How Israel caused the Oslo Accords to fail

Politicians like to glorify events in which they starred. And even more so the extroverted people who cooked up the Oslo Accords exactly 15 years ago. But Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin and their partners from the academic world and media have chosen to remain silent in recent days, or to make vague statements that even they themselves don’t seem to believe about the Oslo Accords remaining the only outline for peace.

Even they, the wizards of propaganda, cannot explain, beyond the spin of the “only outline,” how an initiative that ignited a war of terror that killed thousands of Jews and Arabs, turned Hamas into the main force in the Palestinian community and brought nationalistic fervor in the Israeli Palestinian community to new heights, is the “only outline for peace.” After all, the truth is just the opposite: The “outline” gave rise to despair among both Jews and Arabs of the possibility of ever living in peace in this country, even within the Green Line.

The Oslo Accords were doomed from the start, for one because the enthusiastic Israeli negotiators accepted the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize – and today, as it says in their “vision papers,” even Israeli Arabs refuse to recognize – the State of Israel as a Jewish state and the national homeland of the Jewish people. But the impatient improvisers, who made light of the national ambitions of the Arabs and deluded themselves and us that this recognition, as Peres said, is not important, ignored the depth of the Arabs’ nationalistic feelings while allowing them to waive their commitment to end the violence.
These concessions, in effect, caused the failure of the process already at the start. The Palestinians concluded that if Israel did not insist on the main principle – recognition of the state and an end to the violence – there was almost no limit to the concessions they could achieve. And when Rabin and Peres declared that “we will continue with the negotiations as though there were no terror,” Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat was convinced once and for all that permission was granted because the Jews had no red lines.

Rabin and Peres were not the initiators, but when they adopted the outline – and the Nobel Peace Prize – they should have behaved like statesmen: They should have examined the incidents of Palestinian erosion of the agreement with a magnifying glass and refused to concede an inch to them. But they were both blinded by the wealth of compliments, honors, publications and prizes and gave in to Arafat on the “petty issues,” including his personal responsibility for the terror. (When the intelligence people brought incontrovertible proof of his direct involvement in terror, they were reprimanded by the decision makers, especially Peres.)

By making this concession, in other words by agreeing to negotiate while suicide bombers were blowing themselves up in buses and wedding halls, the decision makers caused the failure of the outline that they themselves had led.

But it was not only the minuscule chance for peace that they sabotaged. At the same time they brought about processes of division and atomization in Israeli society whose results are hard to exaggerate. A statesman, as opposed to a politician who is eager for immediate achievements, understands that decisions that are far-reaching in their historic consequences must be made with broad national consensus.

The Oslo outline included giving up parts of the homeland for which the Jewish people have longed for generations, as well as settlement sites that were established with blood. The majority of public opinion rejected these concessions, and the architects of Oslo did not have a majority in the Knesset. And then a bribe was offered to Shas and to two deserters from the Tzomet party, Gonen Segev and Alex Goldfarb. And the decision regarding the historic concessions passed with a majority of a single vote – a bought vote.

There is no question about it: It was a tragic mistake that caused tragic results. The communities that felt deceived and betrayed have yet to recover from it. Moreover, the decision to implement an additional withdrawal, from Gush Katif, was also made deceptively. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon promised to honor the referendum of the registered Likud voters, and when he lost he denied his promise and led the uprooting from Gush Katif that, exactly like the Oslo Accords concessions, strengthened the Palestinians’ motivation to continue the terror even more forcefully, and at the same time reinforced the internal split in Israel.

As long as the architects of the Oslo Accords and their successors are in power, or in positions of influence in the media and other centers of influence, there is no chance that a genuine peace process will take place. Following are the conclusions of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) from the many discussions that he conducts with these officials: “Both Jerusalem and the right of return,” said the moderate partner to the president of the State of Israel, “are Palestinian rights.”

Here, after 15 years of concessions, withdrawals and restraint, this is the outcome.