This week in Jewish history | Oslo Accords are signed

15 Sep 2020 Facebook Created with Sketch. Twitter Created with Sketch. Email Print
This week in Jewish history | Oslo Accords are signed

On 13 September 1993, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Negotiator Mahmoud Abbas signed the first of two historic agreements laying a foundation for a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on a two-state solution by signing the Oslo Accords at the South Lawn of the White House. While the second agreement would be signed over a year later in Taba, Egypt, the agreements did not lead to a lasting peace deal between the two nations, unlike the historic Camp David Accord years earlier. 

The agreement, formally known as the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, was the result of secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO in Oslo, Norway, earlier in the year. Under the terms of the agreement, Israel recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, while the PLO renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist. The agreement also spearheaded the creation of an interim Palestinian self-government known as the Palestinian Authority and provided for Israel’s eventual withdrawal from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  

The accord, however, did not settle the most controversial issues, namely, the future status of Jerusalem, the plight of Palestinian Arab refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab lands, final borders, and the future of Israeli settlements—all of which would be part of “permanent status negotiations.” Nevertheless, the ceremony ended with the famous handshake of Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat.   

Many Israelis considered the unprecedented agreement controversial, including those who believed the PLO had not renounced terrorism and that negotiating with it violated Israel’s long-held policy of not negotiating with terrorists.   

While Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, Arafat and Peres would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1994 for their “efforts to create peace in the Middle East,” the agreement has yet to lead to a final peace deal.  

After several setbacks, including Rabin’s assassination by an Israeli extremist in 1995, the accords ultimately collapsed following the failure of the Camp David Summit in 2000. In his memoir, My Life, Clinton laid the blame squarely on Arafat. Clinton recounted that Arafat once complimented him by saying, "You are a great man." Clinton responded, "I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you made me one." 

Following the summit’s failure, a bloody wave of terrorism broke out, which became known as the Second Intifada.  

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