Opinion: How the Oslo peace process ended in a stalemate

BY APD NEWSSep 14,2018 at 09:48

Editor's note:Wang Jin is a research fellow at the Charhar Institute and at the Syria Research Center of China's Northwest University. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

On Sept.13, 1993, Israel and Palestine signed a declaration recognizing the principle ofPalestineself-rule. This document, signed 25 years ago, started the process of Israel-Palestinian peace or the Oslo peace process.

The quest for peace in the Middle East, especially for Israel and Palestine, has long been one of the most challenging issues in international affairs. The Oslo process, too, fails to deliver a final settlement between Israel and Palestine on the status of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

It is important to review the historical background of the Oslo peace process. After the 1973 Arab-Israel war, Israel secured its survival in the Middle East, although its security was still challenged by regional sub-state groups, such as Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah and some “Islamic extremist groups” such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, Israel and some Arab states were in the process of forging closer ties with the help of mediation from the US. Egypt under al-Anwar Sadat decided to develop normal ties with Israel to end its protracted warfare with the country. Washington, therefore, became a major player in the Middle East to communicate between both Israel and Arab states.

Former US President Jimmy Carter (C) congratulates Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat (L) and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin (R) in three-way handshake on the north lawn of the White House, Washington DC, March 26, 1979. /VCG Photo

In the early 1990s, the US was interested in bringing peace and stability to the Middle East, especially after confrontations between Israel and Palestine had persisted for decades. The US, Russia, EU and UN, or the “Quartet,” put forth a “Roadmap” to facilitate negotiations between Israel and Arab world. The US also continued to be a major power in influencing the decision-makers in various Middle East states, and encouraged them to take bold measures to find solutions for lasting peace in the region.

Meanwhile, the intifada, or the “revolt,” that took place in Gaza and West Bank shocked both Israel and Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian uprising and Israel's response shattered any hope that a peace could be accomplished.

Palestinian leadership, led by the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Yasser Arafat insisted that the assaults against Israelis were organized and launched from elsewhere, not in Gaza or the West Bank.

PLO leadership said it was Palestinian social activists, especially Islamic political groups, that organized the Intifada. However, the group's authority as "representing all Palestinians" was challenged by events in Gaza and West Bank. It was necessary for both the Israeli government and PLO leadership to sit down and reach an agreement to end the decades-long conflict.

Some protesters cut fences after Israeli forces' intervention in the 24th Friday of "Great March of Return" demonstration on the Gaza-Israel border, in Gaza City, Gaza on Sep. 7, 2018. /VCG Photo

When Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat shook hands on the lawn of the White House in Washington on Sept. 13, 1993, hope returned to the prospect of peace. Some even maintained that once the peace was constructed, the Israeli and Palestinians would enjoy the economic prosperity, given the rich tourism and historical resources in the Israel-Palestine area.

However, both Israel and Palestine underestimated their pressure at home. After Israel withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza, handing the areas over to Palestinian security forces, bombs and attacks against Israel continued as Palestinians "retaliated" against Israeli occupation. Israeli right-wing political and social groups also rejected the peace process and believed Israel should continue its occupation in this region or totally annex Palestine.

The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by an Israeli right-wing activist in 1995, and the continuation of the construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and West Bank, suggested the fragile foundation of a potential Israel-Palestine peace.

Today, both Israel and Palestine are totally different from what they were 25 years ago. Israeli leadership is concerned more about ballots than anything else, while Palestine has been divided into two entities, Hamas-controlled Gaza and Fatah-dominated West Bank, after the Palestinian Civil War in 2006. The peace process has come to a stalemate, and the hope of long-lasting peace between Israel and Palestine may not be achieved in the foreseeable future.


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