By Our Correspondent
NEW DELHI – The 30th anniversary of the Oslo Accords signed between Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel in Washington has come as a grim reminder of the failure of Palestinian people to get an independent state and Israel's adamant attitude of continuing with the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. The first of the two accords was signed on September 13, 1993.
Three decades after the PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the accord on the White House lawn following secret negotiations in Oslo, Norway, the two-state solution is nowhere in sight and the issues of the status of Jerusalem – the eastern half of which remains occupied by Israel – designation of borders, Palestinian refugees, right of return and the existence of Jewish settlements on the stolen Palestinian land remain unresolved.
Israel’s current government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, which is the most right-wing in the country’s history, includes Ministers who have actively and publicly supported the annexation of the West Bank. Palestinians are trapped in ghetto-like urban areas and are forbidden from building outside of these areas, while Israeli settlements continue to expand.
The second of the Oslo Accords, signed in September 1995, went into more detail on the structure of the bodies which the peace process was supposed to form. Israel, which was formed on the land of historic Palestine in 1948 in an event Palestinians know as the Nakba, was supposed to accept Palestinian claims to national sovereignty.
The accords led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), while Israeli military was to make a phased withdrawal from the Palestinian territories it had illegally occupied since 1967. The status of Jerusalem and Israel’s illegal settlements were to be negotiated at a later date. A final treaty was to be reached in five years, but that did not happen.
With Israel continuing its occupation of Palestinian land and refusing to withdraw militarily from the areas of West Bank, the Oslo Accords have headed to a failure. After Rabin’s assassination by a Jewish extremist dissatisfied with the accords, a number of Israeli leaders opposed to the accords came to power. They included Netanyahu as well as Ariel Sharon.
A second intifada from 2000 to 2005 led to heavy casualties on the Palestinian side and made both sides less willing to agree to move ahead as per the Oslo Accords. In the following decade, the attempts to restart talks failed and the interim clauses of the agreements have since become the status quo. Netanyahu has denounced the Oslo Accords and openly said that there was no Palestinian peace partner.
The American leaders, who had control over the peace process, have watched silently as the successive Israeli governments have opened the floodgates of creating settlements. The international community is divided on how to perceive the new Israel, which is now depicted as an apartheid state. Moreover, the PA has become an agent for the normalization of Israeli encroachment on Palestinian lands.
The West Bank lies fragmented today and the blockaded Gaza Strip stands isolated in an “open-air prison”. As Israel has no plans to relinquish occupied East Jerusalem, many people on both the sides believe that the two-state solution is not relevant any more.
Israel has stepped up settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, with the Ministers openly saying that the territory would be completely annexed. Israel this year set a record for its settlement approvals, with at least 12,800 settler housing units approved since January. On the other hand, the PA is weak and unpopular, and the Hamas militant group, which opposes Israel's existence, has controlled Gaza since taking control of the area from the PA in 2007.
The political observers in Middle East believe that the Zionist project, whether under a secular or a right-wing Israeli government, has always been aimed at grabbing the land of West Bank territory and denial of any genuine and rightful claim to a Palestinian state. The Israelis will always find an excuse to deny Palestinians a state of their own in historical Palestine.
At the time the Oslo Accord was signed in 1993, there were just over 1.10 lakh Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Today, the figure is more than 7 lakhs. These settlements are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel has always disputed that. Recent months have witnessed more violence in West Bank with regular Israeli military raids, a series of shootings by Palestinian militants and growing violence by extremist settlers.
The loss of faith in the PA leaders has boosted militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad still committed to armed struggle against Israel and has led to the creation of new and more localized groups. Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has affirmed that his country will not cave in to foreign dictates on its treatment of the Palestinians.
The remarks have clearly depicted the deterioration in the peace efforts since the historic Oslo peace deal. If peace between Israel and the Palestinians is ever to be possible, then Oslo will be the framework for those discussions in future. Observers point out that this may be termed a notable success of the Oslo Accords, despite the fact that the human rights condition is much worse today than it was thirty years ago.