Norway, the EU are hypocrites when it comes to the Oslo Accords - opinion

Restoring funding for those organizations and ignoring their connections to Palestinian terror is in fact tantamount to giving sanctions and encouragement to Palestinian terror. 

 THEN-PRIME minister Naftali Bennett and Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store chat at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, last year. Norway’s decision to restore funding to terror-supporting NGOs is particularly serious in light of its major role in the Oslo Accords, says the writer (photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)
THEN-PRIME minister Naftali Bennett and Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store chat at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, last year. Norway’s decision to restore funding to terror-supporting NGOs is particularly serious in light of its major role in the Oslo Accords, says the writer
(photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

Norway, together with EU member states, recently announced their rejection of evidence submitted by Israel justifying its October 2021 designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations as “supporters of terror.” Norway and the EU states announced their intention to restore funding to those terror-supporting organizations. 

Such a decision runs against the very spirit of Norway’s and the EU’s respective counter-terrorism policies. It contravenes their own international commitments, it undermines the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel, and is clearly incompatible with their active involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Israel’s designation was based on the links between those groups, including transferring funds, to the “Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine – PFLP,” which itself is considered to be a terrorist organization by the EU, the US, Israel and other countries. 

Norway and its European colleagues evidently prefer to adopt a stark double standard by restoring funding for the six NGO groups, on the strength of their putative activities in the field of human rights, while minimizing or deliberately ignoring their inherent connection, ongoing support and financing of Palestinian terror groups. 

They also appear to be ignoring internationally accepted norms and obligations, to which they are party, which criminalizes the transfer of funds, directly or indirectly, for any use connected with terrorism. Such norms and obligations hold that support and financing of terror indeed outweigh all other activities, including human rights activities ostensibly carried out by such organizations, as a cover for their support of terror. 

 The logo of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq is seen in its offices in Ramallah, in the West Bank, on November 8, 2021. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS) The logo of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq is seen in its offices in Ramallah, in the West Bank, on November 8, 2021. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Restoring funding for those organizations and ignoring their connections to Palestinian terror is in fact tantamount to giving sanction and encouragement to Palestinian terror

It is incompatible with international instruments, norms and principles to which Norway and the EU are party, as well as with specific provisions in the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords to which they are signatories as witnesses. These provisions commit the parties to actively prevent terror rather than to encourage or finance it.

Norway’s disturbing decision to restore funding to terror-supporting NGOs is particularly serious in light of its own special status both as witness to the Oslo Accords, but also in light of its active involvement as the major facilitator, mediator, host and patron of the accords.

Norwegian diplomats played an active and continuing role in advancing the Israel-Palestinian negotiation process, from low-key facilitation through active mediation; upgrading the negotiating process from informal, exploratory bridge-building to official negotiations at the highest level; and even hosting negotiation sessions in Oslo.

Even in its official governmental website, Norway boasts of its active engagement in promoting peace and reconciliation and in facilitating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Oslo Accords, as part of the Middle East peace process, are integrally and inherently identified with Norway, not merely because the accords are named after its capital city Oslo. 

While the Oslo Accords do not impose substantive legal obligations on the witnesses, international practice views witnessing agreements as a reflection of the involvement of such witnesses in the negotiation or promotion of the agreement, and as an indication of concern that the treaty should succeed.

By the same token, the signature as a witness assumes that the witness will not act to undermine the agreement by encouraging and supporting a party to the agreement to violate its commitments.

Norway undermines the Oslo Accords

REGRETTABLY, NORWAY continuously chooses to undermine the Oslo Accords by officially espousing Palestinian claims to statehood despite the fact that the accords specifically leave the issue of the permanent status of the territories to be negotiated. 

In attempting to prejudge the outcome of such negotiation, Norway in effect is encouraging Palestinian violation of the accords and their continuing rejection of further negotiations with Israel. 

Norway has also encouraged and enabled Palestinian contravention of the agreed provision in the accords which limit the powers of the Palestinian Authority to conduct foreign diplomatic relations, including “…establishment abroad of embassies.” In December 2010, Norway upgraded the Palestinian representation in Oslo to that of an embassy and committed to recognize such a Palestinian state should negotiations with Israel fail to make progress.

Repeated Norwegian statements claiming that the Israeli presence in east Jerusalem violates international law are also at variance with the agreed provision in the accords regarding the fact that the “issue of Jerusalem” is a permanent status negotiation issue, yet to be resolved. 

While every state has the sovereign prerogative to accept foreign missions and express its policy viewpoint on any political issue, given Norway’s heavy involvement in the negotiating process and special status as a witness to the accords, such statements in effect serve to prejudge the outcome of negotiations on the issue of Jerusalem.

From the very beginning of the international efforts to counter the blight of terrorism in the 1970s, the issue of financing terror has consistently figured as a major and central component of universally accepted international conventions and resolutions. Norway and the European states supported such instruments and are parties to them. 

Norway’s decision, together with EU states, to restore financing to non-governmental organizations involved in transferring funds for use by terror groups, contravenes central provisions in the Oslo Accords in which both Israel and the Palestinians are committed to prevent and deal with terror. 

In view of the fact that Norway actively accompanied the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords, and the EU supported and endorsed the accords, and considering that both are signatories as witnesses to the accords, it might be reasonable to expect that they would not act to undermine such central provisions regarding terror.

Hence, the decision by Norway and EU countries to resume funding to Palestinian NGOs that are heavily identified with Palestinian terror organizations, and that channel funds to those organizations, is particularly striking. It not only undermines and violates international counter-terror instruments to which they are a party, but also undermines those provisions of the Oslo Accords calling for the prevention of terror.

Facilitating international funding for supporting and encouraging Palestinian terror, including providing funds for salaries and benefits of terrorists serving prison sentences, would appear to be the very antithesis of any genuine, positive and bona fide international action to encourage human rights, peace and stability in the Middle East. 

The writer, formerly a Foreign Ministry legal adviser and Israel’s ambassador to Canada, was one of the international lawyers who represented Israel in the negotiation of the Oslo Accords. He currently directs the international law program at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.