Oslo peace process

Secret negotiations held in Oslo between members of the PLO and of the Israeli government led to a mutual recognition in September 1993. The PLO and Israel then started a process of bilateral negotiations supposed to bring a definitive solution in the long-term to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Declaration of Principles (DOP) – Oslo Agreement – was signed in Washington on 13 September 1993. It gives the general guidelines for the negotiations to come and lays the foundations for a regime of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza for a transitional period of five years. After this period, a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 should enter into force. This settlement shall deal not only with the permanent juridical form of the Palestinian entity but also with Jerusalem, refugees, Israeli settlements, global security arrangements, borders and other matters of common interests.

The Gaza-Jericho Autonomy Agreement – Cairo Agreement or Oslo I Agreement – was signed on 4 May 1994. Gaza-Jericho option is the first stage of Palestinian autonomy. The Israeli military redeployment preceded the setting up of an Authority (the Palestinian National Authority) invested with limited civil and security powers. As agreed in the DOP the transitional period starts with the Israeli military redeployment from Gaza and Jericho. Israel remains in control of the settlements and military locations. This interim period is supposed to last until May 1999.

The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – Taba Agreement or Oslo II Agreement – was concluded in Taba on 26 September 1995 and signed in Washington on the 28th. It is the second stage of Palestinian autonomy. This document deals with the complete geographical and material form of Palestinian autonomy:

a. The West Bank (East-Jerusalem excluded) and the Gaza Strip are divided in three zones :

Area A comprises territories already taken over in May 1994 (Gaza-Jericho) and the six major towns of the West Bank (Jenin, Qalqilya, Tulkaram, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem). Hebron has a special status and is subject to a separate agreement. There is full Palestinian civil jurisdiction and internal security also is in Palestinian hands.

Area B comprises other Arab populated areas of the West Bank (towns, villages and refugees camps). There is a full Palestinian civil jurisdiction, but internal security is under a shared Israeli-Palestinian regime.

Area C comprises Israeli settlements, military locations, state lands and roads. It remains under Israeli civil and overall security control. However, there is a partial Palestinian civil jurisdiction (on Palestinian civil matters not related to territory).

Areas A and B respectively represent 7.6% and 21.4% of the West Bank and Gaza and cover more than 90% of the local Palestinian population. Israeli Civil Administration has been dissolved and Israeli military forces redeployed. Israel however keeps overall control over external security.

Area C comprises 71% of the Palestinian territories. Israeli military redeployments from some parts of Area C were expected at six-monthly intervals (during 18 months) after the inauguration of the Autonomy Council

b. The election of a Palestinian Autonomy Council is foreseen and its competences determined

Elections were held on 20 January 1996. The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and its executive appointed committee, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), exercise civil powers. All legislation and acts of these Palestinian institutions are automatically transmitted to the Israeli authorities for control.

In accordance with the Taba Agreements, the Israeli army started its phased redeployment from area A in October 1995. It was, except Hebron, completed by the end of 1995 despite the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist on 4 November 1995. Israel’s new Prime Minister Shimon Peres halted the negotiations on Hebron until the elections of 29 May 1996. These elections were won by the right-wing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Likud is basically opposed to the Oslo process but, nevertheless, an agreement on Hebron was reached on 15 January 1997.

Hebron Agreement. Under the terms of this agreement Israel agreed to withdraw from 80% of the city, but retained control over an enclave with 400 settlers and 20,000 Palestinians.

The Hebron agreement was followed in February 1997 by the decision of the Ministerial Committee for Jerusalem To build a new settlement, Har Homa, on the hilltop of Jabal Abu Ghneim in East Jerusalem. This led to a crisis and deadlock in the negotiations on further Israeli withdrawals.

Wye River Memorandum (23 October 1998). After months of stalemate, the American president Bill Clinton decided to force the issue and organised a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and PLO-leader Yasser Arafat at Wye Plantation (Maryland). This resulted in an agreement on Israeli redeployment from 13% of the West Bank. But after a 2% withdrawal near the northern town of Jenin, Netanyahu stopped the process as a result of pressure in Likud and from right-wing and religious parties opposed to any withdrawal. On 21 December 1998 the Knesseth voted for early elections that were held in May 1999. This in effect stopped the implementation of the Wye River Agreement.

The election of Ehud Barak on 17 May 1999 as Prime Minister to succeed Benjamin Netanyahu opened prospects for the relaunching of the peace process, and a summit took place in Sharm-El-Sheikh at the Egyptian initiative to pave the way for it. This summit resulted in a revised Wye agreement being signed on 5 September. « Wye Two » allowed Israel to spread its next redeployment until 20 January 2000 and put in place a wholly new timetable for the final status talks.

After a promising start with a first withdrawal on schedule and the opening on 8 November of the final status negotiations, difficulties arised again. The second Israeli re-deployment mandated by the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement did not take place as scheduled on 15 November (the two parties being unable to agree on the areas to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority) and, with this deadlock persisting, the final status negotiations were halted on 5 December by the Palestinian side protesting against the refusal of the Israeli government to freeze the development of the settlements.

In August 2000, in an attempt to break the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, US President Clinton invited Mr. Arafat and Mr. Barak for another round of talks in Camp David. These new negotiations finally stumbled on the issue of Jerusalem. After the talks, instead of staying in the position of an honest broker, Mr. Clinton publicly blamed Mr. Arafat for this failure. This declaration, easy to understand in the context of the American presidential elections, only added to the frustration of the Palestinians.

A provocative visit on 28 September 2000 by the Likud leader Ariel Sharon in East Jerusalem in the location known to the Jews as the Temple Mount and to the Muslims as Al-Haram As-Sharif sparked a new round of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. In a few days, this resulted in a real Second Intifada, in which tens of Palestinians, but also numerous Arab Israelis, were killed by the Israeli Army. The Palestinian youth clearly showed their frustration towards a Peace process which seemed to lead nowhere. These clashes were by far the worst violence in the Israeli-Palestinian relations since the beginning of the peace process.

On 22 October 2000, Mr. Barak formally announced the suspension of the peace process although the Arab Summit of Cairo had issued a moderate final statement the same day.

See also:

Madrid peace process

Palestinians

Occupied territories