The frozen Israeli-Palestinian conflict has raged on almost since the day Israel achieved independence in 1948. Despite the Oslo Accords, which were intended to bring peace and political stability to both sides, the degraded situation heightens the level of destabilization in the Middle East and North African region. Beyond the Israelis and the Palestinians the biggest impediment to the peace process is now the Trump administration.
Israel, despite violating international law, continues to receive ongoing and unprecedented diplomatic, military and financial support from the paradoxically Anti-Semitic United States Congress. The Trump administration’s position has incrementally distanced U.S. foreign policy on this issue from that of the MENA countries and the European Union (EU) where there is an unequivocal push for a two-state solution.
Without decisive action by the entire international community, including the withdrawal of U.S. financial aid to both sides and military aid to Israel, as well as the broader imposition of economic sanctions, there will never be a détente, let alone a two-state solution.
Israel’s Hardline Stance
In June 2009 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a landmark speech, reflecting a trend that had been growing ever since the Oslo Accords were signed. Mr. Netanyahu articulate untenable conditions for ‘two-state solution’ advocated by predecessor leaders and consistent with the Oslo Accords were no longer subject to negotiation. Mr. Netanyahu stated Israel endorsed Palestine existing as a neighboring but, demilitarized state. Under his ‘proposal’, freedom of movement would be remain constricted, with displaced Palestinians forever barred from returning to their ancestral homelands. Ignoring the naturally occurring Palestinian population growth, an expansion of the limited lands beyond that which they had been relegated to since 1967 would not be considered. Jerusalem, which under the original United Nations (U.N.) plan, was to be internationally governed, would remain under Israel’s sole governance. Most significantly, the Palestinians had to formally recognize Israel as the ‘Jewish’ national state; a proverbial slab in the face.
Paradoxically, eight years later, in 2017, Mr. Netanyahu’s position has only hardened as he has stated that Israel will only negotiate with the Palestinians only if they come to the table with no preconditions.
Palestinian’s de facto, octogenarian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was last elected in 2006 and whose power is limited to the West Bank, where his party, the Fatah is based, is being pressured by the European Union and the Arab Quartet – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – to reconcile competing Palestinian factions and to name a successor. The other faction is Hamas which is the internationally unrecognized Gaza Strip governing body. Listed as a terrorist organization by the EU and the U.S., Hamas is issuing a new charter reflecting a sharp ideological shift.
“Israel has chosen not to choose, hoping the conflict will resolve itself, or that the Arabs will disappear in some kind of cosmic miracle,” stated former Mossad director Tamir Pardo, when the reality is that the internal situation is a “ticking time bomb”.
“The time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment,” stated Israeli President Rivlin in October 2014.
The Netanyahu’s Stronghold
Israel has a parliamentary government – the 120 member Knesset – which elects a Prime Minister as its chief executive, making the office holder the country’s most powerful political. The Presidency is an honorific position. Parliamentary elections are scheduled every four years, but unstable coalitions or a no-confidence vote by the Knesset can dissolve a government earlier. This has been the modus operandi with elections having been held on the average every 2.8 years.
Mr. Netanyahu, a member of the right-wing party, the Likud, is currently Israel’s three-time Prime Minister. The Likud holds 30 parliamentary seats. In 2016 Mr. Netanyahu’s approval ratings plummeted to 33 percent signaling that Israel may be ready for change. In April Mr. Netanyahu had a falling out with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, a key coalition partner, which appears to be resolved. Mr. Netanyahu now faces possible criminal charges in two cases. By calling for an early election, Mr. Netanyahu may not only avoid criminal charges, as levelling charges during an election campaign could be seen as election interference, but it would also allow him to maintain his grip on power and continue hindering the peace process.
Until recently, the strongest opposition party has been disorganized Zionist or Labor party, which holds 19 Knesset seats. The Labor Party is headed by Yitzhak “Isaac” Herzog, who immediately after being elected party leader on November 22, 2013, met with Mr. Abbas pledging his support for the two-state solution. Mr. Herzog’s view that, “I believe that the internal reality of this [the Likud] coalition is in the midst of a crisis. The tensions are enormous and there is a basic lack of confidence in the Prime Minister. I believe that in the coming year we will go to elections,” are unsupported by recent polls and the sheer tenacity of Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. Herzog seems oblivious to the fact that, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Netanyahu is an ultimate political survivor.
An April poll showed that if elections were held today Mr. Netanyahu’s party continue controlling the Knesset, that the previously third-ranking Yair Lapid’s centrist Yest Atid party would move into second place, and that Mr. Herzog’s Zionist Union party would be ranked third.
“According to the survey, if elections were to be held in the near future, some 70% of Jews would want either a right-wing or a center-right government to take office, while 57% of Arab Israelis would prefer to see a center-left or left-wing government. Almost 80% of the respondents as a whole thought that either a center-right or right-wing government had a greater chance of taking office if elections were held soon,” according to the Midgam Research Institute poll. The numbers reflect a lack of public support for parties favoring a two-state solution.
The longevity of the conflict has sadly led to a poor internal perception of a peaceful solution as was made manifest in an April 2017 poll in which 51% of Israeli Jews, 48% of Israeli Arabs, and 68% of Palestinians agreed with the statement that, “Nothing can be done that’s good for both sides; whatever is good for one side is bad for the other side.”
These results are entirely inconsistent with another recent poll, commissioned by J Street, a U.S. firm which advocates on behalf of the Palestinians and was carried out by Smith Consulting, of a representative sample of 500 Jewish and Arabic Israelis. This poll allegedly found that 68% Israelis support a two-state solution. Even more surprising was the result that 58% of Israelis said they would vote for a referendum for a permanent solution based on the following principles: returning to Israel’s 1967 borders with some land swaps, declaring Jerusalem the shared capital of both the Jewish and Palestinian states, and addressing the grievances of Palestinian refugees mainly through compensation payments.
Recently Mr. Netanyahu was harshly criticized by the U.N., the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and the European Union (EU) for his push to build the first new settlements in over two decades in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including in East Jerusalem. The UNSC responded on December 23, 2016 by passing Resolution 2334 addressing Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”. The resolution states that Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”. It demanded that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It was the first Israeli UNSC resolution in recent time not to be vetoed by the United States, which abstained.
As President-elect Mr. Trump had urged the Obama administration to veto the resolution, stating, “…as the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations”. However, at a February 15, 2017 joint press conference Mr. Trump told Mr. Netanyahu that, “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that the U.N. “…condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution.”
“This policy [of new settlements] will create the status quo of one state. Policies of the occupying power will not bring about peace in our region. Peace and stability can only be reached through the relations of good neighbors. This is precisely what we are ready to do, to be good neighbors,” averred Palestinian leader Mr. Abbas.
A one state solution is incapable of melding the divergent laws, religion and customs of the Palestinian and Israeli population.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah issued a statement that “…a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not based on a two-state solution will have dangerous consequences for the region.”
In an about face, Mr. Guterres, under pressure by the United States and Israel, unsuccessfully demanded that the U.N. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,Michael Lynk” labeled Israel an “apartheid regime” be removed from the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). The Special Rapporteur’s findings were damning despite Israel having denied him access to Gaza. That report is still available on-line. Thereafter, in defiance of the truth, the Trump administration stated it was boycotting the U.N. Human Rights Council for the reason that it is biased against Israel.
Problems on the Palestinian Side
“[P]olitical pluralism in both Gaza and the West Bank has all but disappeared. For instance, Fatah consolidated its hold over the Palestinian Authority shortly after the Oslo agreements and continues to use it as a mechanism for patronage and self-enrichment. More bewildering is that the international community knowingly abets this situation by taking humanitarian responsibility for the situation in Gaza and yet refusing to engage with Hamas – while sustaining a dismally performing and unpopular Palestinian Authority,” explained Erwin Van Veen, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute.
Led by Mr. Abbas, the Fatah party, formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, is a Palestinian nationalist political party representing the largest faction of the multi-party Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO was established by the Oslo Accords as the sole governing Palestinian body.
Mr. Abbas was last elected President in 2006, making this is the 12th year of his illegitimate fourth term. While there have been municipal elections since that time, they have been limited to the West Bank where Mr. Abbas makes his home. No elections have transpired in Gaza, which has been under Hamas’ control. The reason is transparent: in 2006 Hamas prevailed over the Fatah party in legislative elections. Today, Gaza’s population is 1.816 mm compared to the West Bank’s population is only 1.715 mm but Hamas has become increasingly unpopular in Gaza there is no future guarantee of success if new elections were held.
Mr. Abbas has been increasingly pressured by Egypt to introduce reforms to end internal division and create the cohesiveness necessary to resuming the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. In April 2014 the Beach Refugee Camp Agreement between the Fatah and Hamas called for a Temporary Leadership Framework for the PLO within five weeks of the signing of the agreement. Under Mr. Abbas’ leadership the agreement was never implemented ostensibly because the United and Israel coerced compliance with Israel’s having once withheld Palestinian tax dollars it collects on the PA’s behalf, or by the U.S. threatening to cut off aid to the PA.
Dissatisfied, Cairo is using its leverage to bypass Mr. Abbas to prepare for the rise of a new Palestinian leader who can ultimately break the Palestinian-Israeli deadlock. Mahmoud Al-Aloul, Mr. Abbas’ only deputy, accepts a one-state solution but only ‘under our conditions’ and is, therefore, an unacceptable replacement.
This has precipitated the Quartet insisting on the return of Mohammed Dahlan, the former head of the Palestinian Authority’s security services in Gaza, who has been living in exile in the United Arab Emirates since 2012, to Palestine. Mr. Abbas’ sentiments toward Mr. Dahlan are reflected in his recent dismissal of the PLO’s Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo over links to Mr. Dahlan.
Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization. Since 2007 it has governed the Gaza Strip under the leadership of Mousa Abu Marzouq and Khaled Mashal. As the PLO is the only internationally recognized governing body Hamas’ leadership is not recognized.
Hamas leader Yahya Moussa stated that Hamas has yet to join the PLO as “…the key to the organization is in the hands of Abbas, who does not want to include us in it because we are a major force. He wants to maintain his monopoly over the small powers inside the organization so he can have the last say. This explains why Abbas refuses to call for the establishment of the PLO’s Temporary Leadership Framework.”
The UNRWA has declared conditions in Gaza as unfit for human habitation. “The closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts. It is a collective punishment for which there must be accountability,” stated former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Violence has been the predictable outcome, in part, leading to Hamas being categorized as a terrorist organization. Even the threat of Palestinian violence can be – and is – used by Israel to maintain Gaza and, to a lesser degree, the West Bank’s, marginalisation and isolation.
Recently Hamas has wisely chosen to change its image and has warmed up to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
Hamas is reputedly replacing its 30 year old anti-Semitic charter with a comprehensively revised document modifying its more extreme positions. The proposed charter allegedly contains the following language:
“The Palestinian cause is at its core an issue of an occupied land and displaced people.”
“Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes from which they were evacuated, whether in areas occupied in 1948 or 1967 (in all of Palestine) is a natural right, individual and collective, affirmed by all divine laws and the basic principles of human rights and international law.”
“Hamas rejects oppressing human beings or taking away their rights based on ethnicity or religion.”
“Anti-Semitism and oppressing Jews is a phenomenon linked to European history and is not found in Arabs’ and Muslims’ history and heritage.”
The document also allegedly states that Hamas is not at war with Jews but the group is waging a battle against the “occupation and the Zionist project”.
Most importantly, the documents states that Hamas would accept a sovereign Palestinian state across the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, without recognising Israel.
Hamas’ goal is obvious – it is seeking the international legitimacy – most notably that of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
As if to challenge Hamas, the last week of March Mazen Fuqaha, a Hamas commander, was found having been shot four times in the head from close range. While having all the trappings of Mossad assassination, questions have been raised as to whether the Fatah was responsible. Both Israel and the Fatah would benefit from retaliatory action which, to date, has not transpired.
International Support for a Two-State Solution
A two state solution is necessary to create the normalcy contemplated by existing treaties. According to the CIA:
“Israel and Palestinian officials on 13 September 1993 signed a Declaration of Principles (also known as the “Oslo Accords”), enshrining the idea of a two-state solution to their conflict and guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule. The parties achieved six additional significant interim agreements between 1994 and 1999 aimed at creating the conditions for a two-state solution, but most were never fully realized. Progress toward a final status agreement with the Palestinians was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence…”
Under a series of agreements known as the Oslo accords signed between 1994 and 1999, Israel transferred to the newly-created Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for many Palestinian-populated areas of the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank. Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stalled in 2001, after which the area witnessed a violent intifada or uprising.”
Palestine has been denied statehood status several times by the UNSC precluding from enforcing international law in the U.N., including redress for the Israeli’s longstanding practice of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The sole exception is one time-limited case pending before the International Criminal Court.
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, issued a March 27th statement that new settlement threatens “to further undermine prospects for a two state solution, which remains the only realistic way to fulfill the aspirations on both sides. The European Union considers settlements to be illegal under international law and this also has not changed in our policy.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, acknowledging that the two-state solution as the “only sensible alternative,” warned Israel that new settlements would jeopardize Israel’s future in the international community.
The Saudi-brokered 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by the Arab League’s 22 members at its summit that year, outlined comprehensive steps to ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, consistent with the EU’s position. The Arab leaders offered Israel recognition, something Hamas is unwilling to do, and a normalisation of diplomatic ties in exchange for its complete withdrawal from Arab lands captured since 1967. The Arab Peace Initiative is based on UN resolutions 242 and 338 which called for Israeli withdrawal in exchange for peaceful ties with its Arab neighbours and the “respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries”. Given the reality of settler expansions, there would need to be land swaps or some other creative solution to complement the Arab Peace Initiative.
The 28th Arab League Summit held in March continued endorsing the two-state solution, reiterating that the Arab world would reconcile with Israel if it withdrew from the land it conquered in the 1967 war. The closing statement reads, “We affirm that we will continue to work to relaunch serious Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations… that take place within a set period of time based on the two-state solution.”
“This framework for negotiations needs to be replaced with a real peace process, one which doesn’t reject the applicability of international law and isn’t fundamentally prejudiced against the rights of those who are living under an oppressive occupation regime—in which the oppressed aren’t forced to “negotiate” with their occupiers over the extent to which they can retain their own land,” opined political commentator Jeremy Hammond.
“On 60 percent of our territory we cannot move freely. We can’t even move a stone or plant a tree on these grounds,” stated Mr. Abbas.
The United States: An Impediment to Peace
In the press conference with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Trump sounded like a teenager trying to mediate two siblings who are indecisive on choosing only one kind of candy when he stated, “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”
There is an upcoming meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Abbas and traditional Principals Committee has been restored, but it is unlikely to elicit a stronger response by Mr. Trump, consistent his foreign counterparts, given comments hurled with whip-like precision by Mr. Trump’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in March.
In her February 16th U.N. speech Ms. Haley stated, “I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I’m here to emphasize the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias. We will never repeat the terrible mistake of Resolution 2334 and allow one-sided Security Council resolutions to condemn Israel.”
Speaking at March conference, Ms. Haley boasted, ““What I can tell you is everyone at the United Nations is scared to talk to me about Resolution 2334, and I wanted them to know that, look, that happened, but it will never happen again.”
Optimism must be further tempered by the commanding presence of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, both of whom are Orthodox Jews, at the highest echelons of the Trump administration. The Kushner family, as well as Mr. Trump, have donated to Israeli educational funds both in the United States and Israel.
Even stranger is the presence of The Trump Foundation, not to be confused with the Donald J. Trump Foundation, in Israel, www.trump.org.il/. Founded in 2011, two years after the Kushners married, The Trump Foundation also focuses its efforts on education in Israel. Eli Hurwitz, director of The Trump Foundation, did not respond to an inquiry to confirm or deny that the president’s family was connected to this trust. What is most glaringly apparent is that Trump is neither a Jewish name nor a name common in Israel.
Last, given all the anti-Muslim comments and the twice-failed attempt at a travel ban, it is unreasonable for Mr. Trump to advocate for fair solution.
If it wanted, the U.S. has the means to push both sides into engaging in a meaningful peace process. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, “Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.”
This is nothing compared to the 10-year military-assistance pact signed between Israel and the U.S. in September. Representing the single largest pledge of its kind in American history, the pact, laid out in a Memorandum of Understanding, will be worth $38 billion over the course of a decade; a 27 percent increase from the 2007 agreement.
By comparison, since 1994 USAID’s assistance to Palestine has totaled a mere $5.2 billion.
Here is the perfect opportunity for the State Department to reduce its budget while conditioning future aid on peace being achieved. Money can melt the hearts of man, including that of Mr. Netanyahu.
Following the end of 1967 “Six-Day War”, fought by both Jews and Palestinians against Jordanian rule, at a reunification ceremony Israel’s now-deceased Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan reiterated Israel’s intention to preserve religious freedom for people of all faiths, “To our Arab neighbors we extend, especially at this hour, the hand of peace. To members of the other religions, Christians and Muslims, I hereby promise faithfully that their full freedom and all their religious rights will be preserved. We did not come to Jerusalem to conquer the Holy Places of others.”
This vision is encapsulated in the Oslo Accords, the governing law in this frozen conflict. Until such time, Israel is contributing to regional destabilization, as well as violating the Fourth Geneva Conventions and international criminal law as to genocide and ethnic cleansing, and the U.S. is complicit.
About the Author
Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.
Bertadono, Isabel, “Ex-Mossad chief says lack of two-state solution is only existential threat to Israel”, March 22, 2017, The JC News, as found on the www at https://www.thejc.com/news/israel/ex-mossad-chief-says-lack-of-two-state-solution-is-only-existential-threat-to-israel-1.434773.
Brenner, Björn, “Opinion The Enemy Just Blinked: Why Hamas’s New Charter Is a Big Deal”, March 22, 2017, as found on the www at http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.778870?v=B7D5DB4B270445AD366CBADB4E35B4E0.
Hammond, Jeremy, “The No-State Solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict”, July 9, 2017, Foreign Policy Journal, as found on the www at https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2016/07/09/the-no-state-solution-to-the-israel-palestine-conflict/.
“International Court of Justice finds Israeli barrier in Palestinian territory is illegal”, July 9, 2004, UNDoc, as found on the www at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=11292#.WONiYvmGO01.
Israel, World Fact Book, Central Intelligence Agency, as found on the www at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/print_is.html.
Maltz, Judy, Two-thirds of Israelis Still Back Two-state Solution, J Street Poll Finds”, January 15, 2017, as found on the www at http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.765146.
“Most Israelis see no reason for new elections,” April 4, 2017, Times of Israel, as found on the www at http://www.timesofisrael.com/most-israelis-dont-see-any-justification-for-new-elections/.
“Palestinian support for two-state solution drops, poll finds”, February 16, 2017, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, as found on the www at http://www.jta.org/2017/02/16/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/palestinian-support-for-two-state-solution-drops-poll-finds.
“Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,Michael Lynk”, March 16, 2016, United Nations Human Rights Council, UNDoc., as found on the www at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/PS/A_HRC_34_70_AUV.pdf.
Sharp, Jeremy M., ”The Congressional Research Service’s report “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” December 22, 2016, Congressional Research Service, as found on the www at https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Military-Aid-to-Israel.pdf.
van Veen, Erwin, “From Ramallah to Paris: The Middle East’s forgotten conflict”, January 18, 2017, Clingendael Institute, as found on the www https://www.clingendael.nl/publication/ramallah-paris-middle-east%E2%80%99s-forgotten-conflict.
Understanding of the issues in the frozen Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires an understanding of the various treaties and agreements between the Israel and Palestine.
The 1947 United Nations Plan
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 recommending the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem.
The West Bank and Gaza
At the time Israel was founded in 1948 the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt, respectively. After the Six-Day War of 1967, the territories captured by Israel beyond the Green Line came to be designated as East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and Sinai Peninsula; with the Sinai Peninsula being returned to Egypt following a 1979 peace treaty. The remaining territories are what are now known as the Israeli occupied territories.
The nonbinding preamble to the 1967 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions 242 references the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security.” In 1972 the UNSC adopted Resolution 338 calling for a ceasefire of the Yom Kippur War after which “…negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”
The Green Line is often referred to as the “pre-1967 borders” or the “1967 borders” by many international bodies and national leaders, including the U.N. in informal texts, and in the text of U.N. General Assembly Resolutions.
In 1980, Israel absorbed East Jerusalem proclaiming the whole of Jerusalem as its capital. The inclusion was an illegal annexation as East Jerusalem was part of the West Bank and, thus, a part of the Palestinian territories. United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, adopted on 20 August 1980, is one of seven UNSC resolutions condemning Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.
The Oslo Accord
The 1993 Oslo Accord was precipitated by a landmark speech delivered by Mr. Arafat in which he declared to the U.N. that all people could peacefully live together.
On September 9, 1993 the Oslo Accord, also known as the “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements” (DOPOISGA or DOP), was signed by the State of Palestine and the Israeli government. Under the Oslo Accord PLO governance over parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was recognized.
The PLO recognized the State of Israel and the Israel recognized the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people, with the authority to for self-governance and to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians.
The Oslo Accords marked the start of the Oslo peace process. Most importantly, the Oslo Accords documented the parties’ commitment to negotiate a two-state solution. Other issues were and are the borders of Israel and Palestine, the Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem, the question of Israel’s military presence in and control over the remaining territories after the recognition of the Palestinian autonomy by Israel, and the Palestinian right of return.
The Subsequent Agreements
“The parties achieved six additional significant interim agreements between 1994 and 1999 aimed at creating the conditions for a two-state solution, but most were never fully realized. Progress toward a final status agreement with the Palestinians was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence…,” according to the CIA.
The May 1994 Gaza–Jericho Agreement or Cairo Agreement as part of a five-year transitional period called for partial Israeli withdrawal within three weeks from Gaza Strip and Jericho area. It also established and transferred limited administrative power to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is legally distinct from PLO. This technicality enabled the PA to allay, or attempt to allay, the international community’s concern that foreign aid money was subsidizing terrorism.
Part of the Agreement was the Protocol on Economic Relations or Paris Protocol, regulating the economic relationship between Israel and the PA by integrating the Palestinian economy into the Israeli’s.
That agreement was largely superseded by the 1994 and 1995 Oslo I and II Accords, with one exception being the Paris Protocol. The intention was to bring about “opportunities for a new development toward fraternity in the Middle East.”
The Oslo II Accord divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions: the Areas A, B and C. The distinct areas were given a different status, according to their governance pending a final status accord:
Area A includes eight Palestinian cities, including Bethlehem, and their surrounding areas. It is exclusively administered by the PA. Entry into this area is forbidden to all Israeli citizens.
Area B, is comprised about 22% of the West Bank, which includes 440 Palestinian villages and their surrounding lands, and no Israeli settlements. Area B is jointly administered by the PA and Israel. As of 2013, Area B formally. Area B is under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control.
Area C are those West Bank areas outside Areas A and B. Commencing at the end of 1999 Area C was to be gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction. As of 2013, Area C comprised about 63% of the West Bank, contains Israeli settlements, and is still administered by Israel. What little progress was made was reversed during Operation Defensive Shield when Israel reoccupied all of Area C.
All but 1% of Area C is excluded from Palestinian use. Area C contains most of the West Bank’s natural resources and open spaces. According to the World Bank, Palestinian access to Area C would enable Palestine to halve its budget deficit and expand its economy by a third.
The Oslo Accords prohibited the establishment of any PA in Jerusalem, which was to be an international zone under the original U.N. plan.
Oslo II allowed for the safe passage between West Bank and Gaza. Oslo II called for the Election of a Palestinian Legislative Council to replace the PA upon its inauguration. While a PLC was elected, divisions amongst two Palestinian factions, that led by the Abbas and the Fatah parties, have resulted in no elections being held since 2006. The PA was never dissolved.
The Oslo peace process never created a Palestinian state.
Most importantly, negotiations on a final settlement of remaining issues, were to be concluded before May 4, 1999. Those negotiations never took place. But there have been many international attempts to broker peace. After many decades the conflict remains frozen.
Occupied Palestinian Territories
“Palestinian territories” and “occupied Palestinian territories” (OPT or oPt) are used to describe the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Western Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip, which are occupied or otherwise under the Israeli control. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank were never part of Israel but are occupied by Israel. Israel views East Jerusalem as its sovereign territory, as well as part of its capital.
The term “Palestinian Territory, Occupied” was used by the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations between 1998 to 2013 in order to refer to areas controlled by the Palestinian National Authority. In December 2012, UN Secretariat communications replaced this with the term State of Palestine. Despite the change, the UNSC has continued to deny Palestine U.N. member nation status,
Renewed negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stalled in 2001, after the 2000 start of the Second Intifada. At that time the Israeli government constructed a 708 km Israeli West Bank wall of which approximately 13% of the barrier was constructed on the Green Line or in Israel, and the remaining 87% inside the West Bank. Israel contends it a security barrier against terrorism, while Palestinians call it a racial segregation or apartheid wall.
Yediot Aharonot map showing the Green Line drawn after the ’67 war and Israeli incursions since then.
In December 2003 the UNGA, during an emergency special session on the occupied Palestinian territories, adopted a resolution asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to urgently render an opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of a barrier. A 14-1 advisory opinion issued on July 9, 2004 by the ICJ:
“….found that the barrier’s construction breaches international law, saying it violated principles outlined in the UN Charter and long-standing global conventions that prohibit the threat or use of force and the acquisition of territory that way, as well as principles upholding the right of peoples to self-determination.
Observing that 80 per cent of Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory now live between the barrier and the so-called Green Line marking the 1949 boundary of Israel, the Court said the structure’s route could “prejudge the future frontier between Israel and Palestine.””
Israel asserts that since the disengagement of Israel from Gaza in 2005, Israel no longer occupies the Gaza Strip. As Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and coastline, it is designated as an occupying power by the UNSC, the UNGA, the EU and many other countries and human rights organizations.
According to a 2013 EU report, Israeli policies have undermined the Palestinian presence in Area C, with a deterioration in basic services such as water supplies, education and shelter. Nearly 70% of the Palestinian villages are not connected to water and lack enough clean water to meet their basic daily needs.
“International Court of Justice finds Israeli barrier in Palestinian territory is illegal”, July 9, 2004, UNDoc, as found on the www at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=11292#.WONiYvmGO01.
Israel, World Fact Book, Central Intelligence Agency, as found on the www at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/print_is.html.