There is no consensus regarding the Oslo Accords

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.

Left-wing activists rally in favor of Oslo Accords 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Left-wing activists rally in favor of Oslo Accords 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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 failure.”
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.
Both 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 legitimate.
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.
The 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 countries.
Unfortunately, since the negotiations with the Palestinians came to a standstill, Israel’s international status has once again started to deteriorate.
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.