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A quarter of a century in a mirage

Palestinians take part in a protest on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Oslo accords, in Gaza on 16 September 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]
Palestinians take part in a protest on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Oslo accords, in Gaza on 16 September 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Last week saw the 25th anniversary of the signing of the cursed Oslo Accords that eliminated the Palestinian national constants. It replaced them with the recognition of Israel in exchange for imaginary power for the Palestinians people and false promises of establishing a Palestinian state.

A quarter of a century has passed since the "peace agreement" between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation signed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the then Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin. It was signed on the White House lawn under the auspices of US President Bill Clinton, and it derailed the path of the great struggle in which the heroic Palestinians offered their lives for the sake of their land, not for the sake of creating a fake authority that serves the Israeli occupation. On that fateful day in Washington, the PLO was burned, along with its national charter, which stipulated that Israel is a colonial entity which has stolen Palestine and that the organisation does not recognise it.

A quarter of a century has passed since the PLO laid down its arms and removed armed struggle against the Israeli enemy from its charter. This is despite the fact that this was its means of liberating Palestine from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan; instead, "peace" became the strategic choice of the umbrella organisation.

Throughout the post-Oslo quarter of a century, Israel has achieved more of its objectives than it did in its previous wars; the Palestinians have lost too much in concession after concession. The US now recognises all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has moved its embassy there. Israel is pushing ahead with its Judaisation of Jerusalem and the Old City is being emptied of Palestinians; their numbers are dwindling. Meanwhile, the number of Jews inside Jerusalem has increased, as has the number of settlements surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque, not to mention the ongoing settlement expansion in the West Bank, home to around 800,000 illegal settlers. The Palestinians now have just 20 per cent of historical Palestine for their supposed state; this figure is likely to get smaller as there are plans to establish new settlements to cater for up to 1.5 million settlers.

 Oslo and the new-old Middle East

The "Jewish Nation State Law", approved by the Knesset last month, unmasked Israel's ugly racist face; it was passed to legitimise these settlements by making Palestine a homeland solely for the Jewish people. "The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established," says the new law. "The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people."

Furthermore, in order to promote the Jewishness of the state, the law makes Hebrew Israel's only official language. The state's Palestinian citizens — 20 per cent of the population — must either leave the country or live as second-class citizens with no access to full citizenship and equal rights.

The Zionist lie for more than a century has been that Palestine is solely for the Jews; the Promised Land given to them by God which they cannot abandon. Turning reality upside down, the presence of the Palestinians is regarded as that of occupiers from whom the 1948 war was a war of liberation.

Moreover, the implication of the new law is that the settlements regarded as illegal under international law are not built on occupied land; they are simply an extension of Israeli territory. "The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation," it announces. "The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles." The "exiles" in this case does not mean the Palestinian refugees who have been ethnically cleansed since 1948, so the law unilaterally annuls their legitimate right of return.

Post-Oslo: What was written 20 years ago

The Palestinians have been disoriented for a quarter of a century, entering negotiations and disengaging, only to engage in new ones, and so one, lost in an endless cycle of talks. Their cause has been lost in the corridors of power while the Palestinian Authority — with its imaginary authority — has become a part of the Israeli project, by means of its security coordination with the occupation. The PA is the tool used by Israel to restrict and suffocate the Palestinians; to arrest activists and inform on Palestinian resistance members to the Israeli security agencies.

Given what has happened, why were the Oslo Accords signed? Oslo was preceded by the Madrid Conference and, prior to that, secret talks between the Palestinians and Israelis in preparation for the Accords. This followed the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987, which haunted the Israelis and carried a huge financial cost. The entire international community sympathised with this intifada and the children of the stones; Israel found itself surrounded domestically and internationally. Hence, it sought an agreement to calm the situation and allow the crisis to pass.

Iconic handshake between PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli President Shimon Peres during the Oslo accords [Council on Foreign Relations/YouTube]

Iconic handshake between PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli President Shimon Peres during the Oslo accords [Council on Foreign Relations/YouTube]

In its usual deceitful manner, Israel signed the Oslo Accords and made false promises about establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Arafat acknowledged the right of Israel to live in peace and security, and said that the Declaration of Principles would mark the beginning of a violence-free era. The PLO condemned the use of terrorism — the label applied to legitimate Palestinian struggle against occupation — and other acts of violence and amended the clauses of the national charter accordingly. It also took it upon itself to force every member of the PLO to adhere to the changes, prohibiting them from violating the new clauses and disciplining anyone who did. Based on Arafat's commitment, the intifada was stopped by his direct order and he began cracking down on the Palestinians and banning them from any act of resistance against Israel's occupation.

The Oslo curse

In fact, Arafat had accepted years earlier that the Israeli presence was an inevitable reality and that the state could not be erased. In mid-1973 he wrote to former US President Richard Nixon via a back channel — this is mentioned by Kai Bird in the book The Good Spy — telling the Americans that he and his colleagues in the Palestinian leadership were convinced that Israel was established for good and its demise was out of the question. The person who dragged us to the Oslo disaster thus began dragging us there at least 20 years beforehand.

Arafat lived in dreamland, and forced the Palestinians to do the same, waiting for his promised state until he woke up at the Camp David negotiations in 2000. He realised that he was running after a fantasy and had been deluded into thinking that Israel would ever give up Jerusalem or accept the right of return. He pulled out of negotiations and returned from the US disappointed, with the hopes of the Palestinian people unfulfilled.

That's when he announced the return to resistance; Al-Aqsa intifada broke out after the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, visited Al-Aqsa Mosque in September 2000. As a result of his actions, Arafat was besieged in his compound in Ramallah, until he was poisoned and killed in 2004.

His chapter was closed, and the pages of the Palestinian struggle are now limited to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. They are being suffocated by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian "sacred security coordination" Authority, who is now a key player in the overall Israeli project. The past twenty-five years since hope-filled Oslo have been a mirage.

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

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