Espanol / English

Middle East Near You

Oslo and the new-old Middle East

Demonstrators hold Palestinian flags in Ramallah, West Bank [Shadi Hatem/Anadolu Agency]

Twenty-five years have passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords — the Declaration of Principles between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel — without the Palestinian people gaining any of their national rights. On the contrary, the pace of illegal Israeli settlement activity has increased and the state has seized control of tens of thousands of acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank, including Jerusalem. Israel’s discrimination against the indigenous people and the people of Jerusalem has also escalated and was exposed by its passing of a series of racist laws, the most dangerous of which is the “Jewish Nation State Law” that establishes the state’s Jewishness.

Following the carnival of the signing of the Oslo Accords on 13 September 1993, plans emerged to paint a new Middle East, based on American and Israeli perceptions. In this version of the region, Israel would be both an economic and political pole. The strategic goal was to start the Arab states’ economic, political and cultural normalisation with Israel, after a long conflict. However, 25 years later no fundamental steps have been taken to make the new Middle East a reality on the ground. Generally-speaking, relations between some Arab countries and Israel have not gone beyond the opening of Israeli attaché offices. This suggests that Israel has not been serious about achieving a just and comprehensive peace, as it has even resorted to imposing a settlement status quo on the ground to restrict Palestinian hopes and dreams of establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

US President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to impose its agenda by boosting Israel’s Judaisation project with its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the state, not to mention attempts by Washington to trample on Palestinian constants. Hence, the attacks on the Palestinian refugees’ legitimate right of return and, indeed, refugee status itself by ending the US donations to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which provides essential services to “Palestine refugees”. Around 6 million Palestinians rely on UNRWA’s services.

Read: The countdown begins for the death of UNRWA

What’s more, Trump has cancelled aid to the Palestinian health sector in an effort to force the people into submission so that they will accept his “deal of the century”. Washington will then start to impose a new-old image of the Middle East through its own mechanisms, in which Israel is a natural state in the region at the expense of the Palestinians’ rights. One of the priorities of the project is to create regional institutions based in Israel to replace the various Arab League bodies.

The late Israeli President Shimon Peres presented his vision for the project and the mechanisms of its success in 1993. He stressed the need to establish a Middle East bank based in Israel, as well granting Israel financial freedom in Arab markets and investment opportunities. After the Madrid conference in 1991, the US-Israel visions revolved around linking the countries of the new Middle East with hard-to-break links, such as the water pipeline linking Turkey to Israel and the Arab region. Some went even further and stressed the need to build a “Middle East League” in which Israel would be an active and influential member. However, none of these visions went beyond the scope of the US-Israel projects in the region.

Read: The Oslo curse

Most of the Arabs were not consulted and did not participate in planning and drafting the agreements reached in and after Madrid and it is a fact that the “new-old Middle East” project fulfils US and Israeli goals, not necessarily those of the Arabs. What’s more, not all Israeli leaders and strategists are on board. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in his book A Place under the Sun that building bridges for Israel’s commercial relations with some European countries might be more effective than engagement in a Middle East project involving the Arab countries. That is why, 27 years after Madrid, the proposals for the region have not moved any further forward. Welcome to the new-old Middle East.

This article was translated from Arabic on Palinfo, 9 September 2018

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

Categories
ArticleAsia & AmericasIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineUS
Register your free ticket to the MEMO Conference - Oslo at 25 - Middle East Peace