ELDAR: The end of Oslo October 27, 2010

by Akiva Eldar  -  Haaretz -  25 October 2010

What fate would have befallen the Oslo Accords if Yitzhak Rabin had not been assassinated in a Tel Aviv square on the night of November 4, 1995? Would he have succeeded in overcoming opposition at home and kept his promise to reach a final-status deal before the dawn of the new millennium? Would nothing have changed his position regarding the division of Jerusalem, just as he changed his position on the issue of conducting negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization? Would the Palestinians have succeeded in adopting a realistic solution to the refugee problem? Unfortunately, these questions will remain forever unanswered.

Either way, in the 15 years since the assassination, the Oslo Accords have been turned into a contemptible mechanism for perpetuating the occupation. The time has come for the Palestinians to set a date for its expiration. If a final status deal is not struck within the year at the latest, Mahmoud Abbas should declare the accords null and void.

In October 1991, when then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir was dragged by the administration of George H.W. Bush to the Madrid peace conference, he promised his aides that he would prolong the negotiations for at least 20 years. If only he knew then how accurate his prophecy would turn out to be.

Has anyone noticed that this past weekend was the 12th anniversary of the Wye River Memorandum? How many of us recall that then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who sat beside Shamir in Madrid ) put his signature on a document, alongside that of then-president Bill Clinton, which obligated “the two sides [to] immediately resume permanent status negotiations on an accelerated basis and [to] make a determined effort to achieve the mutual goal of reaching an agreement by May 4, 1999″? So he signed.

Who will recall that on September 4, 1999, then-premier Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat signed a document which committed “the two sides [to] conclude a comprehensive agreement on all permanent status issues within one year from the resumption of the permanent status negotiations”? So they signed.

Would anyone care to recall that on May 25, 2003, the government of Ariel Sharon approved a clause, among others in the road map, that stipulates that the “parties reach final and comprehensive permanent status agreement that ends the Israel-Palestine conflict in 2005″? So it approved.

Does anyone in Israel care that on November 27, 2007, then-prime minister Ehud Olmert pledged at Annapolis that he would make every effort to conclude direct negotiations on a final status deal within one year? Seriously, why should anyone care? He only promised to make an effort.

Speaking from New York on July 8, Netanyahu declared that it was possible to reach a permanent status deal within one year of the start of negotiations. Since then, the talks have hit an impasse over the issue of settlement construction and Bibi’s proposal to leverage a two-month settlement freeze (only two months? ) into Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

The futile talks, which Netanyahu is trying to color in a religious hue, come as a soothing relief for Hamas. Since its main rival, Fatah, placed the Palestinians on the Oslo track, their situation has become progressively worse. They have been kept away from 60 percent of the West Bank (Area C ) and East Jerusalem, and thousands of them lost their jobs in Israel. The agreement that Rabin signed 17 years ago has in practice become a job title for Palestinian functionaries and source of income for their associates.

On the other hand, since the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus has taken control of the West Bank while helping the IDF and the Shin Bet in thwarting terrorist attacks, the occupation has become increasingly convenient for the Israeli public. It has become even more convenient than the “enlightened occupation” that preceded the first intifada. Thanks to Oslo, the Palestinians are protecting, the settlers are looting, and the donors are contributing. On occasion, the U.S. president hosts Netanyahu at the White House while Jewish patriots from New York get in line to embrace him.

In the summer of 2008, the head of Al Quds University, Professor Sari Nusseibeh, proposed that the Fatah leadership announce that the PA would dissolve itself and return the keys to Israel if there is no final status accord within one year. By international law, Israel would be obligated to once again provide for the security and welfare of all of the residents of the territories, just as it did in the 27 years of military rule that preceded Oslo. It’s a pity that Nusseibeh was right. It’s a shame that this is the only way to disabuse the Israelis from the illusion of the status quo, the silent killer of peace.

Akiva Eldar is the chief political columnist and an editorial writer for Haaretz.

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