Oslo and the peace process were never really the problem
Critics who assert that the Oslo Peace Accords failed because they were flawed are actually the extremists who engaged in a campaign to block the success of the Oslo Peace Accords. The very people attacking the Oslo Peace Accords and the Two-State Solution are the causes of its failure. Those extremists include Hamas, the late anti-Arab mass-murderer Ariel Sharon, and Sharon’s successor Benjamin Netanyahu. Oslo didn’t die because it failed. It is still alive and the fanatics who oppose it continue to stand in its way
By Ray Hanania
Many people look back at the Oslo Peace Accords from 25 years ago and call them flawed. But what was really flawed was the absence of unity and a national desire for peace by the Palestinian people, themselves. Extremists, who oppose any peace based on compromise, exploited that Palestinian disarray and fanned the flames of violence to block the peace.
The truth is that the peace process is not dead. What is dead is the Palestinian mentality that they can achieve peace through negotiations, rather than through violence.
Violence can only achieve one goal, preventing compromise. But the price is steep, with Palestinians continuing to exist in a limbo of violence, frustration and depression.
Even if the peace process failed before, it thrived on hope and commonsense, and that at least allowed many Palestinians to aspire to a future that is brighter than the dark existence that has plagued their lives since the UN-imposed partition in 1947.
But pursuing peace offers the Palestinians a real chance to establish a state and eventually take control of their own lives, rather than remaining refugees to the world or benefactors of the state powers of others. Declaring the peace process dead present a serious risk that the Palestinians will fade into the sunset on the backs of fanatics who have no concern about exploiting Palestinian emotions, Palestinian frustrations and continued Palestinian suffering.
What really killed Oslo? Hamas, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.
In truth, Hamas was Netanyahu’s biggest asset. They gave him exactly what he wanted but couldn’t get through the Oslo Peace Accord. They gave him the excuse to block peace. And they continue to do that.
The first major act of violence targeting the peace process occurred on Feb. 25, 1994 when an America with dual Israeli citizenship, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, murdered 29 Muslims and injured 125 more as they prayed at the Ibrahimi Mosque. Who said Americans are not terrorists?
Within weeks, Hamas responded by exploding a suicide bombing. Although there had been three suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians between the first Intifada in 1989 and 1993 before the peace process, the first post-peace process suicide bombing occurred in response both to the peace process and to Goldstein’s barbaric terrorist attack on April 6, 1994 in Afula. The Target of the Hamas suicide bomber was civilians boarding a bus. It was supported by Islamic Jihad of Gaza.
Despite the attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat continued with their determination to implement Oslo. The toughest issue for Israel and for the Palestinians was the Right of Return. The two sides were discussing the possibility that some of the refugees could return to Israel, but the vast majority would have to accept settlement in Palestine.
It’s called compromise, and it made sense. Israel was to return most of the West Bank with the exception of some settlements, but Israel would trade land inside Israel equal to the settlement lands in the West Bank. And, the Palestinians would have a presence inside the Old City of Jerusalem that they could declare as their capitol in a shared arrangement that gave Israel control of the city but Palestinians an independent presence.
After 45 years of brutal conflict, the Oslo Peace Accord was the best deal that Palestinians could hope for. And while the agreement did not absolve either side of the violence they committed between 1947 and 1993, it did seek to find a new start that would nurture friendship and understanding.
That’s not what the Palestinian extremists or the Israeli extremists wanted. And Hamas and Islamic Jihad Palestinian rejectionists initiated eight more suicide bombing attacks that targeted Jewish civilians and killed nearly100 while wounding scores more. At the same time, Israel’s military forces killed more than 146 civilians. Nearly 40 Palestinians were killed by settlers who opposed Oslo.
Oslo was derailed, however on November 4, 1995 when Rabin was murdered by an Israeli extremist, Yigal Amir. How did the Israeli terrorist get past Rabin’s bodyguards? Amir was a disciple rightwing extremist and anti-peace politician Benjamin Netanyahu, who was elected Prime Minister the following year.
Had Rabin lived, we would have Two-States today. Despite the violence by Palestinian extremists, Rabin’s assassination is the single greatest blow to derail the peace process. Since then, fanatics on both sides have blocked the peace process, with Palestinians complaining that the peace process doesn’t give them enough and while Israeli fanatics insisting the peace process surrenders too much.
Israeli fanatics are empowered by Palestinian extremists and by the “extremist inspired” failure of Oslo. What Palestinians should be doing is to fight for peace and re-engage the peace process in order to undermine Israel’s extremist government. One idea is to replace Hamas in the Gaza Strip with a moderate leadership and declare Gaza as a Palestinian State. Then, through negotiations, work with Israel and use the empowerment that Statehood provides to free the West Bank and establish a presence in Jerusalem.
It’s the only way.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and the author of several books including “Yalla! Fight Back.” His personal website is www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania.
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