The Oslo Accords 1993

The Oslo Accords were bilateral agreements signed in Washington following negotiations, part of which was clandestine, between Israel and the PLO.

The signed agreement in 1993 was entitled the “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements.” Its main concern was on Israeli withdrawal from the territories of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, in order to allow the establishment of a Palestinian Authority for self-government for an interim period until permanent arrangements would be established.

From its early stages, both parties spoke of an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the transfer of economic responsibilities in Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians.

An initial draft of the declaration was made up in February and March. In April, Abu Alaa informed Hirschfeld on the Palestinian consensus not to include the subject of Jerusalem in the interim agreement, but he did ask for an official recognition in the negotiations.

Israel’s Prime Minister Yizthak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres conceded to continue holding the talks by a representation of government officials, headed by Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Uri Savir.

The following month, Rabin contacted PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat through a telegraph forwarded by Minister of Health Haim Ramon and Arafat’s Israeli advisor, Dr. Ahmad Tibi.

Arafat’s response was given to Rabin on August 4th. The mutual recognition between the parties was unofficially debated at the end of July and officially during August, at the consent of Rabin and Peres.

Despite Rabin’s lack of objection to the talks, it was only at this time that he became convinced of their possible success. This was due to his understanding that the Palestinians have agreed to several terms: Approval for maintaining the present settlements, acknowledgement of Israel’s responsibility for the safety of its citizens within the territories and that all options will be open for negotiations towards a permanent solution.

The signing of the declaration had dramatic consequences for the policy of Israel towards the PLO. Israel acknowledged the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and announced on its intent to begin negotiations, as a part of a comprehensive peace process in the Middle East. Arafat, in the name of the PLO, acknowledged Israel’s right for a safe and peaceful existence.

Arafat committed himself to the peace process and to work towards a peaceful solution to the conflict. He obliged to abstain from the use of terror and violent acts, he acknowledged the United Nations’ Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and had guaranteed to approve the necessary changes in the Palestinian manifest in the Palestinian National Council – mainly concerning chapters contradicting the declaration or disapproving of Israel’s right for independence.

The accords were controversial within the Israeli public and the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. The left-wing parties were supportive, but right-wing parties were highly critical: Rabin was accused of legitimizing a leader and an organization which he himself slandered in the past. Other accusations concerned the relinquishment of the historical homeland of the Jewish people while undermining Israel’s safety.

Following two days of debates in the Knesset on the Government’s announcement, a motion of no-confidence was raised on September 23rd 1993 in regard to the signing of the declaration. This motion was dismissed by 61 Knesset Members, while 50 voted in favor and 8 abstained.