by Motasem A Dalloul
On 13 September 1993 the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel signed the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, or what has commonly become known as the Oslo Accords. This, according to UN documents, aimed to establish the general guidelines for negotiations between the PLO and Israel, lay the foundations for a Palestinian interim self-government in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for a transitional period of five years and lays the basis for permanent status talks based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.
Twenty-four years after the announcement of this agreement – which should have achieved at least some gains for the Palestinians, including peace, security, economic growth and a final settlement – the Palestinians instead have been moving from one big loss to another, starting from the shrinking of their proposed homeland, to the loss of security and safety and ending with economic hardships and movement restrictions which have made their life unbearable.
Meanwhile, the co-sponsors of this notorious agreement, mainly the United States which hosted the signature ceremony of the agreement, has done nothing except take the side of the Israeli occupation, showering it with dollars, doubling all forms of support and sending the most recent and developed weapons, hundreds of tonnes of which were dropped on the heads of Palestinians in Gaza between 2006 and 2014.
The parties and the sponsors of the agreement agreed to solve the Palestinian issue based on the UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which is a reconfirmation of 242. This resolution stipulates the withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in 1967, which are the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula.
However, all of the aforementioned areas are still occupied by Israel except the Sinai Peninsula, which was handed back after a separate peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in the 1970s. In addition, the Israeli grip over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip has increased.
Briefly, in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, Israel has planted hundreds of military checkpoints, expanded illegal settlements that have eaten up large swathes of Palestinian farms and residential areas, built an illegal separation wall that divides the occupied West Bank into small cantons, evicted Palestinians from their homes and handed them to Israeli settlers under weak pretexts. Israeli authorities have demolished thousands of homes under the pretext that they lack building licenses and increased the number of settlers from 105,000 in 1993 to more than 765,000 at the end of 2015.
Israel dismantled illegal settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 under the pressure of the primitive homemade rockets that showered over them for a couple of years. However, Gaza remains under the full control of the Israeli occupation, which has imposed a strict siege on the coastal enclave since the victory of Hamas in the 2006 elections.
The Israeli siege has made Gaza “unliveable” and the sponsors of the Oslo Agreement have done nothing. Gaza came under four major offensives between 2006 and 2015 that claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinian civilians, wounded tens of thousands others, devastated infrastructure, paralysed hospitals, destroyed schools and universities and made Gaza’s children unable to “sleep, study or play,” Save the Children said, mainly due to the electricity and environmental crises.
Moreover, the area of the Gaza Strip has shrunk from 362km2 in 1994 to 275km2 in 2005. Israel occupied this land and made it no-man’s land.
The UN Security Council resolution which the Oslo Agreement is based on guarantees freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area, however, Palestinians are not only prevented from navigating through these international waterways, but prevented from sailing more than six and sometimes nine nautical miles for fishing.
Article V of the agreement stipulates that Palestinians collect taxes directly, however, it is actually Israel who is collecting the taxes, deducting administrative fees and transferring them to Palestinians. Tax money has been used by Israel to exploit the Palestinians as Israel will arbitrarily stop transferring it to cause a financial crisis to pressure Palestinians to conform to the Israeli agenda.
The parties and sponsors of Oslo agreed to implement interim self-governance arrangements and a framework to facilitate the negotiations for the final status issues by the end of 1999. However, more than two and half decades later the situation is deteriorating and no progress has been made.
Palestinian politicians from inside and outside the PLO have criticised the agreement, stressing it was an opportunity for Israel to expand its occupation. “Oslo was the greatest idea Israel ever had. It let them continue the occupation without paying any of the costs,” Secretary General of the left wing Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouti has said.
Taysir Khalid, member of the PLO’s Executive Committee and member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said that Oslo and the following agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel “were catastrophic at all levels”.
The former US President Jimmy Carter, who engineered Israel and Egypt’s peace deal, said that he is “practically hopeless” that anything US President Donald Trump comes up with would be “justice to the Palestinians”. At the same time Israeli parties are discussing plans to annex Palestinians territories.
A UN report issued today says: “We are no closer to a sustainable solution that meets the needs and aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis alike… The absence of a political process for achieving the two-state solution remains a serious impediment to Palestine’s development.”
The question now is, what will Oslo bring for the Palestinians more than suffering?