The Oslo Agreement was born dead

Category: World Affairs Topics: Occupation Views: 734

"World leaders are calling for an end to violence in the Middle East, urging both parties to return to the negotiation table". Such a statement was uttered by news anchors around the globe, who anxiously followed the regular updates coming from the troubled region. While there is little doubt that most of these leaders are genuinely interested in stabilizing the Middle East, there are many doubts regarding the possibility of reviving the peace process, even if the Palestinian uprising would willingly or unwillingly end.

For those who don't know much about the Arab-Israeli conflict, violence is by no means a wise replacement for negotiation. But returning to the negotiation table under the same balances of power and the leadership of the United States might bring about a worse destiny for the Palestinian people.

The 1993 Oslo Peace Agreement, for Palestinians, has been a slow and silent death. It's nearly as clever a surrogate war as the sanctions on Iraq, as people are dying quietly without the need deployment of tanks and gun ships.

When the Palestinian and Israeli leadership emerged after negotiating this secret agreement in Oslo, the media cheerfully celebrated the fact that both were in agreement. Very little was said regarding the nature of the agreement, or whether the document provided a dignified solution to the decades-long struggle for Palestinian self-determination.

Israel was pleased that the document supported its ever-lasting demands for security, and the Palestinian people were driven to believe that Oslo was a victory rewarded to them for their bloody uprising, the intifadah.

None of Oslo's fallacies were of concern to the world leaders who rushed to the White House to take part in the ceremonial signing of the historic agreement.

One of the many foundations that was hoped to be the basis for a just and lasting peace in the area, UN Resolution 242, was practically disregarded, as the resolution was itself open for negotiation according to the Oslo accords.

Perhaps Chairman Arafat had by then concluded that the re-negotiation of UN resolutions was a trivial matter that could be easily handled without major losses. The PLO leadership conveniently overlooked Israel's capability to assert its views, no matter how absurd they may seem, if not through political pressure, by militarily means.

And for seven years Palestinians awaited the fruits of Oslo and the other agreements that were signed later in Cairo, Washington and elsewhere.

On one hand, they were alarmed as Israeli leaders repeatedly emphasized their government's "red lines", which denied Palestinians their rights in occupied Jerusalem, meaningful territorial sovereignty and the right of the millions of refugees to return home. On the other hand, they were assured by Arafat that a Palestinian state would soon emerge; a state that would include all territories occupied by Israel in 1967, and crowned by East Jerusalem.

But for seven long years all that was achieved on the path of peace appeared to be no more than symbolic gestures: handshakes, the playing of anthems, the waving of flags and the holding of press conferences.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian economy deteriorated, unemployment soared, much more Palestinian land was confiscated by the Israeli government for illegal Israeli settlements, Palestinians' freedom of movement continued to be constrained, Palestinian national unity shattered and Israel's army continued its harassment of those living in the supposedly freed territories.

The waiting game came to an end when people in the Palestinian streets began visualizing the nearly crystal-clear Israeli version of the final peace settlement. Disappointingly, most Palestinians began realizing that Ehud Barak had indeed stood strongly behind every single one of his "red lines" and that the PA and Chairman Arafat were too weak and too incompetent to confront Israel's cleverly designed scheme.

The episode of Camp David II and the United States' enormous pressure on Arafat was the last straw, bringing down with it the remaining hope of the Oslo agreement. With sorrow, Palestinians realized that none of their national aspirations, their dreams of freedom and the return of their refugees were likely to happen, as they were asked to compromise on every little thing they held on to, including their religious symbols.

Such a realization turned to anger when war criminal Ariel Sharon decided to visit Jerusalem's holiest Muslim site (the Noble Sanctuary). Sharon's visit was understood by the Palestinian people as a slap in the face to an already defeated nation. Yet, though it had seemed that the Palestinians were too weary to continue to resist, the Intifada broke out once again.

While world leaders contend that violence will undo years of work in the Middle East, the Palestinians see their Intifada as a renewal of their just demands and a dismissal of the deception and damage brought about by the Oslo agreement. The Intifada is a courageous reaffirmation of a nation's destiny, a people's way of saying that they will not submit and that they will not compromise on their most basic human rights.

It is time for the world and for world leaders to accept that Palestinian uprisings are not mere acts of meaningless violence, but rather a message that says they also have their red lines and their faith will withstand Israel's army, tanks and missiles. It is time for world leaders to understand that the Oslo agreement wasn't killed because of Middle East violence; the Oslo agreement was born dead.

(Ramzy Baroud is a freelance journalist in Seattle, Washington. He is a regular contributor to

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Occupation
Views: 734

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