Yossi Beilin, one of the authors of the Oslo Accords, offers seven insights into their achievements and their failures.
PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (L), as US President Bill Clinton stands between them after signing the Israeli-PLO peace accord at the White House in Washington, DC, Sept. 13, 1993.
Exactly 25 years ago, on a hot day in Washington, the eyes of the world were trained on the White House lawn at a sight that was until then a wild fantasy: PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands. With the sponsorship of the young leader of the free world, US President Bill Clinton, and their deputies Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, and they signed a statement of principles meant to bring about a historic peace agreement.
A quarter century later, most of the West Bank territory remains under the direct military control of Israel, the Palestinian cities are governed by a problematic independent administration and the scaffolds — the institutions created for the purposes of an interim agreement that was supposed to end in 1999 — still stand. The temporary has become permanent and the optimism that flourished in the first days after the secret process in Oslo and the agreement that grew out of it were revealed has turned sour. In the estimate of many supporters of the permanent-status solution, it is becoming less and less achievable.
The many articles and documentary films that have been produced to mark the quarter century since that signing ceremony have raised a number of questions, which I’ll attempt to answer here.
Why was there a need for the Oslo channel, if negotiations were already taking place in Washington between an Israeli delegation and a joint delegation of Jordan and Palestinian leaders of the occupied territories (alongside negotiations with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan)?
The Jordanian-Palestinian delegation was artificial and did not succeed in advancing toward an interim arrangement as it was supposed to do according to the mandate of the 1991 Madrid Summit. The Palestinians received instructions directly from the PLO and the Jordanians received instructions from King Hussein, so there was a need to change the paradigm and establish an informal channel.
The Oslo process was born on April 29, 1992, just a few weeks before the election. Terje Rød-Larsen, who ran the Norwegian research institute FAFO, asked to meet with me during a visit to Tel Aviv. I was then a Labor Party Knesset member. He knew about my diplomatic work on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and suggested that after the election, if I am appointed to a role with bearing on diplomatic negotiations, I could use his institute for secret talks to try to resolve the problems that have held up talks in Washington. After our victory in the election, I examined two other options that were rejected: the United Kingdom and the United States. Oslo was, in my view, the only practical option.
Why were Peres and Rabin not informed about the secret channel?
The hostile relationship between Rabin and Peres is key to understanding Oslo. For years they served together and developed great mutual distrust. When Rabin was elected prime minister in 1992 he preferred not to name Peres foreign minister, but in the end, appointed him on two conditions: Peres would not deal with any bilateral diplomatic process or with Israel-US relations. Peres agreed to these strict conditions, but felt uncomfortable telling me about them.
In September 1992, on the sidelines of the visit of my Norwegian counterpart, Jan Egeland, to Israel, an informal meeting was held to discuss the option of the secret channel. Rød-Larsen, his wife Mona Juul, my friend Yair Hirschfeld and my diplomatic adviser Shlomo Gur participated. The conclusion was that I should inform Peres about the offer of a secret meeting in Oslo between myself and Faisal Husseini, the most important Palestinian leader in the occupied territories who was very involved in the diplomatic process.
On the day I intended to broach the topic with Peres, he told me that he had asked Rabin’s permission to meet with Husseini, whom he has known for a long time, but was denied. This was when he first told me of the conditions under which he was appointed foreign minister. It was clear to me that I couldn’t suggest a meeting between myself and Husseini, since I would have to ask Rabin’s permission and Rabin would not have allowed it. I knew that I could ask for such permission only if we could succeed in reaching a draft agreement with the Palestinians.
I asked Hirschfeld to open the channel and to find an alternative to Husseini. The Palestinian figures we talked with said that without direct talks with the PLO, there would be no advancement. It was Hanan Ashrawi who suggested talking with Mahmoud Abbas’ deputy Abu Alaa (Ahmed Qurei), and a meeting took place on Dec. 4, 1992, in London between him and Hirschfeld.
Did the Oslo talks take place in contravention of Israeli law?
No. The Oslo talks began on Jan. 20, 1993, immediately after the Knesset passed a law to cancel the prohibition on contacts with the PLO.
Why did Rabin agree to authorize the continuation of the talks, after all?
Despite his earlier promises not to negotiate with the PLO, Rabin agreed because he did not succeed in advancing the talks in Washington, and he did not fulfill his central campaign promise of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians within six to nine months. As expected, at the moment we presented Peres and Rabin with a paper agreed upon with a Palestinian partner, they found it very hard to reject it.
What was the “Oslo philosophy?”
The Oslo process didn’t have an original philosophy. I intended for the results of the secret talks to be presented as a miraculous, fully resolved understanding to ensure the delegations signed an agreement in Washington. The main importance of Oslo was mutual recognition of the PLO and Israel and the ability to solve several concrete problems that prevented the Washington talks from advancing. But the principal component was the continuation of the idea of a Palestinian five-year autonomy, which emerged from the 1978 Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt and was affirmed at the Madrid summit.
The philosophy of Oslo wasn’t a belief that through the graduated process, love would break out between the sides and a peace agreement would later be achieved, but rather Rabin’s wish to prove that he is continuing something and is not breaking down existing frameworks.
In my view this was the greatest mistake of the Oslo process. When we understood that we are sitting down with people who truly want to reach an agreement with Israel, we should not have been satisfied with this, because it’s not every day that such an opportunity arises. I believed then that we must immediately continue to negotiations on a permanent-status arrangement and not allow extremists from both sides to thwart the process. Rabin told me that if we go to a permanent arrangement and fail, it would be very difficult to return to discussing an interim agreement.
Why has Oslo not brought peace?
Because of violence that prevented us from having the time to realize the agreement and the trap of an asymmetrical negotiation.
The extreme right in Israel and Islamic groups used violence that we did not foresee to thwart the process and to denigrate it in the eyes of the public. The first murderous eventoccurred in February 1994, when a religious Jewish doctor from Kiryat Arba settlement, a reserve officer, entered the Hebron Cave of the Patriarchs in his military uniform and massacred 29 Muslims in cold blood and injured many others. The second event was the most dramatic: the assassination of Rabin in 1995 by an extremist Jew who did so explicitly to stop the process. The third was the provocative 2000 visit of then-opposition head Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount.
After 40 days of mourning the Hebron massacre, Hamas’ suicide attacks began. A day after Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, the second intifada began. Arafat was not strong enough to stop it and at a certain stage he too got on board the wave of violence.
When such an asymmetrical negotiation takes place, the stronger party must be careful not to gain too much. We succeeded in convincing the Palestinians not to mention a freeze in settlement construction, but Israel continued to build settlements after the Oslo agreement, and this was the gravest Israeli provocation. Likewise, we got an agreement to extradite Palestinian citizens (and not only Israeli citizens who happened to be in the territories) but in most cases the Palestinians did not carry this out. This made it easy for the right to declare that the Palestinians are violating the agreement.
In 1996, after Rabin’s assassination and Peres’ defeat in the election, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minster. As the opposition leader he promised to nullify the Oslo agreement that was signed only two and a half years earlier, and as prime minister then and now he continues to succeed in turning the interim agreement into a permanent one. Netanyahu understands that the agreement gives him the most expedient conditions to maintain the status quo. Under its auspices he can delay transferring the majority of the West Bank to the Palestinians and pride himself in fulfilling an international agreement.
The fact that the most right-wing government Israel has ever had is holding tight to the Oslo agreement is its greatest failure. That’s what the Palestinians feared from the start, and we erred when we reassured them this won’t happen.
Oslo brought about the peace agreement with Jordan, gave Israel a critical strategic advantage in the Middle East, revolutionized its diplomatic standing after several states established diplomatic relations and created economic growth by means of unprecedented international investments.
The most important lesson of Oslo is the imperative of seizing a diplomatic opportunity to reach a permanent arrangement like to the Clinton Parameters and the Geneva Initiative, and not to be lured into believing that a diplomatic window that opens will remain so for long.
Jeremy Corbyn leads a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London in 2014, one year before becoming Labour Party leader. Photo: File.
This marked a massive rise from the previous such survey, in which only 39% of Jews believed Corbyn was antisemitic.
British Jews also expressed an extremely low opinion of the Labour Party in general. The poll showed that 85.6% believed Labour suffered from “very high” levels of antisemitism.
Corbyn and his party have been beset with a series of high-profile antisemitism scandals for several years, which has resulted in the resignation and suspension of several prominent officials. Corbyn himself was recently caught on video saying that “Zionists” did not understand “English irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time.”
Makuya in Jerusalem 201 (YouTube)
Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth. (Song of Songs 2:3)
For ten days in late August, Israeli Rabbi Benny Lau and his wife, Rabbanit Noah Lau, traveled from Jerusalem to Japan to lead Bible study for groups of Makuya Japanese Christians. The Laus traveled to five Japanese towns and spent three days together at a weekend conference with 3,400 members of the Makuya group.
Makuya is Japanese for the Hebrew word Mishkan, the tent of meeting, where human beings come into contact with God. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary that the Israelites used in the desert, before entering Israel and building the First Holy Temple.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. (Credit: Agencia O Globo)
Jair Bolsonaro, the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election in Brazil, was stabbed during a campaign rally Thursday and was undergoing surgery.
The far-right politician, whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others – -who accuse him of racism and homophobia – in a deeply polarized electorate, was attacked amid a crowd in the south-east state of Minas Gerais. Bolsonaro has performed strongly in recent opinion polls.
Those same polls suggested that he will likely receive the most votes in next month’s presidential elections, especially if the country’s former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) remains blocked from standing. He is currently in prison, but is appealing against his candidacy ban – imposed after his conviction for corruption.
Republican lawmakers have made it clear they have no intention of repealing Obamacare in the current Congress.
Republicans in the nation’s top lawmaking body have never really wanted to get rid of Obamacare. They would prefer to present the program, which David Horowitz correctly describes as “the greatest assault on individual freedom and individual choice in our lifetimes,” as a villain and whip up sentiment against it and run against it every election. They view Obamacare as good for the business of politics. They may chip away at it from time to time or tinker with it at the margins, but make no mistake: these creatures of Washington want to keep it in place. This is the Republicans’ dirty secret.
The Trump administration has decided to reopen a case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, previously closed by the Obama administration in 2014, alleging that the university had allowed Jewish students to be subjected to a hostile environment in violation of Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The issue, ignored by the Obama administration, was whether the students were discriminated against based on their actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnicity. Kenneth L. Marcus, the new assistant secretary of education for civil rights, decided that the case deserved another look.
Nestled in the Han River in the middle of South Korea’s bustling capital of Seoul, Yeoui Island is hardly where one would expect to find the largest mega-church in the world. Home to the city’s business and financial district, its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the island boasts some of the country’s most powerful institutions, such as the Korean stock exchange and the headquarters of LG, the international conglomerate.
The AfD’s opponents, who often brand the party as “far right” or “extremist,” claim that the party’s alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany’s constitutional order. The AfD’s supporters counter that Germany’s politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
Israel’s Palestinian foes regard “martyrdom” as the supremely highest expression of Islamic sacredness. Nonetheless, there are certain conspicuously prominent disjunctions between the relevant obligations of faith and expectations of international law. Unambiguously, only the latter set of obligations can offer a suitably authoritative source for assessing Palestinian resorts to armed force.
This is the case even when the stated objective of such resorts would be “self-determination” and/or “national liberation.”
“Setting fire to the ground,” a “major catastrophe,” bringing “new instability” are the headlines that have greeted Donald Trump’s unorthodox decisions over the past year. Withdrawing from UNESCO, moving the US Embassy, leaving the Iran deal and cutting funding to UNRWA and funding for Pakistan were seen as extreme decisions in the Middle East and around the world. Insofar as there is a “Trump Doctrine,” it has been to call this bluff.
In the mind-set of Trump and his team, the time has come for the United States to move quickly to reverse decades of foreign policy norms, ending the status quo, and ripping up what the previous administrations did.
The jihadi assault on and massacre of Christians continued unabated throughout the Muslim word. According to one report titled, “Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria,” several Islamic terrorists “stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the religion…. Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.
Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.
One conflagration is the war Iran is waging against those – headed by Israel – who stand in the way of its plans to take over the entire Middle East.
Another is the Assad regime’s war to take back control of the entire country, and a third is the PLO’s battle for survival.
Much has been written about the first of these wars, and reports have claimed that from early 2017 on, Israel has launched over 200 attacks in Syria, mainly at targets connected to Iran.