On September 13, 1993, history witnessed a landmark event as the Israeli occupation leadership and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) inked the Oslo Accords, with the aim of charting a course towards a lasting resolution to the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state. Almost three decades later, it is unmistakably clear that the Oslo Accords have fallen short of their “lofty” objectives, leaving the Palestinian population ensnared in a state of prolonged oppression and dispossession.
The Oslo Accords articulated a blueprint for the gradual transfer of authority over the West Bank territories to a newly established Palestinian governing body. This transition was designed to unfold through the division of the West Bank into three delineated zones, denoted as Areas A, B, and C, each characterized by varying degrees of Palestinian or Israeli control. Regrettably, this division ultimately favored the Israeli occupation, permitting it to retain a firm grip on strategically pivotal Palestinian territories.
Stagnation and Settlement Expansion
Presently, the situation within these delineated zones has remained remarkably static, while the number of Israeli settlements in Area C has burgeoned exponentially. On average, close to 14,000 settlers annually have taken up residence within the occupied territories. By mid 2023, the settler population had surged to a staggering 700,000, a stark contrast to the 110,000 settlers at the time of the Oslo Accords. This rapid colonization of Palestinian land was facilitated by the imprecise and ambiguous language of the agreements, which failed to curb the expansion of these settlements.
It is imperative to acknowledge that the Oslo Accords were never a fair and equitable pact between equals. Instead, they were thrust upon the Palestinian leadership by an occupying power, leaving the Palestinians with limited bargaining power. These accords substantially favored the Israeli occupation, enabling it to persist in its occupation and territorial expansion.
A Hollow Promise
Even if the Oslo Accords had been fully realized as envisioned, they would have conferred Palestinians only nominal control over a meager 10% of the historical Palestine, fragmented between Gaza and the West Bank. This proposed “state” would have existed under perpetual trusteeship, bereft of genuine autonomy for the Palestinian populace. It would have perpetuated the schism among Palestinians, separating those in the West Bank, those in the Gaza Strip, those in lands occupied since 1948 by Israel, and the displaced refugees.
In reality, the Oslo process served as a veneer for the reconfiguration of the Israeli occupation, permitting it to consolidate its dominance over Palestinian territories while ostensibly engaging in a peace process. These accords did not signify a groundbreaking compromise on the part of the Israeli occupation but rather an adaptation of the Zionist project to evolving circumstances on the ground.
The Oslo Accords also furnished the Israeli occupation with means to resolve its long-standing political quandary arising from the aftermath of the 1967 occupation. The Israeli military triumph in the 1967 war had precipitated a demographic challenge as it found itself governing both the Palestinian territories and a sizable Palestinian population. This precarious situation jeopardized the Israeli claim to being both a “Jewish State” and a “democratic State.” The Oslo Accords, with their territorial divisions and settlements, provided a strategic solution by ceding control over densely populated Palestinian areas while retaining crucial strategic territories.
Oslo’s Rhetorical Framework
Furthermore, the Oslo framework portrayed the Israeli occupation of Palestine as a symmetrical contest between two adversarial states, sidestepping the glaring power imbalance between them. This skewed perspective enabled the Israeli occupation to cast its actions as mere responses to Palestinian violence, conveniently disregarding the disparities in casualties, destruction, and suffering.
In recent years, the peace process has dwindled, as the international community clings to the mirage of symmetry while the Israeli occupation escalates its violations against Palestinians. The enactment of the Israeli “Nation-State Law” in 2018 enshrined Jewish supremacy and apartheid into legislation, effectively denying Palestinians their right to self-determination.
Despite receiving de facto support from the United States and Europe, the Israeli global image has been tarnished. Palestinians, through the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, have effectively shattered the illusion of Israeli normality. Symbolic triumphs through boycotts and divestment have spotlighted the plight of Palestinians living under occupation.
In summation, the Oslo Accords have failed to deliver justice and self-determination to the Palestinian people. Instead, they have permitted the Israeli occupation to cement its occupation and territorial expansion while prolonging the suffering of Palestinians. The international community must now acknowledge this reality and recognize that true peace cannot be achieved under the shadow of occupation and colonization. The Palestinian quest for liberation and self-determination merits unwavering support, and it is high time for justice to prevail.