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The Oslo Accords: from a flawed process to a flawed outcome

The TRANSCEND perspective is an alternative



By Johan Galtung,
Dr hc mult, Professor of Peace Studies, American, Granada,
Ritsumeikan, Tromsoe, Witten Universities;
Director, TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development Network
TFF associate




[1] Extremists excluded, meaning Hamas and Likud/Orthodox, the agreement being between PLO and Labor/Secular-Modern; probably related to Norwegian social democrat "reason is in the middle". This works in moderate Norway, but not when more than 50% may feel excluded. They also have peace concepts, and they will announce themselves (like killing Rabin, like suicide bombs).

[2] Peace actors/movements both sides excluded, Intifadah, Peace Now, not even acknowledged; yet their action was indispensable.

[3] USA is not a signatory, even if it is a major actor on the Israeli side, posing as "third party". Was Oslo acting for USA?

[4] A general underestimation of polarization inside Palestine and Israel; overestimation of whether the accords are binding.

[5] An unnecessary amount of secrecy, no dialogue with public.


The outcome, structure

[6] Lack of symmetry: the agreement does not define two states, but a state and an "autonomy" which in fact is at a lower level than for the bantustans in apartheid South Africa.

[7] Not relational: the relations between the two sides are not spelt out militarily, politically, economically, culturally.

[8] Palestinian state not defined: there are glimpses, but not how that state would relate to Israel, militarily, politically, economically, culturally, e.g. as confederation (with Jordan?)

[9] Excessive governmentalism and excessive institutionalism, no real effort to weave the two civil societies together.


The outcome, culture

[10] An underestimation, probably related to Norwegian secularism, of the strength of religion as a code steering people's behavior, like the killing of a prime minister and the Hebron massacre at Purim, and the general fourth stage of jihad.

[11] An underestimation of the sacredness of many points in the area for the Jews (Jabutinski), only political/economic focus.

[12] An underestimation of the possibility of ecumenical work, between Jews, Muslims and Christians, to emphasize the positive, gentle aspects of the faiths and turn against the hard aspects.

These flaws were evident already August/September 1993, and the repercussions after the White House signing are easily traced.

The counter-argument is that the alterative was no agreement. But is it obvious that a seriously flawed agreement is better?






1. Diagnosis

Unfortunately, the prognosis in the 992 perspective came true in the second intifada of fall 2000, and a diagnosis of the seriously flawed "Oslo process" (from 939, this version was written 978) is at least partly confirmed.

The Oslo process did not die fall 2000; it was still born. The Norwegian and US process managers carry major responsibility for the violence, posing as disinterested third parties, frustrating the Palestinians.

Time has come for the UN, EU and Arab states to mediate; possibly easier than it seems. Time is over for a US policy of fragmented reservations for natives, complete with casinos and duty free shopping like for "God-chosen" whites in South Africa.

Palestinians have to be treated with respect.


2. Prognosis

One reason for failure was that they knew the process was flawed and preferred failure to parallel civil wars; in Israel as continuation of the Rabin murder. Both parties know that more parties will have to be involved because an agreement between "moderates" only hides real issues and will spread so as to include "extremists".

To sort this out takes time. But there will be talks, and agreements, at some future time.

The two peoples are doomed to coexistence, in turn doomed to be peaceful and both peoples have very long time perspectives for the task. Images of possible outcomes, not only processes, are needed.


3. Therapy

The following images have emerged from dialogues:

[a] The only point of departure for peace is UNSC Resolution 242 and return to the June 4,1967 borders with small land exchanges. Israeli "non-lethal" bullets kill, but no longer convince.


[b] If Israel wants peace it is obtainable, but by using peace studies rather than security studies as a useful guide:

- a basic key to peace is equal rights:

Palestinians have the same right to a State as Israelis;

Palestinians have the same right to Return as Israelis;

Palestinians have the same right to a Capital in Jerusalem.

- another basic key to peace is equitable cooperation:

joint management of Jerusalem as two confederated capitals;

joint efforts to control terrorism and state terrorism;

joint economic ventures based on equal inputs and outputs;

joint peace education with creative conflict resolution;

joint peace journalism with conflict resolution focus;

joint ecumenical focus on peaceful aspects of religions.

- another basic key to peace is a regional cooperative umbrella:

a Middle East Community of Israel/Arab states/Turkey/Kurds;

with regimes for water equity, arms control, and return;

with free flow of goods/services, persons and ideas; and

- yet another basic key to peace is peacekeeping:

international policing of Jerusalem;

international monitors chosen by both sides for inspection;

experiments with joint police, and nonviolent, patrolling.


[c] Recognition of a Palestinian state could be combined with:

recognition before final agreement on borders;

Palestinian citizenship for Israelis like vice versa;

Israeli canton in Palestine and Palestinian in Israel;

Egypt and Jordan lease adjacent territory to Palestine.


[d] Beyond this two states formula there should be images of a confederation

a federation

a unitary state for the future.


[e] Sooner or later a Truth & Reconciliation process is needed, combining fact-finding, joint textbooks, healing, and closure.





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