Israeli National Security Adviser Ya’akov Amidror is leading a team charged with determining an appropriate response to the Palestinian UN bid in September and has joined Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in considering an abrogation of the Oslo Accords that were signed in the 1993 and 1995. The Oslo Accords were meant to provide a basis for an independent Palestinians state, but have been undermined by successive Israeli governments through continued settlement activity. Correctly, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki posited that Israel would not dare cancel the Accords, saying that “This is just an attempt to weaken the spirit of Palestinian people and leaders and urge them to drop September’s UN bid.” The Oslo Accords are dead and gone and currently exist only as a means to justify continuing the occupation. Canceling the accords would only benefit the Palestinian cause – some initial thinking has produced four major reasons why:
- The Palestinians have historically been seen as the party that is opposed to a peaceful settlement (sometimes warranted, sometimes not). An Israeli abrogation of the Oslo Accords would be a clear punitive reaction (even if it does not punish) to the Palestinian UN bid. The international community – the same one that will likely support the PA bid – will see Israel’s move as a step away from peace. Years of unfettered settlement construction has led to Israel being seen as the rejectionist party. Killing Oslo would finalize this view, highlighting Israel’s refusal to make a deal.
- Secondly, the Palestinian Authority receives nearly its entire funding from the international community. Funding of the PA has been definitively linked to the PA’s ability to be seen as a peace partner for Israel. As mentioned above, should Israel revoke the Oslo Accords, it would solidify Israel’s position as the rejectionist party, meaning that the PA would not need to follow Israel’s security requirements (including politically motivated arrests) out of fear as being seen as an unfit partner for peace and risking its international funding.
- The Palestinian security apparatus is seen by many Palestinians as a second level of the Israeli occupation. Close coordination between the PA and Israel on security issues has earned the PA the unenviable nickname of ‘Palestinian occupiers’ throughout the Palestinian territories. The Accords are based on the principle of negotiation as the basis of a political settlement. The PA is forced to closely cooperate with Israel as a refusal to do so would result in the characterization of the PA as refusing to adhere to past agreements (Oslo contains a number of security agreements). In other words, acting as the Palestinian branch of the Israeli security structure is required for the PA to remain seen as a potential partner for negotiating peace. Following the security requirements of Oslo to a T was the litmus test to prove that the PA was devoted to peace, even though Oslo long ago stopped being beneficial to the Palestinians.
- The division of the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C leaves the Palestinian Authority with control of only 17% of the West Bank while allowing Israel complete control in 60% of the territory, providing Israeli with an unfettered ability to not only build settlements, but also to cleanse Area C of Palestinians (the Jordan Valley for example, has lost almost 200,000 Palestinians since 1967). In area C, Palestinians are required to obtain Israeli permits (nearly impossible) for any sort of construction, meaning that any school, house or medical clinic legally requires Israeli consent to be built in over half of the West Bank. Consequently, Palestinians under Area C are constantly denied the most basic of services. The dubious legal justification for Israel’s ability to deny permits (and destroy structures built without permits) is enshrined in the Oslo Accords. Should Israel abrogate the Accords, there would be absolutely no legal justification for the campaign of house demolitions throughout the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem and other Area C locations. Currently, Israel is able to defend its brutal policies using Palestinian agreement to Oslo; without the accords, there is no permit system and no legal rationale for destroying Palestinian structures. Said another way, the Oslo Accords are a deceiving tool used to continue and deepen the occupation; abrogating the Accords would remove Israel’s ability to govern the West Bank as efficiently or to expand settlements as easily.
Not only would an Israeli abrogation of the Oslo Accords finally demonstrate that Israel is not interested in peace, but the decision would allow the Palestinian Authority to separate itself from an agreement that has not benefitted the Palestinians or made an independent state any closer. Importantly, removal of Oslo would allow the PA to alter their policies to better serve the Palestinian people without the risk of losing funding or being seen as an obstacle to peace. Finally, the Oslo Accords are an effective way to continue and deepen the occupation, meaning that eliminating the Accords would hurt the Israeli settlement project and make the occupation more difficult to manage.
The four reasons above are certainly not the only reasons why Israel will not abrogate the Accords. Likewise it seems unlikely that an abrogation of the Oslo Accords would result in any major changes on the ground. The Israeli decision would simply be a slight shift in the way the occupation would be managed, but it would be an important shift, in part due to the reasons mentioned above, that would only produce negative results for Israel.
What do NFAM readers think?
Photo from The Lid