The Oslo Accords

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The Oslo Accords

Excerpt from the Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles (September 13, 1993)

Reprinted in Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Edited by Charles D. Smith
Published in 2001

"The Government of the State of Israel and the PLO team...agree that it is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace...."

During rounds of negotiations, or discussions aimed at settling disputes, between Israel and its Arab neighbors in the early 1990s, the role of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) became more and more important. Previously, Israel had considered the PLO to be a terrorist group and refused diplomatic relations with it. But as Israel conducted negotiations with Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, the authority of the PLO as a representative of Palestinians became a reality when delegates from Arab countries refused to make decisions regarding Palestinians without first consulting with the PLO.

During the eleventh round of seemingly unsuccessful peace talks between Arab and Israeli delegates held in Washington, D.C., in 1993, the world was shocked by the announcement of an agreement between Israel and the PLO that had been negotiated in secret discussions in Oslo, Norway. On September 13, 1993, Israel and the PLO agreed on the principles that would assist the two political entities in an effort to set up an interim, or temporary, self-government for Palestinians that would be recognized by Israel. PLO chairman Yasser Arafat (1929–2004) and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (1922–1995) agreed to theOslo Accords, as the declaration came to be called, which established the Palestinian National Authority, an elected self-governing body for Palestinians; outlined the terms of Israeli withdrawal from some of the Occupied Territories, land that had been taken over by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967; and detailed the terms of the transition of power from Israel to the Palestinians.

The Palestine Liberation Organization

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) emerged as the representative of the Palestinian people in 1968, under the leadership of the dynamic chairman Yasser Arafat (1929–2004). The charter, or stated set of laws and beliefs, of the organization committed the PLO to waging armed struggle against Israel in order to reclaim Palestine from the Israelis for Palestinians. These policies caused many conflicts in the Middle East for many years.

The PLO originally organized its military forces in Jordan, but the attacks the PLO launched on Israel and the internal problems it caused in Jordan prompted the Jordanian government to remove the organization from the country in 1970. By the 1980s similar PLO activities in Lebanon had driven the country into civil war and prompted an invasion by Israel, which eventually led to the PLO leadership being exiled, or forcibly removed, to Tunisia in 1982. For its violent attacks on Israel, the PLO was branded as a terrorist organization by many countries. However, by the 1990s, the power of the PLO among Palestinians was such that neither the Arab nations nor Israel nor its allies could deny the legitimate role of the PLO as representative of the Palestinian people.

Things to remember while reading the "Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles, September 13, 1993"

  • The Oslo Accords marked a historic moment in the Arab-Israeli conflict because it was a formal document in which Israel recognized the authority of the PLO to speak for the Palestinian people and the PLO accepted Israel as an independent country.
  • For their efforts in the Oslo Accords, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres (1923–), and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
  • Notice that the Oslo Accords left several issues for future negotiations, including Israel's permanent borders, the accepted areas for Jewish settlements, the permanent home of Palestinian refugees, and the political authority over Jerusalem.

Excerpt from the Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles (September 13, 1993)

Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements:

The Government of the State of Israel and the PLO team (in the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to the Middle East PeaceConference) (the "Palestinian Delegation"), representing the Palestinian people, agree that it is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict, recognise their mutual legitimate and political rights, and strive to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security and achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process. Accordingly, the two sides agree to the following principles:

Article I

Aim of Negotiations

The aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a PalestinianInterim Self-Government Authority, the elected Council (the "Council"), for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based onSecurity Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

It is understood that the interim arrangements are an integral part of the whole peace process and that the negotiations on the permanent status will lead to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973)... .

Article IV


Jurisdiction of the Council will cover West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period.

Article V

Transitional period and permanent status negotiations...

2. Permanent status negotiations will commence as soon as possible, but not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period, between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian people's representatives.

3. It is understood that these negotiations shall cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and co-operation with other neighbours, and other issues of common interest.

4. The two parties agree that the outcome of the permanent status negotiations should not be prejudiced or pre-empted by agreements reached for the interim period.

Article VI

Preparatory transfer of powers and responsibilities...

2. Immediately after the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles and the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, with the view to promoting economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, authority will be transferred to the Palestinians in the following spheres: education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism. The Palestinian side will commence in building the Palestinian police force, as agreed upon. Pending the inauguration of the Council, the twoparties may negotiate the transfer of additional powers and responsibilities, as agreed upon.

Article VII

Interim agreement

1. The Israeli and Palestinian delegations will negotiate an agreement on the interim period (the "Interim Agreement").

2. The Interim Agreement shall specify, among other things, the structure of the Council, the number of its members, and the transfer of powers and responsibilities from the Israeli military government and its Civil Administration to the Council. The Interim Agreement shall also specify the Council's executive authority, legislative authority in accordance with Article IX below, and the independent Palestinian judicial organs.

3. The Interim Agreement shall include arrangements, to be implemented upon the inauguration of the Council, for the assumption by the Council of all of the powers and responsibilities transferred previously in accordance with Article VI above.

4. In order to enable the Council to promote economic growth, upon its inauguration, the Council will establish, among other things, a Palestinian Electricity Authority, a Gaza Sea Port Authority, a Palestinian Development Bank, a Palestinian Export Promotion Board, a Palestinian Environmental Authority, a Palestinian Land Authority and a Palestinian Water Administration Authority and any other Authorities agreed upon, in accordance with the Interim Agreement, that will specify their powers and responsibilities.

5. After the inauguration of the Council, the Civil Administration will be dissolved, and the Israeli military government will be withdrawn.

Article VIII

Public Order and Security

In order to guarantee public order and internal security for the Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Council will establish a strong police force, while Israel will continue to carry the responsibility for defending against external threats, as well as the responsibility for overall security of Israelis for the purpose of safeguarding their internal security and public order... .

Article XIII

Redeployment of Israeli Forces

1. After the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles, and not later than the eve of elections for the Council, aredeployment of Israeli military forces in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will take place, in addition to withdrawal of Israeli forces carried out in accordance with Article XIV.

2. In redeploying its military forces, Israel will be guided by the principle that its military forces should be redeployed outside populated areas.

3. Further redeployments to specified locations will be gradually implementedcommensurate with the assumption of responsibility for public order and internal security by the Palestinian police force pursuant to Article VIII above.

Article XIV

Israeli Withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area

Israel will withdraw from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, as detailed in the protocol attached as Annex II.

Article XV

Resolution of Disputes


3. The parties may agree to submit to arbitration disputes relating to the interim period, which cannot be settled throughconciliation. To this end, upon the agreement of both parties, the parties will establish an Arbitration Committee... .

Annex I

Protocol on the Mode and Conditions of Elections

1. Palestinians of Jerusalem who live there will have the right to participate in the election process, according to an agreement between the two sides.

2. In addition, the election agreement should cover, among other things, the following issues:

(a) The system of elections;

(b) The mode of the agreed supervision and international observation and their personal composition;

(c) Rules and regulations regarding election campaigns, including agreed arrangements for the organizing of mass media, and the possibility of licensing a broadcasting and television station.

3. The future status of displaced Palestinians who were registered on 4 June 1967 will not be prejudiced because they are unable to participate in the election process owing to practical reasons.

Annex II

Protocol on Withdrawal of Israeli Forces from the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area

1. The two sides will conclude and sign within two months from the date of entry into force of this Declaration of Principles an agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. This agreement will include comprehensive arrangements to apply in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho areasubsequent to the Israeli withdrawal.

2. Israel will implement an accelerated and scheduled withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, beginning immediately with the signing of the agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho area and to be completed within a period not exceeding four months after the signing of this agreement.

3. The above agreement will include, among other things:

(a) Arrangements for a smooth and peaceful transfer of authority from the Israeli military government and its Civil Administration to the Palestinian representatives.

(b) Structure, powers and responsibilities of the Palestinian authority in these areas, except: external security, settlements, Israelis, foreign relations and other mutually agreed matters.

(c) Arrangements for the assumption of internal security and public order by the Palestinian police force consisting of police officers recruited locally and from abroad (holding Jordanian passports and Palestinian documents issued by Egypt). Those who will participate in the Palestinian police force coming from abroad should be trained as police and police officers.

(d) A temporary international or foreign presence, as agreed upon.

(e) Establishment of a joint Palestinian-Israeli Co-ordination and Co-operation Committee for mutual security purposes.

(f) An economic development and stabilization program, including the establishment of an Emergency Fund, to encourageforeign investment and financial and economic support. Both sides will co-ordinate and co-operate jointly and unilaterally with regional and international parties to support these aims.

(g) Arrangements for a safe passage for persons and transportation between the Gaza Strip and Jericho area... .

Article IV

It is understood that:

1. Jurisdiction of the Council will cover West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations: Jerusalem, settlements, military locations and Israelis.

2. The Council's jurisdiction will apply with regard to the agreed powers, responsibilities, spheres and authorities transferred to it... .

Article VII (5):

The withdrawal of the military government will not prevent Israel from exercising the powers and responsibilities not transferred to the Council... .

Annex II:

It is understood that, subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal, Israel will continue to be responsible for external security, and for internal security and public order of settlements and Israelis. Israeli military forces and civilians may continue to use roads freely within the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area.

What happened next ...

Although many of the provisions, or requirements, detailed in the Declaration of Principles were fulfilled, a lasting peace had yet to be agreed upon by 2005. The successes of the Oslo Accords were the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (the recognized government of the Palestinian people), Palestinian control over portions of the Occupied Territories, and the organization of a Palestinian police force.

Despite these gains, Palestinians and Israelis remained unable to agree on how Jerusalem should be controlled, the nature of permanent borders, or what to do about the more than one million Palestinian refugees. By 2000, frustration among Palestinians culminated in the Second Intifada, or rebellion against Israeli occupation. Over the next several years, violence would alternate with negotiations, but there was still no peace in the region when Yasser Arafat died in 2004.

Did you know...

  • The five-year transitional period called for in the Oslo Accords was to begin upon Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. As of early 2005, this withdrawal had still not yet occurred, but plans were put in place in 2004 to complete this before the end of 2005.
  • The Declaration of Principles called for a Palestinian civil administration to take over governing authority from the Israeli military government upon Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, after which time a Palestinian Council would be elected.
  • It was hoped that the Declaration of Principles would provide an opening for negotiations about economic cooperation with Egypt and Jordan, as well as an opportunity for all sides to negotiate regional development programs.

Consider the following ...

  • Why were the Oslo Accords inadequate as a final solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict?
  • Describe the features of the Oslo Accords that were most important in continuing the peace process.
  • Identify the parts of the Oslo Accords that were the most difficult for Israeli citizens to accept, as well as those most difficult for Arab Palestinians. Explain why these were the most difficult parts for each side.

Interim: Temporary.

Security Council resolutions 242 and 338: Two recommendations made by the United Nations Security Council on how to resolve matters between Israel and the Palestinians and bring peace to the region.

Jurisdiction: The territorial range of authority or control.

Redeployment: To move military forces from one combat zone to another.

Commensurate: Corresponding in size, extent, or degree.

Conciliation: Overcoming anger or distrust.

Subsequent to: Following.

For More Information


Freedman, Robert O., ed. The Middle East and the Peace Process: The Impact of the Oslo Accords. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1998.

Smith, Charles D., ed. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents. 4th ed. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001.

Watson, Geoffrey R. The Oslo Accords: International Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreements. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Web Sites

"Shattered Dreams of Peace: The Road from Oslo." Frontline. (accessed on June 24, 2005).

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The Oslo Accords

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