Israelis, Palestinians reflect on the Oslo peace accords 20 years on
On the 20th anniversary of the Oslo peace accords, here is a sampling of reflections on the landmark agreement from leading Israelis and Palestinians:
Oslo was the right decision, without it we would be in a terrible situation. Without Oslo there would have been one Arab camp, an enemy one. There would be no Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.) There would be no-one to sit with. Instead we have Abu Mazen who says he doesn’t want to return to [once predominately Arab towns of] Safed and Jaffa, who says he is in favor of peace, who is in favor of a Jewish state.
-- Israeli President Shimon Peres, former foreign minister during Oslo signing
A world of rage was unleashed against the [Oslo] agreement, its architects and supporters. Yitzhak Rabin, who signed it, was murdered 18 years ago. Undoubtedly, the infrastructure for the foundation of the two-state solution was put in place at Oslo and the principle of separating the peoples was agreed upon, to be carried out gradually, carefully, and to be monitored and implemented with a clear, sober vision of risks and dangers. I believe [Rabin’s] way remains the right way. The reality on the ground has changed, but the principles remain viable, applicable.
-- Dalia Rabin, daughter of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
In Oslo, the exchange of mutual recognition was fake. We recognized the state of Israel. They recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as representing Palestinians. They did not recognize the state of Palestine. That was a major structural flaw in our relationship.
-- Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath
Oslo put firmly on the agenda the two-state solution in way that didn’t exist in the Israeli mainstream. Twenty years later that’s the positive legacy.
-- 2000 Camp David Israeli advisor Yossi Alpher
The most important thing is that it’s still working. Both sides are still committed to the rules and principles we agreed to. In security, it’s Oslo. In economy, it’s Oslo. Oslo is still controlling much of the life between Israel and Palestinians. Of course Israel has the upper hand and they are using their power to violate the rules.
-- Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Ali Qurei
Oslo was the most important historic turning point in Israel’s relations with the region – aside from perhaps Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s 1977 visit to Israel -- for the single reason that it put an end to the right-wing, revisionist Israeli perception of the “greater land of Israel” and to the maximalist Palestinian perception of “greater Palestine,” both spanning from the Jordan River to the sea. Until Olso, the majority were headed towards a collision between these two perceptions. Oslo determined that the land would ultimately be divided. The proof of this turning point is the recognition by the right-wing and its leader of the two-state solution [culminating with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s two-state endorsement in 2009.]This would not have happened without Olso.
-- Chief Israeli Olso negotiator Uri Savir
The Olso approach has been proven a failure since it began 20 years ago. A return to negotiations with Israel is doomed because Israel will not give anything to Palestinians and the Palestinian people will never waive their rights. Negotiations are just a way to beautify Israel’s occupation, while it continues to build settlements, expand the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem and besiege Gaza.
-- Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh
I wonder why Palestinians keep the agreement today rather than telling the world that after 20 years, enough is enough. You can’t have an interim agreement forever. You can’t have the scaffolding without the building itself. I wonder why they just don’t tell the world that they are turning over the keys to the West Bank back to Israel. I presume, god forbid, that if current negotiations don’t succeed, this is what they are going to do.
-- Israeli negotiator and Oslo architect Yossi Beilin
For many of us who initially supported the Oslo process, what remains is the bitter taste of self-deception. We so desperately wanted peace that we ignored the warning signs, like Arafat’s linguistic duplicity, promising peace in English and war in Arabic. Arafat, most Israelis are now convinced, related to Oslo as a ruse, an attempt to extract as many concessions from Israel as possible before launching the terror assault known as the Second Intifada.
-- Author Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute
The idea of the Oslo Accords was that it is possible to impose peace from above, and from that economic growth and security will result. Actually the opposite is true. Only after Israel achieves security and the economic welfare of the Palestinians improve, a political settlement will be achieved. Any attempt to reverse the natural order is likely to fail regardless of the name of the process or who will lead it. I do not believe you can impose peace, you have to build peace.
-- Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman
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