Twenty-five years ago today the Oslo accord was signed by Israel’s prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in the Rose Garden of the White House, with Bill Clinton acting as an enthusiastic master of ceremonies. Despite its many shortcomings, the accord represented a historic compromise between the Jewish and the Palestinian national liberation movements, and it was clinched with a hesitant handshake between the two leaders.
Mutual rejection was replaced by mutual recognition. Gaza and the West Bank city of Jericho were placed under the control of the PLO as a first step in a gradual process that was intended to lead to the resolution of all the outstanding issues between the two sides. It was a moment of high drama and high hopes.
The PLO saw the Oslo accord as a vehicle to national self-determination in the territories occupied by Israel in the June 1967 war. But it was not to be. Israel used the accord not to end but to repackage the occupation. The person primarily responsible for dashing the hopes pinned on the accord was not Arafat, as Israeli propaganda repeatedly claimed, but Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Oslo peace process had many ups and downs, but it was finally abandoned after the failure of a US-sponsored round of talks in 2014 when Netanyahu was prime minister. John Kerry, Obama’s secretary of state, could not have been more even-handed or more determined to broker a peace deal. But it was an exercise in futility. This time, even the pro-Israeli American peace-processors pointed the finger of blame at Israel. So why did the Oslo peace process fail? [Continue reading…]