Since the signing, 30 years ago, of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, heralded by Israeli and world leaders as a breakthrough and the start of a peace process, over 2,000 Israelis have been murdered in Palestinian terror attacks.
The Oslo Accords led to 30 years of continuous, horrific, Palestinian terror under the leadership of the newly formed Palestinian Authority. Suicide bombings, shootings, knifings, car rammings, and other terror attacks were enabled by the Accords. Many mourn the lost peace that they thought was merely a breath away, wondering what caused the Oslo peace process to fail.
The answer is that, in international agreements, the very same things that cause one side to see failure can make the other side see success. Whereas the terror that Oslo enabled made it a tragic failure for Israel, for the PLO the terror is what made it a success, because that was one of the goals set by the Palestinian leadership when they signed. This is not merely conjecture after the fact.
The Palestinians said the goal of Oslo was terror
Since its inception, the PA leaders have been declaring their terror goals for the Oslo process, but Israeli leaders made the astonishing decision to believe what the PA leaders told them in private, over what they told their own people in public.
One of the clearest enunciations that Oslo’s purpose was to facilitate terror was reported by Palestinian Media Watch just months before Arafat launched the terror Intifada in 2000, articulated by a PA government minister.
“The Palestinian people accepted the Oslo Accords as a first step and not as a permanent settlement, based on the premise that the war and struggle in the land is more efficient than a struggle from a distant land [Tunisia]... The Palestinian people will continue the revolution until they achieve the goals of the ‘65 revolution... [destruction of Israel].” (Abd Al-Aziz Shahin, PA minister of supplies, Al-Ayyam, May 30, 2000)
PA minister Shahin could not have been more explicit about Oslo’s goal being increased terror. The PLO had trouble directing terror from Tunisia and signed the Olso Accords to direct terror against Israelis “in the land.” Everything that has happened in the last 30 years is encapsulated in those words – and yet Israel chose to ignore him.
The promise of terror came repeatedly, even earlier in the process, from the top PA leadership. Already in 1996, Nabil Sha’ath, chief PLO negotiator for the Oslo Accords, promised Palestinians that the automatic rifles that Israel gave the PA police would be turned on Israelis unless they gave in to every single Palestinian demand.
A private recording of Sha’ath discussing strategy at a meeting was exposed by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) on January 15, 1996.
“This is the strategy... If and when Israel says ‘enough,’ namely ‘We won’t discuss Jerusalem, we won’t return refugees, we won’t dismantle settlements, we won’t withdraw to the  borders,’ in that case we will return to violence.
“But this time, it will be with 30,000 armed Palestinian soldiers and in a land with elements of freedom.
“I’m the first to call for it. If we get to a deadlock, we shall return to the fighting and struggle, as we have fought for 40 years or more.”
Moreover, the fact that the goal was not to achieve peace with Israel was explicitly stated by PLO chairman Yassar Arafat – just months after he signed the Oslo Accords – and repeatedly, over 30 years, by others.
Arafat compared the Oslo Accords to the 10-year Treaty of Hudaybiyyah peace agreement, that Muhammad signed with the Quraish tribe of Mecca when he was too weak to conquer them. Two years later he trampled the agreement and conquered Mecca.
“This [Oslo] agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our Prophet Muhammad and Quraish,” Arafat was recorded as saying in his Johannesburg speech on May 10, 1994.
How could Israel have missed these, and numerous other, warning signs that PMW continuously exposed throughout the Oslo process?
Moreover, how did the Israeli negotiators accept the PLO’s verbal promises without demanding any concrete steps to show sincerity, knowing that, throughout history, deception has been a fundamental strategy to undermine enemies?
The enduring power of the ancient tale of the Trojan Horse underscores that deception has been a key to war throughout history. However, deception usually involves strategy and planning. The Allied attack on D-day succeeded because of the full program of deception named Operation Bodyguard which included phantom field armies, fake wireless messages, false leaks by diplomats, and much more, to trick the Germans into believing that the Allies were not landing at Normandy. The United States parachuted dolls into, and floated dummies near, other potential landing sites.
Looking back at 30 years of continuous PA-promoted, -glorified, and -rewarded terror, what is so shocking about the Oslo deception is that the PLO, which in 1993 was still a terrorist organization, needed to do nothing to deceive the eager Israeli leaders. They just had to come to the table and sign a piece of paper.
There was no Trojan Horse, there were no dummy parachutes flying from the sky, and there were no false leaks by Palestinian diplomats to convince Israelis that the PLO terrorists had reformed. There was no trial period. There was no attempt to wait for the reeducation of Palestinian youth raised on hatred of Jews and Israel.
INSTEAD, THERE were over-eager Israeli politicians waiting for the PLO to just say that they no longer wanted to destroy Israel. Oslo’s Trojan Horse succeeded because there were Israeli negotiators and leaders who were so anxious to have a peace agreement that they ignored all caution and let themselves be deceived.
What’s even more shocking is that the Israeli government already had all the evidence that Oslo was a deception. As early as 1996, PMW had reported the PA’s terror-engagement messages to the Palestinian people. In 1997, PMW exposed the PA’s promotion of terror and martyrdom to children. By 1998, PMW had also reported on the indoctrination of hate and violence through PA schoolbooks.
The PA was telling its people that Haifa and Jaffa were Palestinian cities to be liberated in stages. It openly gloated at the vision of Palestinian police eventually turning their weapons against Israelis. Suicide bombers were already murdering Israelis on buses and malls in Israeli cities. Israeli governments had all the information, but acted like gamblers, continuing to throw more money into the pot and refusing to accept the shame, guilt, and responsibility of having walked Israel into the Oslo death trap.
So was Oslo a failure? Oslo was a trap that fundamentally changed Israel’s security predicament, exposing the country to three decades of terror, with no end in sight. Yet, according to Palestinian leaders, it was not a failure.
For the same reasons that Israelis say Oslo failed - the unabated Palestinian terror - the Palestinians consider that Olso succeeded.
Ziyad Abu Ein, who served as PA deputy minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, explained: “Oslo is the effective and potent greenhouse which embraced the Palestinian resistance.
“Without Oslo, there would never have been resistance. In all the occupied territories, we could not move a single pistol from place to place. Without Oslo and being armed through Oslo... we would not have been able to create this great Palestinian Intifada” (from Iranian Al-Alam TV, July 4, 2006).
Another leader, Sultan Abu Al-Einein, a member of the Fatah Central Committee – known for his “If you see an Israeli, slit his throat” comment – echoed him: “The arms [over 40,000 rifles] that were used against the Israeli enemy in Gaza and in other places were brought [into the PA] in accordance with [the Oslo] Accords. When we refer to the negative aspects of the Oslo Accords, we should also look at their other aspects” (from Al-Quds TV, April 6, 2009).
One could summarize the Oslo Accords by declaring them a major success for the PLO, but a dismal failure for Israel.
But there is a much deeper truth. The peace process that Israel imagined didn’t fail. It never existed.
The writer is the director of Palestinian Media Watch. His book Deception, co-authored with Nan Jacques Zilberdik, was acclaimed by Robert Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch, as “one of the most important books you may handle in your lives.”