This month marks 20 years since the signing of the first of the Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It’s a reverse milestone which received scant attention in the global media in keeping with its lack of importance. The once-celebrated Oslo accord is fast receding from our memory, including those of Israelis and Palestinians who signed it. It’s a stark reminder of the dire state of the Palestinian struggle and the unending, fruitless quest for peace.
Those who chose to look at these twenty years of failure have come up with different reasons. Of course, Israel will be blamed for flagrantly reneging on its promises, Palestinians will be blamed for signing a deal which was doomed to fail, and for failing to foresee what Israelis would do to the deal, and the brokers will be blamed for failing to ensure the implementation of an agreement they painstakingly worked to make a reality. After all the blame is apportioned among various parties, everybody is staring at a vacuum. Twenty years ago, there was at least hope, a readiness to talk and willingness to make concessions, however small. Today, hope is in intensive care, though not dead.
Though the Oslo accord is effectively dead, calls are also being made to annul it – which means that though it’s dead, it must be buried. Annulling it is equivalent to its formal burial, and in the same way as burial would help get rid of a body after the soul has left, the formal annulment would help obliterate whatever remains of the accord.
In the last twenty years, Israel has succeeded in killing the Oslo accord by not only failing to honour the promises it made, but through relentless aggression and measures like expansion of settlements.
As US Secretary of State John Kerry tries to bring Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table, Oslo hangs like a sword. It is a reminder of the difficulties ahead, that even if he succeeds in his mission of brokering a deal, which even he may not be fully optimistic about, there is no guarantee that such a deal will be implemented.
The peace process is in deep crisis today. The Arab Spring, especially the crisis in Egypt and Syria, has thrown new uncertainties to the process. Though the Arab world is fully aware of the Israeli land-grabbing and aggression, it has been unable to do anything, being preoccupied with the aftermath of the Arab revolution. Also, the deep, continuing divisions between Fatah and Hamas have complicated the situation.
Next year, in its twenty-first anniversary of signing, Oslo will be talked less. But it doesn’t make a difference to an accord which has been left to die•