General introduction about the Oslo Accords:
The Oslo Accords marked a significant milestone in the endeavour for peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The accords consisted of two agreements ratified by the Israeli administration and the PLO, whose primary objective was to ensure the establishment of a Palestinian State. The first accord was signed in Washington D.C. by both participating member states while the second accord was signed in 1995 in Taba, Egypt. Although the provisions discussed in the accord were agreed upon by both member states and continue to be enforced today, it was unsuccessful in easing tensions in the region.
The Oslo Accords were momentous for several reasons. In particular, the accord was well recognised as it was the first time that the Palestine Liberation Organisation formally recognised the State of Israel. This was significant as it gave Palestinians the hope of “limited self-governance” in Gaza and the West bank. While historians at the time believed that this was a massive step towards a peace treaty in the future, so far the accord “has yet to result in any lasting peace” in the region.
The origins of the accord-
The official negotiations for the creation of the Oslo Accord started in 1993, between the government of Israel and the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Initially, for fear of public backlash, neither party publicly acknowledged their efforts at initiating peace talks. To the Israeli citizens, the PLO was nothing short of a “terrorist organisation” and the talks ran the risk of being condemned for violating the country’s policy on “negotiating with terrorists”. On the other hand, the head of the PLO also benefited from secret peace talks with Israel as until then the PLO had never officially recognised “Israel’s legitimacy as a state” which would be considered a deterrent. For both sides, therefore, the confidentiality of initial peace talks was of utmost importance.
The Camp David Accords:
The Oslo Accords were essentially meant to serve as an extension of a series of accords known as the Camp David Accords ratified in 1978. The Camp David Accords, “signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem” were meant to mark efforts towards lasting peace in the region.
The Camp David Accords were also significant in that they laid a “ “Framework for Peace in the Middle East ” meant to put an end to the Egyptian-Israeli conflict. More specifically, the Camp David Accords also recommended the creation of Gaza “creation of a Palestinian state in the area known as Gaza and on the West Bank”. These accords, however, were not formally acknowledged by the United Nations as the Palestinians were not present during the negotiations spearheaded by the then president of the United States, Jimmy Carter.
Oslo Accord 1- Negotiations
Held in Norway, the purpose of Oslo 1 was primarily to build on the work done by the Camp David Accords by laying down a plausible “framework for the creation of an independent Palestinian State”. Several well-known leaders such as the head of the PLO (Yasser Arafat), former Prime minister of Israel and several other leaders were present. Norwegians played the role of “mediators between the two sides”. One of the most notable outcomes of these negotiations, however, was that both sides ratified a “Letter of Mutual Recognition”, in which both members acknowledged the existence of the other. A Palestinian Authority was to be formed over the next 5 years to govern the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Oslo Accord 2- Negotiations
The negotiations of the second Oslo Accord primarily focussed on the City of Jerusalem and what would be done in the future to do with issues such as “security and the rights of Israeli
settlers in the West Bank”.
The second accord granted Palestinian Authority “limited control over the Gaza region” while ensuring “economic and political cooperation between the two sides. The accord also explicitly addressed the need for both sides to refrain from “inciting violence and conflict between each other”.
The aftermath of the accords:
Even though the accords were a step in the right direction, the peace ensured by the accords lasted only for a few years. Many on both sides refused to acknowledge the terms. There were several acts of violence incited by both Israelis and Palestinians over the next few years. In 1995 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally by an Israeli extremist in retaliation for his support of the peace process.
In the year 1998, the conflict between Israel and Palestine resumed when the Palestinians alleged that troop withdrawals mandated by the accords were not fulfilled by Israel. Critics of the accord also stated that the increase in Palestinian power ensured by the accords caused a worsening of the conflict. Despite the disagreements, however, representatives attempted to reconvene talks to arrive at a peace treaty. This effort, too, however, was short-lived as the US had a key role to play in the negotiations. The change in the leadership, however, from Bill Clinton to George Bush caused these efforts to fall through.
Today, even though parts of the Oslo Accord are still being enforced, a large number of the previously agreed upon provisions have “long been abandoned”, bringing into question the effectiveness of the accords in the peace efforts.