25 years on, Palestine sees Oslo Accords as ‘liability’

1993 agreement has done little to advance Palestine’s quest for statehood, Palestinian experts assert

25 years on, Palestine sees Oslo Accords as ‘liability’

RAMALLAH, Palestine

The landmark Oslo Agreement, signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel exactly 25 years ago, has become a “liability” to the Palestinian side, according to Palestinian experts. 

Signed in Washington on Sept. 13, 1993, the agreement was named for the series of secret talks in the Norwegian capital that led up to it.

As a result of the deal, a self-governing authority — the Palestinian Authority (PA) — was established in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In separate interviews with Anadolu Agency, Palestinian experts unanimously agreed that Israel had failed to comply with those terms of the deal that do not serve its interests.

Bilal al-Shobaki, a political science professor at the University of Hebron in the southern West Bank, believes that only the PA still abides by the deal’s terms.

Regarding the 25-year-old agreement’s objectives, al-Shobaki said that the Oslo Accord had been originally intended to serve three parties: the Palestinians, Israel and the international community.

“The deal was supposed to help the Palestinians gradually obtain their right to statehood,” he said.

“But it ended up serving the interests of Israel by relieving the latter of its responsibilities as an occupying power,” he added.

According to al-Shobaki, the agreement replaced a sought-for Palestinian state with the PA, which, he said, was in reality “little more than a local administration responsible for public services”.

“Oslo’s stated objective was the gradual establishment of a Palestinian state, but ever-expanding Israeli settlements — and the separation of the West Bank from occupied Jerusalem — has largely destroyed this possibility,” he said.

As for the future of the Middle East peace process, al-Shobaki remarked: “The PLO must table fresh options and free itself from Oslo’s terms by providing an alternate means of achieving statehood.”

Palestinian political analyst Abdel-Majid Sweilem largely agreed with al-Shobaki, saying: “Israel has tried to maintain those terms of the deal that serve its interests alone.”

“We can no longer abide by a treaty to which Israel doesn’t comply and which — for us — has become a liability,” he said.

Sulaiman Bisharat, a Palestinian researcher at the Yabos Center for Strategic Studies, said Israel had effectively eliminated key elements of the deal, “allowing it to assume total control over the entire West Bank”.

The 1993 agreement divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C.

Area A, representing 18 percent of the West Bank, was supposed to fall under the PA’s control in terms of both security and administration.

Area B, representing 21 percent of the West Bank, was supposed to fall under the administrative control of the PA while security control was given to Israel.

Area C, representing 61 percent of the West Bank, was to be kept under Israeli control, both in terms of security and administration.

“Israel has dealt with Oslo from an economic perspective, using it as a means of exerting pressure on the Palestinians through the collection of taxes,” Bisharat said.

Israel’s Finance Ministry collects taxes — on the PA’s behalf — on goods imported into the West Bank. It frequent withholds these funds, however, as a means of exerting political leverage on the Ramallah-based authority.

Sweilem, for his part, urged the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to reconsider the agreement’s terms.

“We’ve been waiting for a quarter-century,” he said. “This agreement has failed to bring us any closer to a sovereign state of our own.”

Reporting by Qais Abu Samra; Writing by Ali Abo Rezeg

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