Twenty three years ago, on 13 September in Washington DC there was widespread euphoria. The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin sealed a peace agreement. Since 1948 Israel and Palestine had been locked in deadly territorial disputes. Shimon Peres, then Chief Israeli Diplomat was one of the accord’s principal architects.
The Palestinian National Authority
In 1993,the first measure of the accord created the “Palestinian National Authority”. A supposedly temporary entity destined to dissolve in 1999 after facilitating the creation of an independent state.
Yasser Arafat’s return
In 1994, Yasser Arafat returned to the West Bank after 27 years in exile to establish an autonomous government. He would be elected first President of the Palestinian National Authority in 1996.
In 1995, the Oslo accord’s second measure divided the West Bank into three zones: A was under exclusively Palestinian control and B was under shared control.
In section C, 60% of Israeli-Army-occupied-territory was gradually to come under Palestinian control.
The thorniest issues were left to future negotiations. These included the defining of borders between the two states; the definitive status of Jerusalem, and the Israeli settlements occupying the West Bank. Other contentious issues included the rights of Palestinian refugees to return, including those expelled during the creation of the Israeli State in 1948.
In November 1995, Labour Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination by a Jewish extremist who shot him twice in the back, dealt a fatal blow to the Oslo process. Shimon Peres became interim Israeli PM, but long time opponent of the agreement, Benjamin Netanyahu, took office one year later.
The attempt in 2000 to settle the so-called “permanent status” agenda meaning the thorniest issues, failed on 25th July after two weeks of negotiations at Camp David. It was the end of the Oslo agreement and the start of a downward spiral…
The second intifada
Two months after this failed attempt, when the interim Authority was supposed to end, having waited 50 years for their own state, the Palestinians engaged in a second intifada, known as Al Aqsa.
For their part the Israelis engaged in successive wars in Gaza and accelerated the colonization of the West Bank, rendering the one-territory one-state concept less practicable.
Nearly 25 years on from the Oslo Accord, and a viable solution seems as distant a hope as ever.