Thesis: Oslo Peace Accords

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Oslo Peace Accords Impact on Middle East Negotiations

Today, the State of Israel continues to be faced with some fundamental challenges and obstacles to its goals of resolving the longstanding conflict between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and neighboring Middle Eastern countries in the region. In spite of the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993, these constraints to progress continue to characterize the negotiation process between Israel and their Middle East neighbors in general and the Palestinians in particular, and it would seem neither side is willing to comprise to the extent that is needed to achieve a lasting peace. To determine what these obstacles and challenges to peace are today, this paper provides a description and analysis of the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993 and the ensuing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the implementation thereof; a discussion concerning the reaction by Hamas and the collapse of President Clinton's effort to bring about a final status agreement is followed by a summary of the research and salient findings in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview.

During the numerous changes in governments that took place during the 1980s and 1990s in Israel, differing political ideologies concerning how best to achieve the nationhood goals of Zionism affected the manner in which various governments pursued their respective agendas for expansion in the region. In this regard, Alterman (2002) reports that, "The Labor government elected in July 1992 froze new construction in the West Bank, including many of the units that Sharon's office had in the pipeline. The Likud government that returned to power in 1996 thawed the freeze, but with the comeback to power of Labor in June 1999 and the resumption of the peace talks with the Palestinians, construction for Israelis in the West Bank was no longer a government priority" (103). Although the actual number of immigrants who resided in the West Bank was relatively small, the efforts by the Likud government would come back to haunt them in unexpected ways. According to Alterman, "When the crisis broke out, the West Bank settlement policy weakened Israel's capacity to borrow favorably in the international financial markets, until the Oslo Peace Accords signed in September 1993 changed international attitudes toward Israel" (103). Therefore, this change in international attitudes could not have come at a better time for Israel and provided the state with some significant economic incentives to achieve a peaceful resolution to these longstanding problems, and these issues are discussed further below.

Oslo Peace Accords of 1993.

The Palestine on September 13, 1993 representatives of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the "Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements," a document also known as the "Oslo Accords." They were signed at a Washington ceremony hosted by U.S. President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1993, during which Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ended decades as sworn enemies with an uneasy handshake" (Details of the Oslo Peace Accords 2008: 2).

The Oslo Peace Accords provided a series of mutually agreed-upon general principles concerning a 5-year interim period of Palestinian self-rule with negotiations about their "permanent status issues" being scheduled for no later than the third year of the interim period which were intended to be implemented following the end of the interim period established in the Accords (Details 3). The main points contained in the Oslo Peace Accords, or Declaration of Principles (DOP), are provided in Table 1 below.

Table 1.

Main Points of the Oslo Peace Accords.

Main Point of Accords

Provisions

Transfer of Powers to the Palestinians

The DOP features an agreement in principle regarding a transfer of power and responsibilities to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, so they may have control over their own affairs.

The DOP does not prejudge the Permanent Status

The DOP specifically states that permanent status issues, such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements and borders are to be excluded from the interim arrangements and that the outcome of the permanent status talks should not be prejudged or preempted by the interim arrangements. During this period, the Israeli government retains sole responsibility for foreign affairs, defense and borders. Israel's position on Jerusalem remains unchanged. When the DOP was signed, Prime Minister Rabin stated that "Jerusalem is the ancient and eternal capital of the Jewish people." An undivided Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, with religious freedom for all, is and remains a fundamental Israeli position.

Security remains an Israeli responsibility

In the DOP, Israel and the PLO agree that during the interim period, Israel will remain responsible for security along the international borders and the crossing points to Egypt and Jordan. Israel will also retain responsibility for and the overall security of Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli settlements in those areas, and freedom of movement on roads.

Source: Details of the Oslo Peace Accords 2008: 3-4.

The implementation of the Oslo Peace Accords was intended to follow the four phases outlined in Table 2 below.

Table 2.

Implementation Phases for Oslo Peace Accords.

Implementation Phase

Description

Gaza-Jericho

Self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, including a withdrawal of Israeli forces from those areas (the "first redeployment"), is to serve as a first step in the implementation of the DOP. The details of the Gaza-Jericho aspect of the DOP were negotiated and concluded in an agreement signed in Cairo between Israel and the PLO on May 4, 1994.

Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities

In the rest of the West Bank, five specific spheres -- education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism -- are to be transferred to Palestinian representatives through early empowerment. Additional spheres may be transferred as agreed by the sides. The DOP proposed that this transfer of powers take place immediately following the implementation of the Gaza-Jericho agreement.

The Interim Agreement and Elections modalities agreement regarding the election of a Palestinian Council and a comprehensive Interim Agreement specifying the structure and powers of the Council will be negotiated. The Interim Agreement will detail the self-government arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza. Concurrent with the elections, Israeli forces are to be redeployed outside populated areas to specified locations. The Palestinian Council will have a strong police force in order to guarantee public order and internal security. Central to the DOP are two economic annexes which outline economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians, both bilaterally and in the multilateral context.

The Permanent Status

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the permanent status will commence as soon as possible but not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period (May 1996). These talks will determine the nature of the final settlement between the two sides. It is understood that these negotiations will cover remaining issues including Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest. Under the DOP, the permanent status will take effect 5 years after the implementation of the Gaza-Jericho agreement, namely May 1999

Source: Details of the Oslo Peace Accords 4-5.

The encyclopedic entry for Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, one of the negotiators of the Oslo Peace Accords, states that, "In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin, who had just ousted Peres as Labor party leader, became prime minister and appointed Peres foreign minister. Peres negotiated the historic Oslo peace accords (1993) with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), for which he was awarded, with Rabin and PLO leader Yasir Arafat, the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize" ("Peres" 2007: 37255). Suggesting that the post-crisis period that existed in 1993 represented a "grand opportunity" for negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the newly installed Israeli government, Alterman reports that, "The revolutionary news of the Oslo Peace Accords with the Palestinians provided grand economic and political opportunities. The new government was eager to prove itself after 15 years away from power. The incoming Labor government headed by Yitzhak Rabin was highly critical of the excess housing production and was eager to point out Likud's mistakes" (141). Unfortunately, as Miller (2007) points out, "The 1993 Oslo peace accords [were] a period of great hope turned sour" (43).

In contrast to the 1980s and early 1990s when non-entitlement resources were devoted to housing initiatives, the new Israeli government was determined to curtail almost all public-program housing contracts, in some cases even at the expense of compensating developers without any construction being realized (Alterman 141). As Alterman points out, there were some ulterior political motives for this shift in policies. For instance, this author reports that, "The cessation of construction also had a political goal for the new peace-propelling government: to stop ('dry up') the piggybacked construction of housing on the West Bank (Alterman 141).

Based on its perception that economic growth represented a more immediate priority, the new Israel government announced that it would make economic development a higher priority in response to the relatively high unemployment rates that continued to affect many immigrant workers… [END OF PREVIEW]

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