The signing of the Oslo Accords in Washington, DC, Sept. 13, 1993. Photo credit: The White House Archives
By: Benjamin Aziza, Columnist
This September marks the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, the agreement that is often referred to as the closest that Israelis and Palestinians ever came to long lasting peace. However, the provisions of the Accords were never met fully by either side, leading to the collapse of the agreement, and in turn, a return to violence. Since then, there have been major Palestinian uprisings resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Israelis as well as resulting Israeli retaliation which left thousands of Palestinians dead. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its blockade on the Gaza Strip has made life for Palestinians incredibly difficult, and the steady flow of stabbings and car ramming attacks perpetrated by Palestinians have led to mass fear amongst the Israeli population.[i] [ii]
Now, it feels as if the conflict is further away from peace than ever before, as the conditions for a third intifada (uprising) are ripe. Neither Palestinian nor Israeli leadership is immune from blame as both have consistently made decisions that have impeded the peace process.[iii] [iv] In order for positive change to occur, steps taken by both governments to positively advance the current calamitous socio-economic situation for the Palestinians, and Israelis must be assured the sense of security that they have been looking for since the country’s inception 70 years ago.
The actions of President Trump since assuming office have only complicated matters more as his policies have been seemingly one sided, favoring the Israelis while disenfranchising the Palestinians.[v] Acting on what are considered to be final status issues – those that would only be ironed out in the event of a full-fledged peace deal agreed to by both Israelis and Palestinians – by moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and officially recognizing the city as the capital of Israel led to an incredible amount of violence from Palestinians and a rise in distrust from Palestinian leadership.[vi] More recently, President Trump’s actions to cut more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians and the closing of the Palestinian delegation to the United States earlier this month could backfire and potentially lead to a total collapse of US-Palestinian relations.[vii] Without the support of the United States, improving the already-dire situation for the Palestinians is unlikely.
Both sides clearly need to make adjustments to their current policies in order to retain any hope of peace in the foreseeable future. First, Israel must stop the expansion of the occupation by building more settlements in the West Bank, ease restrictions on the Gazan border and aid their Palestinian counterparts in creating a self-sustaining economy. It is in Israel’s interest to help the Palestinians develop their economy as violence in both the West Bank and Gaza has often arisen from lack of economic opportunity.
The Palestinians must understand that ultimately, such violence will only hurt their cause, and their divided and corrupt leadership must take the necessary steps forward to show the world that they can be taken seriously. The rule of Hamas in Gaza complicates matter further as their violent resistance to the existence of State of Israel and their opposition to any form of peace negotiations makes it clear that any chance for their involvement in an agreement is off the table. Payments to the families of terrorists who carry out attacks against Israelis also must come to an end as it is those payments which have been publicly declared as the rationale behind the American decision to retract their aid package.[viii] Palestinians must now regain the support of the United States and taking the initiative to actively prevent further violent attacks would likely be met with praise from American leadership.
The 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords should serve as a reminder to how important creating long-lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis truly is. Between 2009 and 2018, there have been 3,385 conflict-related deaths: 3,268 Palestinians and 117 Israelis.[ix] Thousands more have been injured, damage to infrastructure has cost millions and the situation for civilians on both sides has continued to be unfavorable at best. After 70 years of conflict, both sides must understand that concessions must be made for the sake of their respective people and that cooperation is the only solution for this conflict. Endless violence will only exacerbate the situation.
[i] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Wave of Terror 2015-2018”, September 16, 2018. http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/Terrorism/Palestinian/Pages/Wave-of-terror-October-2015.aspx
[ii] Oxfam, “Timeline: The Humanitarian Impact of the Gaza Blockade”, https://www.oxfam.org/en/occupied-palestinian-territory-and-israel/timeline-humanitarian-impact-gaza-blockade
[iii]Agencies and TOI Staff, “Defiant Abba says he won’t halt stipends to terrorists”, The Times of Israel, July 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/defiant-abbas-says-he-wont-halt-stipends-to-terrorists/
[iv] Dan Perry and Josef Federman, “Netanyahu years see more settlement growth”, The Times of Israel, December 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-years-see-more-settlement-growth/?fb_comment_id=759259877477596_759295570807360#f2a6381c3d14b6
[v] Tracy Wiklinson, “Trump administration support for Israel goes beyond its predecessors and isolates US internationally”, LA Times, May 17, 2018. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-fg-us-israel-20180517-story.html
[vi] Amir Tibon and Noa Landau, “U.S. Embassy Moving to Jerusalem: Everything You Need to Know”, Haaretz, May 14, 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-u-s-embassy-in-jerusalem-1.6062554
[vii]Angence France-Presse, “Donald Trump cuts more than $200 million in aid to Palestinians”, The Guardian, August 24, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/25/donald-trump-cuts-more-than-200m-in-aid-to-palestinians
[viii]Eric Mandel, “Will the Taylor Force act and UNWRA reform destroy the PA”, The Jerusalem Post, January 14, 2018, https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Will-the-Taylor-Force-Act-and-UNRWA-reform-destroy-the-PA-534737
[ix]B’Tselem, “Fatalities Since Operation Cast Lead”, B’Tselem, 2018, https://www.btselem.org/statistics/fatalities/after-cast-lead/by-date-of-event