When we thought peace was possible

Op-ed: Oslo agreement was far from ideal, but it gave hope to Israelis and Palestinians

Today, nine out of every 10 Israelis spit or curse when they mention the word "Oslo." The 10th person has no idea what the other nine are talking about. Only a few people in the country have actually read the Oslo agreement and are familiar with its details. In any case, in the current Israeli dictionary the word has a negative connotation.


At least with regards to this issue the Israeli Right, including the West Bank settlers, have succeeded in completely taking over the public discourse and determined that the phrase "Oslo disaster" requires no explanation. This is my prediction: There will come a time when the people of Israel will long for the Oslo agreement; not because it is good or bad, but because it is the only agreement of its time that allows us to dream of – and perhaps achieve – peace.


On Friday we marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the principle agreement with the PLO – or the "Oslo Accords." Undoubtedly, this agreement has many "holes" in it, and it is far from being ideal. But in contrast to the lies that were told about it, the deal was approved by the Knesset with an 11 MK margin (including lawmakers from the Likud) – not a two MK margin.


The agreement does not mention a "Palestinian state" or "two states for two peoples," as proposed by the current prime minister. And the main point: IDF weapons were never transferred to terrorist organizations in the framework of the Oslo agreement. Most of the Palestinians who were allowed to enter the territories at the time worked as sort of police officers, mainly in order to get a salary from Arafat. Israel's intent was to give "teeth" to the Palestinian Authority, which was established to take over for the Israeli Civil Administration, thank god.


Violins heard on the deck

The second intifada broke out seven years later, and people from the Palestinian Authority took part in it. But even so, we should feel fortunate that we no longer had to be responsible for cleaning Jenin's sewage system and supplying electricity to Khan Younis. We were also no longer in charge of the education of hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza. In short, the Oslo deal absolved us of the responsibility to control and administer the lives of millions of Palestinians at the painful price of billions of shekels a year.


Not that there weren't flaws, even severe ones, in the agreement. The main flaw had to do with the fact that slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin believed he would steer the agreement and terminate it later on if needed. Rabin thought he would remain at the helm throughout the entire process. But he was murdered, and the Oslo agreement was murdered along with him.


Despite the fact that the deal does not mention a Palestinian state, its signatories were well aware that eventually a Palestinian state would be established, in one form or another.


The historic importance of the agreement lies in the fact that it removed masks - with the Israeli recognition of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and the recognition of the Palestinian national movement, which led to the recognition of the legitimacy of the State of Israel in substantial parts of the Arab world. Everyone stopped deceiving everyone else and the painful truth was revealed.


Since the day Israel signed the Oslo agreement it stopped playing "make-believe" and "we won't talk," and IDF soldiers stopped shooting at children who tried to hang PLO flags on utility poles in Arab villages. Certainly there were difficulties in the implementation of the deal, namely the murderous terror which exacted a heavy, bloody price, also because the other side believed we were misleading it when be built new settlements, expanded existing ones and paved roads all across the territories.


Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Netanyahu all crossed the boundaries of the Oslo agreement. The deal opened the door for them, and they took advantage of the opportunity.


Now everyone is enjoying the current situation: The Arabs are killing Arabs, and the nation of Israel is euphoric. We are living in the moment. People don't understand that in history 40 years is almost nothing, a footnote. Years will pass, we will hope for the best and long for the Oslo Accords.


In the meantime, our ship of fools is maneuvering nicely between the icebergs, but it is not reaching the shore. In other words, the musicians aboard the Titanic have already tuned their instruments, and the delicate sounds of the violins are heard on the deck.



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פרסום ראשון: 09.18.13, 14:06
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