The Oslo Accords

The Oslo Accords

The new secretary of state Warren Christopher’s first foreign trip was to the Middle East primarily to reinvigorate and restart the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. Christopher prepared the way for his visit with a flurry of personal diplomacy to neutralize the obstacles to the peace process caused by the deportation of more than 400 Palestinian militants to Lebanon by Israel in December 1992.

He persuaded Prime Minister Rabin to agree to a complicated formula under which Israel would take back some of the deportees and then the UN Security Council would endorse the compromise and urge the Palestinians to return to the peace negotiations. He also issued invitations, with the Russian foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, for a ninth round of post-Madrid bilateral Arab-Israeli negotiations to be held in Washington, D.c., in April 1993.

concurrent with the highly publicized bilateral, Arab-Israeli negotiations in Washington and the multilateral talks in other world capitals, there were other covert negotiations. Secret talks in Oslo, Norway, between Israeli and Plo representatives in the spring and summer of 1993 resulted in historic agreements: an exchange of mutual recognition, soon followed by the formal signing on September 13, 1993, of the Declaration of Principles (DoP) on Interim Self-Government Arrangements.

Israeli foreign minister Peres and Plo Executive committee member Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) signed the DoP in a ceremony on the White House lawn, witnessed by U.S. secretary of state Christopher and Russian foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev and in the presence of U.S. President Clinton, Israeli prime minister Rabin and Plo chairman Arafat. The Plo recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and Israel recognized the Plo as the representative of the Palestinian people.

The Plo also renounced the use of terrorism and other forms of violence and committed itself to resolve the conflict with Israel through peaceful negotiations. The DoP outlined the proposed interim self-government arrangements for the Palestinians as a first step toward resolving the dispute between the two parties. This agreement focused on Gaza and Jericho first and set the stage for the establishment in those territories of the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the leadership of Arafat.

The signing ushered in a new era in Israel’s history and changed the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict and of other factors so inextricably linked to it. The symbolism of the event and the euphoric and optimistic mood it created overshadowed the difficulties in implementing and expanding the agreements that were to follow. Nevertheless, progress, even if halting, was made.

After the Oslo Accords

Israel began formal public negotiations with the Palestinians in the fall of 1993. Within months, the two parties had reached an agreement regarding implementing elements of the DoP that Arafat and Rabin signed in Cairo on May 4, 1994. The agreement formally initiated Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area and granted the Palestinians a measure of self-rule.

It provided for negotiations to resolve the problem of the territories, including how much Israel would return to the Palestinians, within a relatively short period. The parties gave themselves five years, with a deadline of May 4, 1999, to negotiate the permanent or final status of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, including the difficult issues of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, regional neighborly arrangements, and others of common interest.

A second agreement was initiated in Cairo in August 1994 and signed at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on August 29. It dealt with the transfer of powers concerning education, culture, health, social welfare, taxation, and tourism in the remainder of the West Bank from Israel to the PA. on September 25, 1995, Israel and the Plo signed the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement, commonly referred to as Oslo II.

Oslo II focused on Israeli withdrawals from the major towns and cities in the West Bank and the election of a Palestinian council. The agreement noted that permanent status negotiations between the parties would commence as soon as possible, but not later than May 4, 1996, and would focus on remaining issues. on October 6, the Israeli Knesset squeezed through a vote in support of the agreement and a vote of confidence in the government with 61 votes out of 120.