Remembering the Olso Accord is important

Mohey Mowafy, Journal op-ed contributor

Anyone with any interest in our connectedness to whatever happens in the Middle East remembers the signing of the Oslo accord back in 1993 during President Clinton’s term.

Irrespective of anything, it was a great moment. Yes, it was not exactly a peace treaty and yes it had a lot of work to be done still, but it certainly was to be celebrated.

Hardly anyone at the time was talking about the subject of one vs. two states and hardly anyone predicted the subsequent events which culminated in Intifadas, the increased intensity of the hostilities between Israeli settlers and Palestinians, the calamitous leadership Hamas managed to have or more recently the “nature” of the new Israeli government under Netanyahu.

One he, as Thomas Freedman explains, has formed to keep him out of jail.As time went by things became far worse for Palestinians as they, simultaneously, became far better for Israelis.

This alone should not be the sole fact to consider when we contemplate solutions. It is helpful to keep emotions out of debating what to do, let alone who is to be blamed.

We all know there is plenty of blame to toss around, and we also know that blaming has not solved anything in that part of the world for more than 70 years.

Think about this. Thirty years later mentioning “Oslo” conjures up a feeling of crushing defeat for Palestinians as it now seems more improbable than it may have been in 1993.

It is obvious that current steady political victories of the Israeli far right, which always balked at Rabin’s signing of the Oslo accord, put further distance between the spirit of Oslo and the realities on the ground.

The current Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasts members in its ranks whose political orientation is basically the exact opposite of Rabin’s. Dennis Rossand and David Makaovsky recently wrote in Foreign Affairs “The conceptual hope for Oslo was that moderates on both sides would engage in reciprocal concessions to expand the political space for further accommodations.

Sadly, the reverse happened, with achievements too slow in coming and extremist actions undermining the process.”

The fact that the Israelis did far better than the Palestinians after that accord should not be a reason to condemn them. The agreements precipitated a flood of foreign investment into the country, helping kick-start the tech boom that pushed Israel’s per capita gross domestic product above that of most European countries. However, at the same time and under the illusion of an established process for peace, Israel entrenched its de facto control over Palestinian territories.

The New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, recently described the current situation as “the shared fiction that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank was only temporary.”

It now seems that Oslo’s extraordinary longevity stands not as a testament to its utility but to its unmitigated and ongoing failure.

Three decades after that famous handshake between Arafat and Rabin, both peace and the stated goal of an independent Palestinian state are more distant than ever.

Whatever Oslo may have offered in the 1990’s, it is far too outdated, imbalanced, and disconnected from current realities to be of any value today, either as a way to resolve the conflict or even the more modest goal of managing it.

Some with humor described it this way “Expecting the Oslo framework to bring peace is like attempting to use Windows 95 on modern-day computers.”

The picture in Washington is equally grim. Whereas support for two states was once a matter of bipartisan consensus, the Republican Party has formally expunged references to two states from its party platform.

Though most Democrats remain committed to the goal of two states, the Biden administration seems to be largely indifferent. This may seem puzzling since he is actively seeking a Saudi-Israeli normalization that would allow SA to explore nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Would a “nuclear SA be easily accepted by world community? Regional trends also seem to be working against the goal of a negotiated two-state solution as well.

Along with scaling back their financial assistance to the Palestinians, Arab Gulf states are divesting from the issue politically and diplomatically.

The Abraham Accords, which saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and later Morocco is a clear and present example that basically defies history.

While I realize that the word “finally” is too optimistic, finally, dispensing with the Oslo framework does not necessarily mean dismantling existing structures which seem to be functioning.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mohey Mowafy is a retired Northern Michigan University professor who resides in the Marquette area.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today