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An American blow to the peace process on the anniversary of Oslo

September 12, 2018 at 1:28 am

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton on 27 February 2015 [Gage Skidmore/Flickr]

On the 13th of September 1993, 25 years ago exactly, the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, signed the Oslo Accords in Washington.

All of the parties involved admit that these 25 years gave the occupation more than what was agreed upon in the Oslo Accords and took more from the Palestinians than what was agreed.

Today, the United States announced the closure of its PLO representative office, an office that represents the organisation that gained its legitimacy as the representative of the Palestinian people from the Oslo Accords.

The decision may not be surprising, as Washington threatened to shut it down months ago, but what is concerning is the background for the decision. The context can be predicted from the words of the US national security adviser and a driver behind the White House’s foreign policy, John Bolton.

Bolton linked the closure of the office to the PA’s attempts to trigger an investigation into the crimes of the Israeli occupation in the International Criminal Court, which he described as illegitimate and even considered dead.

The second dimension of the background for Washington decision is Bolton’s demand that the PA resume negotiations with the occupation as a condition for reopening the office.

Read: Trump’s Administration will fail to break the Palestinians

The implications of these two dimensions can be seen as follows:

  1. Regarding the International Criminal Court: This indicates an implicit American and Israeli confession that Israel committed crimes that are undoubtedly considered war crimes and crimes against humanity. It also reflects their fear of trials and prosecutions against Israeli leaders. Such fear called for an attack on the court and dealing a blow to its legal and structural formation (as Bolton did in front of officials from the Federalist Society, one of the most conservative organisations influencing American political life).
  2. As for the settlement negotiations: The American punitive measures against the Palestinians, which began a few months ago and included cutting off funding to the UNRWA, stopping financial aid to Palestinian hospitals, and the decision to close the PLO office, all revolved around punishing the Palestinians for refusing to go to the negotiating table under these circumstances. The refusal was due to the strength of the resistance and the high effectiveness of the popular Palestinian struggle and the Jerusalem uprising.

Therefore, all the measures are aimed at bringing the Palestinians to a negotiating table that may resemble anything but negotiations. It will be on a new basis where the issue of Jerusalem and the right of return are absent from the talks. Therefore, it will be more like negotiating over how to kill the Palestinians.

Jerusalem was removed from the equation after Donald Trump recognised it as the occupation’s capital, while efforts are being made to end the right of return by eliminating the UNRWA. The settlement expansion continues at a faster pace than it has ever been in Israel’s history.

All this means the following:

  • First, the end of any talk about a two-state solution, since the factors and elements of any Palestinian state do not exist, such as Jerusalem, the borders of the Palestinian state, or its sovereignty.
  • Second, a failure to adhere to any limits to the settlement activity and opening the door to confiscating the remaining Palestinian land and sea.
  • Third, the protection of Israel against any accountability, not even theoretical responsibility that does not amount to serious prosecution.
  • Fourth, all this means that the effects of the Oslo Accords and its aftermath, which were of course in favour of the occupation, ended. For example, when the agreement was signed, the number of settlers in the West Bank was 110,000, but now, their numbers exceed 600,000.

With the end of Oslo Accords’ effects and the return of things to the way they were a quarter of a century ago, the new reality is the failure of the settlement process, as considered by Hamas. This calls for a comprehensive review and agreement on a mechanism to confront the occupation. This confrontation must be based on the same approach that has proved useful over the previous period, i.e. resistance and popular struggle.

With Washington killing the Oslo Accords in its silver jubilee, at a stage where the occupation leaders are seen as living in their golden age with Trump in the White House, the Palestinians must return to their golden age 70 years ago.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Alam on 11 September 2018

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.