Oslo? Happy Birthday!

By Yahav Zohar -

17th Sept, 2015. - The Oslo accords were 22 years old this week, and what a sad, dejected birthday it was. Not only was there no party, there weren't even the generalized well wishes produced by neglected FaceBook accounts to mark such occasions. Googling 'Oslo anniversary 2015' got me only two relevant results. The leftist Palestinian PFLP  using the occasion to call yet again for the cancellation of the accords,
and a brief piece in The Nation saying we told you so, that the accords were doomed from the start

There were no messages from well wishers, no one who even pretended to believe that the accords, which won their signatories a Noble Peace Prize, were in any way worth celebrating. One might think that they had been forgotten or died in anonymity were they not still formally in place and the Palestinian Authority they helped establish still in going about its tired business. Why and how have these accords, heralded as a historic moment, failed and fallen so completely from grace?

For Palestinians, the answers are simple enough- their lives have become worse by almost every measure. Locked into the islands of the so called autonomy, they are prevented from working and traveling in the rest of the country and largely prevented from forming a functioning economy of their own, with Israel controling most of their land and water, their borders and their airspace. In the islands  they are increasingly surrounded by settlements, bypass roads and walls, and even here the Israeli army often raids by night, terrifying neighborhoods and invading homes to arrest suspects or close down TV stations.

And the Israelis? Shouldn't they be pleased? The cost of administering Palestinians under military government has been successfully defrayed to North American and European taxpayers. Where once the Israeli military had to build roads, schools and hospitals for Palestinians in the West Bank, now these things are paid for by the Palestinian Authority, which in turn is payed for by the Donor Countries, . It could be said that the more troublesome parts of occupation have been successfully subcontracted.

The funds saved thus, the Israeli government has spent many times over on expanding and entrenching its presence in the West Bank – building bypass roads, expanding settlements, and demolishing Palestinian homes and infrastructure that fall outside the increasingly dense islands of the autonomy. Since Oslo, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has more than tripled.

Still, settlers and their supporters decry the accords and Palestinian Autonomy as a treacherous or naive compromise of Israeli sovereignty, a danger to the state and its settlement project,. Most Israelis who supported the accords have come to feel more or less the same way, painting themselves as naive to have trusted Palestinians and granted them autonomy only to be met with resistance. The outbreak of the second intifada in October of 2000 is seen in such circles as proof that there is no point in holding political talks with Palestinians.

In the accords, the current state of very limited Palestinian Autonomy was supposed to last no more than five years, and in that time a more comprehensive political solution was to be negotiated. That never really happened, and at least part of the problem was Israel's insistence that it must remain in control of Palestinians' airspace, borders, and water resource, that is – that it must ultimately control the territory.

Increasingly, Israelis are dropping the pretence of  moving towards a two-state agreement. They say now that the best they can do is maintain the 'status quo' . They would rather of course that Palestinians acquiesce to their third class status, but as they have shown in Gaza, they have little qualms about using blunt violence when deemed expedient. One Israeli general referred recently to the bombings of Gaza as 'mowing the lawn' – when resistance grows back, we'll bomb it again.

If the “Peace Process” was the other hand of the magician, the thing you were supposed to be watching while homes were demolished, fruit trees cut down and settlements built, that hand is getting tired and  the illusion no longer maintained. The show of diplomacy  convinces almost no one. Faith has largely run out.

That, at least, may be a good thing. If we know now that no passable political solution  will emerge from the extremely unequal and almost entirely stagnant negotiations, we can move on. We can take the opportunity of anniversary to say clearly, this doesn't work, it never has, and seek new ways forward, beyond another round of negotiations, beyond military government and the Palestinian Authority, towards a more equal and free society.

- Yahav Zohar is based in Jerusalem, is a Partner of the Green Olive Collective, and Senior Tour Guide at Green Olive Tours. Read his profile here > >

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