Wednesday, July 24, 2024

What are the Terms of the Oslo "Peace Process" by Souad Dajani

What are the Terms of the Oslo "Peace Process"

Dr. Souad Dajani Independent Researcher, Boston, MA

What are the terms of the Oslo “peace” process, and what have been its actual results to date?

The Oslo agreements can be seen as the latest in a long line of attempts - dating back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration - to circumvent the national rights of Palestinians by substituting civil, religious and narrow political rights. The 1978 Camp David Agreements between Israel and Egypt, for example, referred to establishing a “self-governing authority” in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip without mentioning national independence. Despite anticipation of a Palestinian state emerging out of the Oslo peace process, it has not offered much more than enhanced autonomy.

The Declaration of Principles (September 13, 1993), also known as “Oslo I,” was an outgrowth of the 1990 Gulf War and the failed 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. The main stumbling block in the Madrid process was the gulf between Palestinians and Israelis over linking interim and final status arrangements - to which Israel objected. Israel proceeded to open secret channels of negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), culminating in the DOP.

Basic assumptions/stipulations:

· Israel and the PLO traded "mutual" recognition. Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people insofar as the PLO became the "team" for implementing the provisions of the DOP in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

· The only operative legal basis of the DOP is UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967 (and UNSC Resolution 338 of October 22, 1973). UNSC Resolution 242 calls for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from territories occupied in the June 1967 war.

· Omitted from the accords is the whole body of international law and resolutions pertaining to the conflict that had accumulated over 52 years. One such omission is UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (November 29, 1947) that calls for the partition of Palestine into two states and declares all of Jerusalem "corpus separtatum" (i.e. under international jurisdiction). Another is UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (December 11, 1948) that affirms the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and receive restitution and compensation for their losses. Also omitted are successive UN Resolutions that unequivocally support the Palestinian people’s right to national self-determination, declare Israel's annexation of Jerusalem "null and void," and condemn Jewish settlement building as "illegal."

· The DOP requires Israel to re-deploy its forces within circumscribed areas within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and allows the Palestinians to set up an "authority" that would implement the provisions of these accords.


· Nowhere in the DOP is Israel acknowledged as an occupying power, and by extension, Israel does not see itself obligated to withdraw from all the territories it occupied in 1967 (hence the term "redeployment").

· The Palestinian/Israeli conflict it is reduced to one of "negotiations" between two asymmetrical parties instead of one subject to internationally accepted legal provisions.

· The DOP does not address all constituencies of Palestinians nor does it attempt to solve the conflict in all its dimensions. The DOP applies only to Palestinians residing in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and omits the internationally recognized human and national rights of over three million Palestinians living in the diaspora.

· "Final status" issues at the core of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (refugees, borders, settlements, water, and Jerusalem) are not subject to the provisions of the DOP. The DOP is designed solely to establish "interim" arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza and to set up a Palestinian Authority (PA) to implement - not negotiate - these arrangements.

· The DOP attempts to normalize relations between occupier and occupied, not remove that occupation. The main task of the emerging Palestinian Authority and its strong police force would be to manage the occupation for Israel.

The Interim Agreement (September 28, 1995) also known as "Oslo II" came on the heels of two other accords between Israel and the PLO. The Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area of May 4, 1994 – also known as the Cairo Agreement - establishes Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jericho. The Agreement on the Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities of August 29, 1994 gives Palestinians control over such sectors of life as education, health, and culture. The provisions of Oslo II specify the modes of implementation of the articles of Oslo I.

Basic assumptions/stipulations:

· The PLO was to revoke its 1968 Charter by a specified date before other steps of implementation would be pursued.

· Oslo II included a map dividing the West Bank into three zones, A, B, and C. Area A (3%) would be areas under full Palestinian Authority control; Area B (23%) would be under joint Israeli/Palestinian security control and Palestinian civilian control, and Area C (70%) would be under full Israeli control.

· Area A would consist of the seven major Palestinian towns: Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin, Qalqilya, Tulkarm, Nablus, and Hebron (see below).

· The Israeli military government is explicitly recognized as the ultimate source of authority in all the occupied territories and would not be removed.

· The police and security organs of the PA are required to coordinate jointly with the security apparatus in Israel, whereby "security" is defined primarily according to Israeli needs.


· By virtue of the various maps and provisions of these accords, Arafat and the PA agreed - in contravention of international law - to accept the existence, permanence, and "legitimacy" of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

· The territorial divisions created in Oslo II establish the contours of a final settlement that would preclude full removal of the occupation or any territorial contiguity for the emerging Palestinian "state."

· By clearly asserting Israeli military government control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the PA has accepted both the existence and "legitimacy" of Israeli occupation.

· The primary obligation of the PA's police and security forces is to protect Israel and Israeli citizens (including Jewish settlers) over and above their own Palestinian citizens.

· Arafat and the PA are put in the position of being accountable to Israel and the US (who brokered the deal) instead of their own Palestinian constituents.

Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron (January 15, 1997) was the first accord reached with the Palestinians by a Likud (Netanyahu) government in Israel. Its provisions signaled important departures with earlier accords.

Basic Assumptions/Stipulations:

  • Hebron was divided into two: H1 and H2. Israel redeployed from the 80% of Hebron (H1) in which about 100,000 Palestinians reside, and retained full control over 20% (H2) in which less than 400 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians.
  • There is no reference in this entire agreement to UN Resolutions 242 and 338 as the operative legal bases for peace between the two parties.
  • In a letter from then US Secretary of State Warren Christopher appended to the document, the US explicitly pledged its full support to Israel’s interpretation of its obligations under these accords.
  • The agreement conditions any further Israeli redeployments on Palestinians meeting their “responsibilities” as defined by Israel.
  • The accords stipulate that Israel alone will decide the timing and scope of any future redeployments.


  • The Hebron Protocol concretized the removal of the last remaining international legal underpinning (UNSC Res. 242) from the resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
  • The US abandoned all pretense of being an honest broker and declared itself firmly and resolutely on Israel’s side.
  • The myth of “negotiations” between the two parties over implementation of the accords was thrust aside, leaving Israel with the right to decide unilaterally on further redeployments.
  • The presence of extremist Jewish armed settlers in the midst of Palestinians in Hebron set a dangerous precedent regarding both the permanence of illegal Jewish settlements throughout the territories and the potential for friction and violence.
  • The division of a major Palestinian city like Hebron into two parts set a precedent for creating isolated Palestinian enclaves in the whole territory on which they anticipated exercising national independence and sovereignty.
  • The agreement clearly states there will be no further “withdrawals” of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Henceforth, Israeli troops would “re-deploy” based on Israeli assessments of Palestinians having met their “responsibilities.”

The Wye Memorandum (October 23, 1998) was an attempt to break the impasse over unimplemented Israeli redeployments stipulated in earlier accords. The remaining redeployments would be divided into three phases, with the first and second scheduled but conditional upon Palestinian adherence to Israel’s strict security requirements. The third remained unspecified.

The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum (September 4, 1999) divides the second redeployment (above) into three stages and leaves unspecified the date and extent of territory for the third redeployment. It also establishes the long overdue “safe passage” between Gaza and the West Bank designed to facilitate Palestinian movement between the two areas. In effect, it circumscribed Palestinian travel according to strict Israeli conditions. The Memo also outlines a timetable for beginning negotiations over Final Status issues, which according to the original Oslo agreements were due to be in place by then.

Where we are today?

Oslo’s official timetable ended in 1999. Over a year later Palestinians and Israel had not reached a final settlement. With a West Bank Palestinian population of nearly two million, the PA is in full control of only 17.2% of the area (Area A) and in partial control of 23.8% (Area B). Israel retains full control of 59% (Area C). Close to 400,000 Jewish settlers live in approximately 200 Jewish settlements in the West Bank (including Jerusalem). In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians exercise self-rule in approximately 80% of the area - itself less than 29 miles long and 7-10 miles wide. A mere 6,000 Jewish settlers live on this crowded strip of land where at least 70% of Gaza's 1.2 million Palestinians are refugees.

Issues at the core of the Palestinian conflict remain unresolved. Israel refuses to acknowledge itself an occupying power, refuses to remove illegal Jewish settlements, and insists on retaining all of Jerusalem and wide swathes of land around it as its “eternal capital.” It rejects any blame for the creation of the refugee issue, and refuses to implement UN resolutions calling for their repatriation and compensation.

Over the course of the last seven years, Israel has established an apartheid-like system in the occupied territories. In the best case scenario, Israel would annex at least three settlement blocks in the West Bank - precluding territorial contiguity for the Palestinian state and allowing Israel to remain a controlling power in these areas. Palestinian refugees would not be allowed to return to their homes: some would be resettled in the emerging Palestinian “state” but the majority would have to be resettled in their host countries or abroad.

Instead of fulfilling international laws and establishing an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians would have to be content with a truncated and dependent state within “greater” Israel. In short, Oslo was creating impossible conditions of life for Palestinians at a time when none of their basic rights were being addressed. Consequently, even Yasser Arafat was unable to sign the terms for a final settlement offered by the US and Israel at Camp David II in July 2000. While ignited by the Sharon visit to Jerusalem's Haram Al-Sharif, the September 2000 Palestinian uprising had been simmering on the ground for well over two years.


Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (maps):

Dajani, Burhan, “The September 1993 Israeli-PLO Documents: A Textual Analysis,” The Journal of Palestine Studies, XXIII, no. 3 (Spring 1994) pp. 5-23.

The Foundation for Middle East Peace. Report on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories.

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (complete Oslo documents):

The Journal of Palestine Studies (Oslo documents): XXIII, no. 1 (Autumn, 1993); XXIV, no. 2 (Winter 1995); XXV, no. 2 (Winter 1996); XXVI, no. 3 (Spring 1997); XXVIII, no. 2 (Winter 1999); XXIX, no. 2 (Winter 2000).

Said, Edward W. 2000. The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After. Pantheon Books.