The Lessons of Oslo

 

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the Oslo Accords. The disappointment on the part of most Israelis and Palestinians at any mention of the Accords is in direct proportion to the enormous hope that they inspired at the time. It’s easy enough to say today that they were bound to fail, considering how many of the crucial details were cloaked in vagueness and ambiguity. But at the time, at the end of the first Intifada, the Accords marked a turning point in the strategy of two longstanding enemies who, in agreeing to mutual recognition, affirmed for the first time the possibility of a political solution to the conflict.

 

For Rabin and Peres, the Israel leaders at the time, the accords marked the recognition that the Palestinian desire for independence would not be crushed by force. In spite of the failure of the Accords, they left an important legacy:

1) The creation of the Palestinian Authority, which has since been recognised by almost every country in the world; and

2) the end of the dream of Greater Israel as part of the programme of all those Israeli political parties with the slightest sense of responsibility.

 

Let historians decide who was responsible on either side for the failure of the Accords. The rest of us must try and draw lessons from this episode in order to continue to work towards an end to the conflict.

 

First of all, it’s important to remember that the failure of these negotiations is not a reason to give up on the idea of a two state solution. Doing that would mean accepting the end of the state of Israel as a democratic state with a Jewish majority, and condemning the Palestinians to a future without independence and nationhood.

 

It is also essential, to ensure popular support for a final agreement, that any negotiation must have in its sights a final status solution which acknowledges and deals with the most contentious questions, even if implementation will take time and have to be done in stages.

 

Finally, a third party, recognised and accepted by both sides, must be brought in to ensure that negotiations run as smoothly as possible within a limited and controlled time frame.

 

It seems that the negotiators who have started talks in the last few weeks, under the aegis of the Americans, have learned something from past mistakes and are well aware of the potential dangers of another failed round of talks. Both sides recognise the dangers of extremists who are ready to do whatever it takes to make these talks fail. Today both Palestinian and Israeli leaders are well acquainted with the red lines on either side. The only question is whether they have the political courage necessary to make the compromises that are essential to a lasting solution to the age-old conflict.

JCall was set up to show support for and belief in the possibility of a reasonable solution to the conflict. At this crucial time, we affirm our support for the moderate forces amongst diaspora Jews and in Israel who are joining together to fight for peace.

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