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Twenty-seven years passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords on September 13, 1993, however, ambiguity and despair7 encompasses the official Palestinian political situation, whether in terms of the transformations that took place in the political system, its components and functions, or in terms of the nature of the relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially after the official negotiations reached a dead end and the sponsor of the settlement, the United States, turned from the role of mediator to the partner for the Israelis, and putting the “two-state solution” on the table through President Trump who proposed the deal of the century, which led the Palestinian leadership to announce that it is released from the agreements signed with Israel.
The current Palestinian reality, which has reached a dead end, in other words a failure point, whether with regard to the Palestinian peace project or the resistance project, is mainly due to the Oslo Accords. Actually, the Palestinians were unable to exploit and to make use of this accord well, while the Israeli occupation could use it in imposing some facts on the ground didn’t coincide with the agreement provisions both sides agreed upon.
This reality takes us to some questions, foremost of which are: Is the relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis still governed by this agreement? Or has the occupation imposed a reality on the ground that goes beyond all the signed treaties? Is the shortcoming lie in the Oslo Accords itself? What are the alternatives available in front of the Palestinians to get out of the Oslo consequences?
What is the reason behind the reluctance of the Palestinian side to take bold practical steps, either towards actual moving towards the state and putting an end to the Oslo Agreement and its annexes, or returning to the stage of national liberation while accepting to bear all relevant consequences?
To answer the above-mentioned questions, an objective reading of the official Palestinian situation towards the settlement process is required and a distinction should be made between the two stages, before the signing of the Oslo Accords and afterwards. Indeed, the involvement of the Palestinian Liberty Organization (PLO) in the settlement process was not a comfortable option or a culmination of decisive victories; rather, it was a forced pathway or an attempt to stop the collapse and retreat that afflicted the Palestinian cause due to the imbalance in both Arab and international regimes, which negatively affected the Palestinian issue. Such imbalance was prevailed in the Second Gulf War in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Suppressing the Palestinian revolution after the second Gulf War, due to accusing President Abu Ammar of supporting the Iraqi situation, was a severe financial and political siege.
The emergence of Hamas outside the mantle of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the beginning of Arab and Islamic states and movements dealing with it without returning to the PLO, in addition to the spread of the idea of settlement among the majority of Arab countries and their desire to find a political settlement to the conflict with Israel, especially after the second Gulf War and its repercussions. Here, we should note that Madrid Conference in 1991 preceded the signing of the Oslo Accords, and if there had not been the Madrid Conference, it would not have been the Oslo Accords.
All this weakened the power of the Palestinian revolution, and the Palestinians remained alone in the field, which uncovered the wide gap between the goals of the first national project and the Palestinian potentials. Then, the Palestinian revolution was required to pay the price for policies and practices that were not completely wrong but simply were the result of the alliances and balances of that stage.
The Palestinian leadership tried to adapt to these imbalances while preserving the independence of the Palestinian decision through the approach of political realism and the reconsideration Palestinian struggle goals and the ways to achieve them. The secret negotiations held between the Palestine Liberation Organization (LO) and the Israeli occupation was the result of all these variables.
After the signing of the Oslo Accords, a state of confusion and lack of clarity prevailed. The question was about the way to act and deal with the new reality in light of the existence of a Palestinian Authority and its entitlements according to the signed agreements. The most important manifestation of this confusion was the sharp division of the Palestinians between those who support the settlement process and bets on it as an opportunity and a turning point that might lead to the independent Palestinian state. This Palestinian squad dealt with interim self-rule agreements or transitional arrangements as if they were peace agreements, which prompted many Palestinians and Arabs to deal with Israel as if it were a partner of peace and to deal with the entire conflict as if it was resolved and became a relic of the past.
On the other hand, groups like the Popular Front, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other forces and figures from within and outside the PLO rejected this bet and considered the agreements signed with Israel and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority to be a departure from national fundamentals and a surrender approach.
In addition to the challenges that the authority faced from its opponents, there were different kinds of corruption and mismanagement appeared in the authority, which exacerbated its problems.
Generally, it is possible to refer to the defects in the official Palestinian ways to deal with the settlement process since its inception, as well as the negative repercussions of the Oslo Agreement and its applications. We find that it ranges from strategic errors, defects in management and lack of clarity of vision.
Despite the current difficult circumstances, did the Oslo settlement actually fail?
Despite all the Palestinian and Israeli statements announcing the end of the settlement project between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the facts on the ground resulted from the signed agreements (building the separation wall, continuing settlements, changing the status quo in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, security coordination, economic interference, unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the ongoing attempts to perpetuate the truce in the Gaza Strip), in addition to the ongoing debate in Palestinian circles about whether it is in the national interest to end the Palestinian Authority or to preserve it because it gained. All this makes talking about the failure of settlement agreements or ignoring their repercussions difficult, as each party has different concept of failure and success from his own point of view.
Any talk about failure and success remains relative due to the reasons referred to and the absence of alternative political settlement projects. Actually, failure of the settlement may be true for the Palestinians’ side, but the situation isn’t the same for the second party, which did not really want to achieve a settlement that establishes a just peace that meets Palestinian national rights, a state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, while finding a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. Therefore, failure from the Palestinian point of view means that this goal has not been achieved, even though this goal was not mentioned in any of the signed agreements and the second party has never committed any day.
Washington and Tel Aviv have taken into account that the Palestinians will discover the truth about what is being hatched for their cause under the banner of settlement
Whether we call it failure, stumbling or a different management of the conflict, there are great challenges facing the final exit from the Oslo commitments or the return to the situation that was before the start of the settlement process, because Washington and Tel Aviv took into account that the Palestinians will discover the truth of what is being hatched for their national cause under the banner of settlement. Consequently, they may back off from it, and accordingly Washington and Israel created facts and a political climate to block the way back.
So sadly, the facts imposed by the occupying power on the ground, such as the growing and continuous settlement, building the wall, Judaizing Jerusalem, establishing bypassing roads and roadblocks make it impossible to get the matters back to what they were before, even if the Palestinians announce the failure of the settlement process and give up their commitment to the agreements signed in this regard.
Basically, the sharp and unprecedented division in the Palestinian ranks resulted in Hamas coup in June 2007 that was reinforced by foreign interference, which affected and even overcame the independence of the national decision and made the national project and the independence of the national decision mere slogans.
Consequently, some dare important changes took place such as the announcement of the Deal of the Century, January 28, 2020 and Netanyahu’s announcement of his intention to annex areas of the West Bank to Israel.
The Palestinian leadership missed the opportunity to exit early from the Oslo Accords and withdraw its recognition of Israel.
The Palestinian leadership had to make up its mind and officially announce exit from the Oslo Accords and withdraw its recognition of Israel, even after the Palestinian leadership decided that it was released from the signed agreements. However, the current situation uncovered the reality that what happened was a circumvention of the situation and rearrangement of the Oslo papers in a new way. For the current head of the authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who is considered the architect of Oslo, announcement of absolute failure of Oslo means his failure is personal failure and loss of the privileges of the position he holds as a President of the Palestinian Authority, even if it has no political value and no authority on the ground, which means that salvation from it impossible and thus salvation from Oslo is almost impossible during the era of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently maneuvering in the file of Palestinian reconciliation, elections, and renewal of legitimacy that many believe are far from being investigated.
Abu Mazen did not support “Emirati normalization” even if he aimed to stop the decisions to annex lands due to Dahlan’s residence in Abu Dhabi
Abu Mazen sought mediators to intervene to persuade Israel to stop the annexation in exchange for returning to the negotiating table without preconditions from the two parties, and holding an international peace conference announcing the start of negotiations between both sides. Although the UAE and Bahrain declared that part of its normalization with Israel was aimed at stopping the Israeli annexation of the Palestinian West Bank, this did not appeal to President Abu Mazen, due to personal considerations, the least of which is that his staunch political opponent, MP Muhammad Dahlan, resides in the UAE.
Abu Mazen is currently seeking for convincing everyone of the necessity of saving the settlement project by holding an international peace conference based on international decisions and not on the basis of Trump’s deal, and this is what he adopts at every occasion or meeting and I think that everyone will be shrewd enough to know that this is the only way that will save his face and re-inject blood into the Oslo Agreement and its repercussions. A new Oslo may be born with the participation of all Palestinian factions, and this is what the President of the Authority seeks for by implicating everyone in the settlement approach and proving that he has been and remains right.