Which party has violated the Oslo Agreement?

Background current

25 years ago, Taba, Egypt, and Washington D.C. signed the second Oslo Accords. With it the "Oslo Peace Process" begun in 1993 should be continued, which should enable a peaceful coexistence of Israel and Palestine in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Palestinian representative Yasser Arafat (right) at the signing of Oslo II on September 28, 1995 in Washington D.C. in the USA. In the middle sits the then US President Bill Clinton. In the background are King Hussein of Jordan, second from left, and Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, behind President Clinton. (& copy picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS | DOUG MILLS)

After many years of violent conflict, the negotiator of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Mahmoud Abbas, and the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, signed the first of the so-called "Oslo Accords" in Washington from the foreign ministers of the USA and Russia DC The picture of the handshake between Palestinian representative Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin went around the world.

The basic agreement "Declaration of Principles on Temporary Self-Government" of September 1993, which was later also called "Oslo I", was essentially based on a compromise on the principle of "land for peace": Both parties agree on peaceful coexistence and mutual recognition, including Israel's right to exist. The aim of the agreement was for the Palestinians to administer themselves in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, initially in an interim phase, and for Israel to withdraw.

With the "Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip" signed in September 1995, the agreements in the Declaration of Principles were given concrete form. The agreement, also known as Oslo II, regulated, for example, the staggered withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from the Palestinian population centers and the division of the West Bank into three zones. The aim was the gradual preparation of a "two-state solution", at the end of which there should be a sovereign Palestinian state.

Many observers linked the peace process resulting from "Oslo" with the hope of a lasting solution to the Middle East conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Arafat, Rabin and Shimon Peres were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. However, there were also opponents of the peace negotiations, both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. On the Israeli side, national-religious settlers and right-wing politicians protested. They couldn't imagine giving Palestinians their own state. On the Palestinian side, it was often religiously motivated movements that refused to recognize an Israeli state. Again and again radical groups on both sides expressed their protest in the form of brutal attacks.

The Oslo Accords were named after the Norwegian capital, as the representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Organization (PLO) met there for the first time in advance of the signing of the agreement for secret exploratory talks with Norwegian mediation.


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Two treaties that should bring peace

1. the "Declaration of Principles on Temporary Self-Government" (also: "Oslo I").

"Oslo I" regulates the establishment of an "interim government" for the Palestinian territories (Article I). This self-government is guaranteed for a "transition phase" of five years. (Article V). During this time, negotiations on the permanent status of the Palestinian territories are to be conducted and open questions, such as the status of Jerusalem, the refugee issue, the Israeli settlements or the borderline, should be clarified.

This interim period only began after the Gaza-Jericho Agreement was signed on May 4, 1994, which settled territorial disputes (Article 1) and laid down the details of an "accelerated withdrawal" of the Israeli military (Article 2).

A Palestinian Authority (PA) was also created and Yasser Arafat was sworn in as President of the Palestinian Authority in July 1994.

2. the "Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip" (also: "Oslo II"), which was signed for the first time on September 24, 1995 in Taba, Egypt and then again in Washington D.C., four days later. It replaced both "Oslo I" and the Gaza-Jericho Agreement.

"Oslo II" is a complex set of agreements that regulates both the functioning of the Palestinian government (Chapter 1) and the division of the West Bank into areas of categories A, B and C (Chapter 2). Category A areas (today almost exclusively only the large cities) fall under the Palestinian civil and security administration. Category B includes areas where Palestinians and Israelis share security administration. This is particularly true of the East Jerusalem region. Category C includes those areas of land that are still subject to Israel under civil and security law - they now make up 60 percent of the area in the West Bank and form a contiguous land mass that borders Israel.

Peace process is stalling

On November 4, 1995, a good six weeks after "Oslo II" was signed, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was shot dead by a right-wing Jewish student on the sidelines of a rally in Tel Aviv.

Rabin's successor as prime minister, Shimon Peres, continued the policy of d├ętente with the Palestinians. In the general election on May 29, 1996, however, a coalition around the conservative Likud party won a majority in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel for the first time.

The peace process stalled. One reason for this was the laying of the foundation stone for an Israeli settlement in the East Jerusalem district of Har Choma. The UN General Assembly protested against the building in April 1997. At the same time, a whole series of Palestinian attacks caused horror in Israel.

Plan for "Camp David II" fails

In the Wye River Agreement, signed in October 1998, Israel undertook to withdraw from 13 percent of the West Bank and release Palestinian prisoners within twelve weeks. In return, the Palestinian side committed itself to a "zero tolerance" policy against terrorist activities of radical Palestinian groups. In addition, the PLO agreed to delete anti-Israel passages from its charter. The agreement was intended to accelerate the peace process again, but it was only partially implemented. Benjamin Netanyahu's government also fell apart at the Wye Accords.

International observers tied new hopes for the peace process to the election of Ehud Barak (Labor Party) as the new Israeli Prime Minister in 1999. In July 2000, through American mediation, a summit meeting was held at Camp David with the aim of reaching an agreement on the permanent status of the Palestinian territories. But the desired agreement with the title "Camp David II" (based on the Israeli-Egyptian agreement of Camp David in 1978) did not materialize.

The "Second Intifada", which began at the end of September 2000 after the conservative politician Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, made it impossible for the peace process to continue.

Negotiations on the "roadmap" remained inconclusive

In September 2002 the UN, EU, USA and Russia made a new attempt to revive the Oslo process with the "Roadmap". Palestine should become an independent state and renounce violence. In return, Israel undertook to recognize this state and withdraw the military from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A multi-stage process was planned for implementation by the end of 2005. The Israeli government agreed to the plan, but talks about renouncing violence with the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which Israel, the US and the EU classify as a terrorist organization, remained fruitless.

In 2004, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and had some settlements demolished, but the construction of villages and towns outside the 1949 ceasefire line remains controversial.

The spiral of violence and counter-violence continues to this day.
Israel - territorial development (& copy mr-kartographie, Gotha)

Is the Oslo Peace Process Dead?

Oslo II is still formally valid. However, the actual implementation of the intended two-state solution currently seems unlikely. There are still voices in Israel that support the two-state solution, but such positions are currently not a majority.

There are numerous developments that are hampering the peace process today. Observers saw US President Donald Trump's decision to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to divided Jerusalem, for example, as a major obstacle to the two-state solution. The peace plan for the Middle East presented by Donald Trump in early 2020 is also controversial. This envisages a two-state solution, but also the recognition of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem as the Israeli capital - two proposals that are non-negotiable from the Palestinian point of view.

At the beginning of July 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank - but at the last moment declared the project to be temporarily halted. At the same time, there have been repeated attacks by radical Palestinian groups on Israeli areas in recent years.

Support for the Arab states is crumbling

The official start of diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and with Bahrain in September 2020 will further weaken the Palestinian negotiating position. Because so far most Arab states had made good neighborly relations with Israel dependent on a peace agreement with the Palestinian leadership. Together with Jordan and Egypt, a total of four Arab countries now have official relations with Israel.

In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the rapprochement. The Palestinian Authority also threatened to leave the Arab League, as it did not condemn the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two member states of Bahrain and the UAE with Israel.

Independent observers also see the current developments as a further dwindling chance for a two-state solution.

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