THE OSLO PROCESS DID NOT FAIL

I prefer the Palestinians to cope with the problem of enforcing order in Gaza. The Palestinians will be better at it than we were, because they will allow no appeals to the Supreme Court and will prevent the [Israeli] Association for Civil Rights from criticising the conditions there by denying it access to the area. They will rule there by their own methods, freeing – and this is most important – the Israeli soldiers from having to do what they will do.

– Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to a meeting of the Israeli Labour Party, shortly before the signing of the Oslo I Accord (1993)

Source: Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (New York: 2006), pp. 136-37.

Let us call the agreement [i.e., the Oslo I Accord of 1993] by its real name: an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles. What makes it worse is that for at least the past fifteen years the PLO could have negotiated a better arrangement than this modified Allon Plan, one not requiring so many unilateral concessions to Israel . . . [T]he PLO has ended the intifada, which embodied not terrorism or violence but the Palestinian right to resist, even though Israel remains in occupation of the West Bank and Gaza . . . In both internal security and development, Israel and the PLO are now aligned with each other . . . The PLO will thus become Israel’s enforcer . . . Alas one can already see in Palestine’s potential statehood the lineaments of a marriage between the chaos of Lebanon and the tyranny of Iraq.

– Palestinian intellectual Edward Said (1993)

Source: Edward Said, ‘The Morning After‘, London Review of Books 15.20 (21 October 1993), pp. 3-5.

If we find a partner for peace with the Palestinians, they will run their internal affairs without the High Court of Justice, B’Tselem, or all sorts of groups of mothers and fathers and bleeding hearts.

– Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1994)

Source: Norman G. Finkelstein, Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to An End (New York: 2012), p. 226.

We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev — as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.

B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.

C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the ‘Green Line’, prior to the Six Day War.

D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.

[…]

I want to remind you: we committed ourselves, that is, we came to an agreement, and committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.

[…]

Israel retains complete freedom of action, in order to implement its security and political objectives relating to the permanent solution.

– Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, presenting the Oslo II Accord to Israel’s parliament (1995)

Source: Yitzhak Rabin, ‘Speech to the Knesset’ (5 October 1995); transcript here.

[W]e conducted negotiations that do not require the evacuation of even one settlement. The edifice we are building is based on a change in relations, not in locations.

– Prime Minister Shimon Peres, in a statement to Israel’s parliament (1995)

Source: Nicholas Guyatt, The Absence of Peace (London: 1998), p. 56; transcript here.

The occupation continued [after the Oslo I Accord] . . . albeit by remote control, and with the consent of the Palestinian people, represented by their ‘sole representative’, the PLO.

– Former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti (1995)

Source: Norman G. Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict second edition (London: 2003; first edition 1995), p. 172.

[In permanent status] talks, our position will be that greater Jerusalem should remain undivided under our sovereignty, the eternal capital of Israel. There are no compromises here. No ‘ifs’, ‘ands’ or ‘buts’. We will not go back to the 1967 borders, most Israeli settlements will remain under Israeli control and no army other than the IDF will be deployed between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

– Foreign Minister Ehud Barak (1996)

Source: ‘Address by Foreign Minister Ehud Barak To the Annual Plenary Session of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council‘, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1996).

[Rabin and Peres] deserve the highest praise for having increased the number of the Jews in Judea and Samaria by 40% in the past four years . . . Praise is also due to the Israeli left which did not say one word about that during the past four years, and to the American government which knew about it and did not interfere with it. Praise is especially due to the Palestinian Authority, that saw the construction and knew that massive building was going on, and which legitimised it by not stopping the continuation of the process.

– Finance Minister Dan Meridor, of the newly elected right-wing Likud government (1996)

Source: Nicholas Guyatt, The Absence of Peace (London: 1998), p. 82.

The [Oslo] agreement leaves us with the territory and them with the populated areas, which neither the Likud nor the Alignment [Labor] wanted to control – and it even leaves them with the dirty work of patrolling the cities and refugee camps. The final status agreement will be what you want it to be. And during the interim period, most of the unpopulated areas remain in your hands, all the faucets and fuses are yours, and they take care of security . . . We are the strong side and they are the weak, in a clear and obvious way. To go from Gaza to Judea-Samaria, you have to come through us. To get in, you have to come through us, the tax and customs money they get from us. We didn’t want to establish a mechanism for conflict resolution by a third party, because when there’s a strong versus a weak partner, the third party tends to take the side of the weak.

– Joel Singer, Legal Advisor to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, who helped formulate the Oslo Accords (1996)

Source: L.G. Grinberg, Politics and Violence in Israel/Palestine: Democracy Versus Military Rule (Abingdon: 2010), p. 96.

[settlement-building] is fully consistent with the terms of the Oslo accords.

– Government of Israel press office (1997)

Source: Nicholas Guyatt, The Absence of Peace (London: 1998), p. 46n21; transcript here.

The Labour government refused to accept any contractual limits on building anywhere

– Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on US television (1997)

Source: Nicholas Guyatt, The Absence of Peace (London: 1998), p. 84n11; transcript here.

The intifada was seen by [PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat] as a threat not only to Israel’s rule but also to the political supremacy of the PLO . . . Oslo was a desperate attempt by the Palestinian leader to recover control of the Palestinian cause and agenda and, in the process, sideline the local leadership and cut short what was clearly a democratic struggle for national independence.

– Former Foreign Minister of Israel Shlomo Ben-Ami (2005)

Source: Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy (London: 2005), p. 269; cf. ‘Fmr. Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami Debates Outspoken Professor Norman Finkelstein on Israel, the Palestinians, and the Peace Process‘, Democracy Now (14 February 2006).

The idea of Oslo was to find a strong dictator to . . . keep the Palestinians under control.

– Former Israeli Minister Natan Sharansky (2008)

Source: Norman G. Finkelstein, Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to An End (New York: 2012), p. 225.

Today, as a result of the Oslo Accords, the PA, not Israel, is responsible for the daily life of some 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza . . . Before ‘Oslo’ Israel was responsible for the daily life of the Palestinians, in accordance with international law. Israel built the infrastructure, supplied electricity and water, and sustained health services, education, transportation, public order, policing and the courts. Israel also paid the salaries of thousands of Palestinian civil administration employees. Where would we be today if the Netanyahu government, which is having difficulties securing the social wellbeing of most of Israel’s citizens, would also have to care for millions of Palestinians as well? It would have been a disaster.

A Palestinian once told me that the Oslo deal was ‘a brilliant Israeli arrangement’. How so? I asked him. ‘It created the only prison in the world where the prisoners have to provide for themselves, without the management’s participation’. Israel has the authority of the sovereign in the territories – without the obligations. This situation is a direct result of the Oslo Accords.

– Dov Weisglass, senior advisor to Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert (2012)

Source: Dov Weisglass, ‘Oslo Deal was Good for the Jews‘, Ynet (21 August 2012)


Between the end of 1993 and and the end of 2001, Israel’s settler population increased from 247,000 to 375,000. The number of West Bank settlers outside occupied East Jerusalem increased by nearly 75 percent between 1993 and 2000.

– B’Tselem, Israel’s preeminent human rights organisation (2002, 2010)

Source: B’Tselem, Land Grab: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank (May 2002), p. 8; B’Tselem, By Hook and By Crook: Israeli Settlement Policy in the West Bank (July 2010), p. 10. The ’75 percent’ figure does not include residents of ‘outposts’ – small settlements established in contravention of Israeli as well as international law.

The period between the start of the peace process in September 1993 and the beginning of the Al Aqsa uprising in September 2000 was a time of increasing and virtually uninterrupted economic decline for the majority of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Arguably, not since the beginning of Israeli occupation in 1967 had the Palestinian economy been so weak and its people so vulnerable.

– Sara Roy, leading specialist on Palestinian political economy at Harvard University (2002)

Source: Sara Roy, ‘Why Peace Failed: An Oslo Autopsy’ (2002), reproduced in Sara Roy, Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (London and Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto, 2007), pp. 241-42. For a review of the data, cf. Sara Roy, The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development expanded third edition (Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2016; first edition 1995, second edition 2001), pp. 344-69. Particularly damaging was that the manufacturing sector – vital for the Occupied Palestinian Territory’s exports and therefore ‘growth potential’ – ‘largely stagnated between 1994 and [2013]’. See World Bank, Fiscal Challenges and Long Term Economic Costs: Economic Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (19 March 2013), pp. 2, 12.

2 comments

  1. […] [29] Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians—Updated Edition (London: Pluto Press, 1999), pp. 64-80; cf. Yasser Arafat’s address to the UN General Assembly in Geneva, 1988 (A/43/PV.78 of 13 December 1988, pp. 11-12) and Muhammad Muslih, “A study of PLO peace initiatives, 1974-1988,” in Avraham Sela and Moshe Ma’oz eds., The PLO and Israel: From armed conflict to political solution, 1964-1994 (Houndmills: Macmillan, 1997)—which, however, incorrectly presents the Oslo agreements as the culmination and apotheosis of these initiatives, rather than their subversion and defeat. […]

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  2. […] The pressure the uprising ultimately brought to bear on Israel was sufficient to force Israel to rationalise its occupation, but not to bring it to an end. This rationalisation came at a heavy price for the Palestinians, on […]

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