We’ll start by noting that Sunday, September 13, marked the 16th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords. This is not the jubilee or the 10-year anniversary, but rather, a brief reminder and a four-word statement: We’ll be missing Oslo.
And who will be missing it more than anyone else? The rightists and the settlers, who raised a hue and cry 16 years ago, and whose margins produced the prime minister’s assassin. The ignorance and exaggerated zeal that to this day characterizes some of the words and conduct of Oslo objectors stems from the sad fact that marked their approach back then already: Don’t embarrass us with facts.
They are the only ones paying the price, and will be the ones to pay it before anyone else – for example, with the evacuation of Gush Katif.
Who among those crying out against Oslo realizes today that the Oslo agreement does not even mention the words “Palestinian State?” Nobody promised the Palestinians an independent state back then (even though, by the end of the process, such state would have likely been established.) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who pledged “two states for two peoples” went a long way – much further than Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Yossi Beilin did. Compared to Netanyahu, Rabin and Peres would have been considered rightist leaders.
Many people today say that ever since the Oslo deals “nothing changed.” These are foolish words. The whole world changed since then, and all the political movements that fiercely resisted the agreement 16 years ago kept on moving left, accepted the deal, and went even further.
Where is Netanyahu, he of the impassioned anti-Oslo speeches? Where did Sharon and Olmert end up? And what happened to Tzipi Livni, Meir Sheetrit, Dan Meridor, Ze’ev Boim, and many others? After all, compared to Rabin, Peres, and Beilin the way they were during the Oslo days, the above-mentioned figures can be considered staunch leftists today. All the screamers belonging to the Gush Emunim settlement movement and the people who set fires at intersections already internalized and accepted the little that was agreed upon in Oslo 16 years ago, aside from one crazy woman who still runs around the hills.
The Oslo agreement came at wonderful timing that we can only long for: The Soviet Union’s collapse, the Iran-Iraq War, the weakness of Syria, which lost its strategic ally, unprecedented support for Israel on the part of the US Administration and President Clinton, and perhaps the most important thing – a prime minister and a government that were committed to peace from day one on the job – what else could we have asked for?
The despised and condemned agreement prompted dozens of states to recognize Israel; 200 international companies who previously did not agree to launch operations in Israel arrived; seven diplomatic missions opened in seven Arab states (and vice versa in Tel Aviv.)
We saw unprecedented economic growth that was never again seen (7.6%,) a dramatic drop in unemployment from 11% to 5.6%; first-ever visits by an Israeli prime minister to states that did not allow such visits for dozens of years (for example, Indonesia.)
We also saw the education budget doubled, for the first and last time in the State of Israel’s history. We saw the construction of 10 highway interchanges, the new Ben-Gurion Airport, and the Cross-Israel Highway. And yes, we also signed a peace deal with Jordan. What else can one ask for within a period of only three and a half years?
The harsh and dirty war against the agreement was accompanied by a campaign of lies and disinformation that to this day is entranced in the minds of many Israelis, including leftists.
This includes the charges that the State of Israel provided the Palestinians with IDF rifles (in fact, not even one rifle was provided!), or the claim that the agreement was passed by a majority of only two Knesset members (in fact, it was 11 MKs.) Others claimed that 40,000 Palestinians arrived in the territories from abroad to take part in terror operations. As far as I know, 200 members of the Palestinian “Diaspora” took part in terror activity, and this is of course 200 too many (these are only estimates.)
Compared to what is going on today in respect to the political process and the deep erosion of Israel’s tough terms in Oslo, and compared to what we can expect on this tortuous road, I am almost convinced that Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon, and many other Oslo rivals would have happily signed the Oslo Accords today.