benami205_Cynthia JohnsonLiaison_oslo 1 Cynthia Johnson/Liaison

The Slow, Tragic Death of the Oslo Accords

The Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestine once represented a historic milestone, symbolizing the mutual recognition of two national movements fighting over the same piece of land for more than a century. But 30 years later, it is clear that the subsequent peace process contained the seeds of its own demise.

TEL AVIV – Peace processes tend to be riddled with uncertainties, especially when conflicts are protracted and each side’s intentions, willingness, and capacity to comply with any agreement remain unclear. The significant political costs associated with making concessions to a mortal enemy often doom negotiations before any agreement is reached.

This is evident in the recently declassified protocols of the 1993 Israeli cabinet meeting that approved the first Oslo Accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The records reveal that the signs of eventual failure were apparent from the very beginning.

At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin hoped that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat could stem the rise of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and assist in quelling the Intifada that had been raging in the West Bank and Gaza since 1987. But Arafat, wary of being perceived as a “collaborator,” refused to become Israel’s security subcontractor. Rabin’s fatalistic foreign minister, Shimon Peres, warned that “the whole PLO business” could “fall apart” and that an “Iran-like Hamas” could take its place. Meanwhile, Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of General Staff Ehud Barak famously remarked that the agreement had “more holes than Swiss cheese.”