
more obstructive – which is what happened.
But back in 1993, neither
Yitzhak Rabin nor Yasser Arafat felt able to opt for a permanent solution,
preferring a gradual process, and after several promising sequels to the
original agreement, the process finally ground to a halt.
We do not know
whether eventually a permanent peace settlement will be reached between
ourselves the Palestinians, or whether we shall remain in a colonialist
situation, in an age in which colonialism is no longer accepted in the world as
But if logic finally wins, the resulting agreement will
undoubtedly follow the Oslo principles.
It is precisely these principles,
based on the eventual withdrawal of Israel from most of the territories it
occupied in Judea and Samaria in 1967, and the establishment of a Palestinian
state in the areas from which Israel will withdraw, that the Israeli Right
rejects, despite Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech.
What Elkin and his
colleagues would like more than anything else is to return to the pre-September
1993 status quo. But what was that situation, which they miss? It is a situation
in which Israel was fully responsible for the rights, security, economic welfare
and well-being of the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza. Today
we are speaking of over 4 million persons.
Let us also not forget that in
the period preceding the Oslo Accords the first intifada broke out, in December,
1987, which convinced Rabin, who was defense minister at the time, that there
was no military solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel was right
to use force to suppress the uprising, he said, but without a political solution
there will be no permanent quiet.
True, the second intifada of 2000-2005,
that broke out after the failure of yet another round of talks between Israel
and the Palestinian Authority, caused a greater number of Israeli deaths than
the first one (the figure of 1,000 is mentioned).
But is anyone naïve
enough to believe that if the PA had not been established, and
Israeli-Palestinian relations had continued to be conducted as between masters
and slaves, there would have been no Palestinian violence, and no Israeli
victims? Finally, what has reduced the violence against Israelis (at least
within the confines of the Green Line) is the ugly wall that separates Israel
proper from the territories.
But the argument is not about body counts
(and incidentally, since 1948 the number of Palestinians killed by Israel is
many-fold greater than Israelis killed by Palestinians).
Though the Oslo
Accords did not bring the longed-for peace, it was part of a process that
changed Israel’s standing in the world for the better. The process that started
with the fall of the Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc, and was followed by
the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the Oslo Accords, led to the establishment of
diplomatic relations between Israel and many countries that had never previously
maintained such relations with Israel – including India and China.
process led to the disappearance of most of the manifestations of the Arab
Boycott of Israel, not only in its secondary and tertiary forms (companies in
third countries that refused to trade and do business with Israel due to Arab
pressure) but even in its primary form.
Following Oslo a peace treaty was
signed with Jordan, and agreements were signed with several other Arab
countries. Even though most of these agreements were frozen following the
outbreak of the second intifada, over 10,000 Israelis still visit Morocco every
year, and Israeli businessmen still do business with various Arab
Unfortunately, since the negotiations with the Palestinians
came to a standstill, Israel’s international status has once again started to
Finally, it should be pointed out that if the Oslo Accords
had not been signed, many of us would still be living under the illusion that
reaching a settlement with the Palestinians was a piece of cake, and that only
good will was required. Today we know that this is not the case, but it has also
become clearer than ever that unless such a settlement is reached, Israel’s
status in the world will continue to deteriorate.