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Middle east

Hopes of Oslo Accords unfulfilled 20 years on

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-30

In 1993, the Oslo accords marked a milestone in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and many had hope for the peace settlement that was meant to follow. But 20 years later, conditions on the ground have not improved. FRANCE 24 reports.

Musa Jaber was just a year old when the Oslo Accords were signed, marking the first time Israelis and Palestinians officially acknowledged each other's right to exist.

That was 20 years ago this week.

Once seen as the cornerstone of an imminent peace settlement, the accords have done little to improve conditions on the ground, according to people like Jaber, a farmer in Hebron, a Palestinian city in the West Bank.

“I want to build a new house but that’s forbidden,” Jaber told AFP. “Meanwhile, [Israelis] are building on our land however they want. But we do not have the right. If we build new homes, the bulldozers will come destroy them.”

Hailed as a breakthrough in the century-old Jewish-Arab conflict, the Oslo Accords were signed at the White House by Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, with US President Bill Clinton presiding.

Named for the secret talks in Norway that led up to them, the accords created the Palestinian Authority and set up areas of self-rule in the Palestinian territories.

Just a few hundred metres from Jaber’s farm, nearly 8,000 Israelis live in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba.

Like Jaber, many of them are disillusioned with the outcome of the Oslo Accords, which paved the way for the formation of the Palestinian Authority and a future Palestinian state based on borders from before the Six Day War of 1967.

“I remember running in the street, protesting against Oslo, holding posters saying ‘Don’t give them guns, don’t give them a state,’” Israeli settler Itamar Ben Gvir told AFP. “Look what happened: they were given guns, and they shot at us. I think there’s no doubt the agreement is a failure.”

The obstacles

Officials on both sides offer differing reasons to explain why the Oslo Accords did not pave the way for greater progress. Interviewed on FRANCE 24, former Israeli diplomat Freddy Eytan said that “lack of security” resulting from Palestinian suicide bombings and rocket fire from Gaza has “rendered Israeli society more distrustful” of Palestinians. He also pointed to the “rise of Hamas as a saboteur of peace”.

Meanwhile, Leila Shahid, the Palestinian Authority’s EU delegate, said that responsibility also lies with “the international community and the eight Israeli administrations that used negotiations as a cover to annex more Palestinian land”.

The number of Israeli settlers has doubled since the accords.

Still, Shahid also said it was unfair to say the Oslo Accords were a total failure.

“Something fundamental changed in 1993,” she told FRANCE 24. “Palestine was recognised as a reality, as a potential future state.”

As for the current talks, brokered by the US, Eytan sounded a note of cautious optimism: “These talks might actually work because we have no alternative.”

Date created : 2013-09-13

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