Israeli-Palestinian Peace Accord
ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE ACCORD
ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE ACCORD. In 1993, the government of the state of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) began a series of secret discussions on relations between the two groups called the Oslo Accords in hopes of resolving the deep-seated tensions between them. The conflict between the Palestinian residents of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip began with the Intifada, a Palestinian uprising in 1987, and revolve around the Palestinian desire for independence from Israeli control and Israel's constant threat of violence from her Arab neighbors. However, conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors existed before the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 and manifested itself in five wars between Israel and her Arab neighbors between 1948 and 1987, when the Palestinian uprising began. Many of the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are persons displaced during the 1948 and 1967 wars when Israel gained control of these areas.
The January 1993 conversations, which focused on water rights, refugees, security matters, and other topics, were held in Oslo, Norway, under the cover of a conference hosted by Fafo, a Norwegian social research institute. The meetings were secret, and Johan Jorgen Holst, the Norwegian Foreign Minister, aided the two groups in the negotiations and acted as an intermediary. After eleven rounds of talks in the summer of 1993, the Israelis and Palestinians reached a provisional agreement on partial autonomy in the occupied territories. This so-called "Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements" (DOP) was not a regular peace treaty. It was an agreement that set out specific steps to reach a permanent solution to the conflict and established a five-year timetable over which to complete them.
The accords reached at Oslo set forth a process by which Israel would transfer portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the control of a new body, the Palestinian Authority, which would be elected by the Palestinian people. The authority would guarantee Israel's security by fighting terrorism. This would enable the parties to build enough trust and confidence to proceed with negotiations on the "final status" that was to occur in 1999. Many of the most controversial issues between the two sides, including the future of Jerusalem, were left for the final status talks. The accord set up a joint Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation committee to carry out economic development programs in the West Bank and Gaza, critical to the success of Palestinian autonomy.
On 13 September 1993, the DOP was formally signed. United States President Bill Clinton hosted the official signing ceremony. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO official Abou Abbas signed the accords, granting self-government to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank, while Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat shook hands, a historic gesture. Clinton's statement that "Today marks a shining moment of hope for the people of the Middle East; indeed, of the entire world" captured the monumental nature of the event.
In September 1995, the Oslo Accords were followed up with an interim agreement (Oslo II), which expanded Palestinian self-rule by the withdrawal of the Israeli military from six large West Bank cities. The Israeli Army was replaced by Palestinian police forces, and elections for a Palestinian Counsel were held in 1996, during which Yasir Arafat was elected.
While the Oslo Accord was a great step toward peace in the region, many groups on both sides were opposed to its implementation. In February 1994, an Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein, killed twenty-nine Palestinians at a mosque in the West Bank town of Hebron. In November 1995, a right-wing Israeli named Yigal Amir assassinated Prime Minister Rabin. In February and March 1996, the Islamic fundamentalist movement Hamas, which had gained support after the signing of the Oslo Accords, conducted a series of suicide bombings in Israel that killed fifty-seven Israelis. This prompted Shimon Peres, the acting prime minister, to break off the peace talks.
As a result of the violent backlash against the peace accords, Peres was defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu, a hard-line right-winger. In his bid to be prime minister, Netanyahu put up many obstacles to the peace process, including lifting a four-year ban on building new Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He did, however, in January 1997, turn over 80 percent of the town of Hebron to Palestinian control as called for in the accord. This was the last transfer of land by the Israelis until October 1998, when the United States pushed Israel to turn over additional land, as part of the Wye River Accord. The 1999 deadline for final status talks passed without any sort of discussions, and the conflict in the area has worsened.
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Finkelstein, Norman G. Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. New York: Verso, 1995.
Gerner, Deborah J. One Land, Two Peoples: The Conflict over Palestine. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1994.
Pappé, Ilan, ed. The Israel/Palestine Question. New York: Rout-ledge, 1999.