This week, we will mark 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accord. Twenty
years after this agreement was signed, we must admit that it has been a historic
The Oslo vision stated that in the New Middle East, there would
be no more wars, that the conflict was not about the existence of Israel, but
about territory. It claimed that if we would just give the Palestinians a state,
there would be peace.
We took Arafat the terrorist and transformed him
into a partner for peace. The Palestinians are no longer our enemies who want to
kill us, but our neighbors. And terrorists became “freedom fighters” who were
protesting the “occupation,” the cause of their terror. The Israeli people were
told that a peace agreement would bring security, instead of security bringing
peace. And above all, if no agreement was reached, then we would be the guilty
party because we did not give up enough. We were promised a day of celebration,
but instead it turned out to be a day of mourning. Instead of sanctifying life,
we’ve buried our dead and cared for our crippled and injured.
retrospect, the Oslo Accord does not reflect political wisdom or even a
calculated risk. It was simply a dangerous gamble.
Since it was signed,
we have been subjected to forceful barrages of attacks carried out by
Bombs have exploded on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,
on buses and in commercial centers.
More than 1,000 people were murdered
and the thousands of people who have been injured were witness to this terrible
These victims were quickly dubbed by the Oslo Accord architect,
“victims of peace” instead of “victims of terror.”
These semantics have
not succeeded in making these people less dead and have not brought us any
closer to peace. All they have done is bolster terrorism. The idea that
concessions would bring about peace has had disastrous results in the short term
and bodes poorly for Israel’s long-term strategy.
Israel has made many
concessions: It withdrew from numerous territories in accordance with the Oslo
Accord; it allowed the PLO to relocate from Tunis to the West Bank; it
unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon; it made deals in which hundreds of
terrorists were released from prison; it made ridiculous roadmap concessions;
and it unilaterally disengaged from Gaza.
These actions have not been
perceived by the enemy as benevolent, but as an expression of weakness, and have
resulted in a barrage of rockets being aimed at Sderot and the communities
I cannot, however, recall any concessions from the
In addition to the upsurge in terrorism, Israel has
also paid a heavy economic price. As the internal security minister from 2001 to
2003 (years of intense terrorism) I witnessed first-hand how terrorism
negatively affected business, hotels, places of entertainment, entrepreneurship
Now, as tourism minister, I see the imprint that years
of terrorism have left on tourism in Israel, which is now slowly being
Oslo has also been the cause of heavy damage to Israel’s image
IN THE years before the Oslo Accord was signed, Israelis knew
what they were fighting for. Israel spoke about and fought in the name of
justice and against terrorism. The historical justice of the Zionist enterprise
was not just an important cause that we were following, but a bitter war against
terrorism, a fight for our very existence.
The famous picture of the
prime minister shaking hands with Arafat at the signing sent a message to the
world that we no longer consider Arafat a terrorist, that in fact he is now a
legitimate partner. Yes, he did murder thousands of innocent people, and yes, he
does brazenly and openly undermine the existence of the State of Israel, but
let’s put these facts aside for the moment and turn him into a legitimate
partner. And by turning a terrorist into a legitimate partner, we also gave his
And wonder of wonders: Arafat did not change his ways
one bit, but they became more and more legitimate in world public
“Terrorists” became “freedom fighters,” and the Palestinian
Charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, was never amended. The
number of suicide bombers grew and peace became an idea that was left lying on
the lawn at Camp David, farther away from us than ever.
And so it came to
pass that Israel, the only country in the Middle East that provided equal rights
for all minorities by law, became known as an apartheid state.
Accord also put Israel at a disadvantage in future negotiations.
Oslo, blackmail has become the norm in our relationship with the Palestinians,
where Palestinians require one-sided concessions as a prerequisite for
negotiations. And even after we give in, if talks do not take place, we are
always the one blamed.
Even during the most recent round of talks, we
made far-reaching concessions: We released more than 100 despicable security
prisoners with blood on their hands. I cannot recall any concession from the
Another disastrous outcome of the Oslo Accord has been
the blurring of our red lines. The red lines mark where our vital interests are
We fight for the red lines at any price with all our
Before the Oslo Accord, the public was united behind indisputable
red lines: we would not give up the Golan Heights or the Jordan Valley or move
the 1967 Green Line.
Jerusalem and the return of refugees were not even
up for discussion. Nor was negotiating with terrorists.
And yet every
single one of these red lines was crossed over the last two decades; the debate
centered instead on how high a price we would be willing to pay for each
At this point, since we cannot go back in time, we are bound to
slide down this slippery slope.
Negotiations are currently being held
between Israeli and Palestinian representatives. We must learn from our
disastrous mistakes at Oslo and implement the lessons we
Firstly, concessions should never be made without getting
something in return; there are no free lunches.
It’s time for the
Palestinians to make concessions, too.
Secondly, we need to carefully
examine the partner sitting across from us at the negotiating table: Is he truly
interested in peace? What kind of authority does he have? If an agreement is
reached by a leader who lacks a real mandate, it would just be broken. And if
the partner has backing, but calls for the destruction of Israel – under no
circumstances should we sit with him at the negotiation table. It was Shimon
Peres who once said, “The number of agreements that have been violated by the
Arabs is the same as the number of agreements that have been
Thirdly, we should begin a process of returning to the red lines
that are vital to our security and our future: the refugee issue and division of
Jerusalem should not even appear on the agenda. Returning to the 1967 Green Line
is also not an option – we would not be able to defend ourselves from that line.
The same goes for the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley.
We must go
back to using terms such as the Zionist enterprise’s historical justice. We are
building all over Jerusalem because this has been our capital since the days of
King David, and has never been the capital of any other nation; and throughout
Judea and Samaria – since they are also part of our homeland, which is in
accordance with the spirit of the League of Nations’ decision regarding the
Fourthly, let’s be realistic: There is no “New Middle
East.” It is still the same old Middle East it’s always been. And in the Middle
East, the radical Islamic elements are raising their heads. Here there is no
mercy for the weak and therefore we should not give up land that serves as a
security barrier under any circumstances.
And lastly, a Palestinian state
should not be allowed to be formed under the current
Nation-states in the region are crumbling before our eyes.
There have been bloody civil wars and cruel mass murders that no one could have
imagined in their worst nightmares.
In such a situation, where we don’t
know what the world will look like tomorrow, or who will be in power, no path
exists that could lead to a true peace. Anyone who talks about peace in the
Middle East in these troubled times is either living a pipe dream or is a
The best-case scenario would be if we could reach an interim
long-term agreement that would allow the Israelis and Palestinians to live side
by side and address any security problems and implement any necessary economic
improvements. Such an agreement could pave the road for a real peace agreement
in the future.
An interim agreement would also be based on facts on the
ground, which is quite different from the way the Oslo Accord was
Now, as we celebrate the Jewish High Holy Days, we need to take a
good look at these last few years and make a true reckoning.The writer
is tourism minister. In the past he served as internal security minister,
national infrastructure minister, as well as the minister responsible for
critiquing intelligence and strategic dialogue between the US and Israel.Translated by Hannah Hochner