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IPAAR, Analysis

Israel’s Contribution to the Failure of the Oslo Accords

Maurice Hirsch

The agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were never “Peace Agreements” in the true sense of the word.

For Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat, the Oslo Accords were merely an opportunity to secure a solid foothold in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from which to pursue his oft-repeated goal to destroy Israel. Yet from the start, there was a systemic Israeli failure to identify these motivations.

  • The agreements between Israel and the PLO included reciprocal Palestinian commitments. Primary among these was the total abandonment of terrorism to advance their political agenda. Instead of demanding and ensuring strict PLO/PA compliance with their commitments to combat terror, Israel watched as the PLO/PA embraced Palestinian terror organizations and actively participated in terror.

  • Internationally-designated terror organizations responsible for the murder of thousands of Israelis operate freely in the PA-controlled areas. When Israel arrests terrorists, the PA still pays them substantial monthly payments to reward their participation in terror.

  • This review focuses on four representative aspects of Palestinian non-compliance and Israeli inaction – the saga of the Palestinian Covenant, the failure of the PLO/PA to fulfill its commitments to combat terror, the lack of Palestinian democracy, and the “State of Palestine” affair.

The agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were never “Peace Agreements” in the true sense of the word. While Israel entered the agreements with a genuine desire to secure a better, safer, and more prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians, for PLO leader Yasser Arafat, the agreements were merely an opportunity to secure a solid foothold in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip from which he and his organization could continue to pursue their oft-repeated goal to destroy Israel. From the start, there was a failure to identify these motivations, a systemic failure that continues to the present. It has been and continues to be the most significant impediment to peace. Today, almost 30 years since the first Israeli-PLO agreement was signed, peace is farther away than ever.

While the agreements between Israel and the PLO focused on what territorial control, powers, responsibilities, and jurisdiction the Israeli side would give the Palestinians, they also included reciprocal Palestinian commitments. Primary among these commitments was the total abandonment of the use of terrorism to advance their political agenda.

Israel authorities, instead of insisting that the PLO, the Palestinian Authority (the body created by the agreements), and their respective leaders fulfill their agreed commitments, adopted an approach of willful paralysis.

Time after time, the Israeli authorities watched as the PLO/PA ignored its commitments, engaged in practices, and adopted policies fundamentally contradictory to the agreements. While Israel voiced concern over these breaches of the agreements, no practical steps were taken on the ground to remedy the situation. Even when Israel responded to the Palestinian beaches by temporarily delaying the implementation of the agreements, these moves were short-lived.

Most significantly, instead of demanding and ensuring strict PLO/PA compliance with their commitments to combat terror, Israel watched as the PLO/PA embraced the so-called “Palestinian factions,” which include internationally-designated terror organizations, and actively participated in terror.

As time moved on and the PLO/PA breaches of the agreements became more egregious, the Israeli approach of appeasement became more entrenched. While this pattern of behavior applies to many different aspects of the Oslo Accords, the following will focus on four representative aspects of Palestinian non-compliance and Israeli inaction – the saga of the Palestinian Covenant, the failure of the PLO/PA to fulfill its commitments to combat terror, the lack of Palestinian democracy, and the “State of Palestine” affair.

Brief Overview of the Agreements

The “Oslo Accords” is a generic name for several agreements between Israel and the PLO from September 1993 through September 1995.

The agreements were essentially made up of four primary documents:

The Declaration of Principles,1 signed September 1993; The Protocol on Economic Relations,2 signed April 1994; The Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area,3 signed May 1994; and the Interim Agreement4 on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that was signed in September 1995.

In a nutshell, Israel agreed that the PLO would establish an autonomous body – the Palestinian Authority (PA) – that would govern the day-to-day aspects of the lives of the Palestinians living in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. To do so, Israel agreed to transfer to the PA control over territorial areas in which 95% of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria lived, together with all the necessary powers and responsibilities previously held by the Israeli authorities, to administer these territories. To provide the PA with the ability to function financially, Israel also agreed to continue collecting certain taxes and to transfer the income to the PA. Israel also agreed to allow the Palestinian body to establish a police force in charge of public order in the areas assigned to the control of the PA.

In return, the PLO agreed to a few fundamental commitments. First and foremost, the PLO committed to erasing all the different expressions that called for Israel’s destruction from its Covenant. The PLO further committed to using the newly created PA body as a vehicle for peace, preventing incitement to hatred and violence, and combating terror. Finally, the PLO agreed that the PA would be a paragon of Western democracy, in which free and transparent elections would elect the Palestinian leader and the PA parliament at regular intervals. Both sides also committed to refrain from unilateral activities that may impact the agreement on four topics to be agreed upon in further negotiations over the permanent status (territory, Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, and the fate of the refugees).

The Importance of Terminology

While the Oslo Accords reflected the aspirations of the Israeli side and the international community to create a Palestinian civil society, Arafat cared less about the details and more about the narrative.

Indeed, Arafat’s first goal was to ensure that the Oslo Accords used ambiguous terminology that he could manipulate to his benefit. It would reflect a disconnect between Israel and the areas they referred to.

Thus, the agreements used, for example, the term “The West Bank.” While commonly used, the term “The West Bank” has no historical background. Decisions made by the international community and biblical references repeatedly reflected the historical connection of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria. Even the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan called the area “the hill country of Samaria and Judea.” Nonetheless, in the effort to sever the 3,000-year-old connection of the Jewish people to those areas, the Palestinians were insistent on using the term “The West Bank,” the name first given to Judea and Samaria during the period in which they were illegally occupied by Jordan, from 1948 to 1967.

Similarly, while the text is in English, throughout the Oslo Accords, the leader of the PA is called the “Ra’ees.” While Israel chooses to translate the term as “Chairman,” in reality, the Arabic word can have multiple meanings, including “President,” “Leader,” “Chairman,” or “Chief.” This approach allowed Arafat to present himself as a “President,” equal in position and stature to any other “President” of a country.

On both points, in the interest of peace, Israel conceded.

Israel Fails to Demand Full PLO/PA Compliance with the Oslo Accords

Following signing the agreements, Israel quickly fulfilled its commitments to redeploy its forces from the large Arab cities and outlying areas (referred to in the Accords as areas A and B) and to transfer the necessary powers and responsibilities to the PA. The PLO and the PA did not reciprocate.

Despite repeated Israeli demands, to this day, most of the PLO commitments still need to be fulfilled. Even when the PLO claims it has met its commitments substantially, the Palestinian side continues to flout many, if not all, of its substantive reciprocal obligations.

The Saga of the PLO Covenant

The PLO Covenant is the foundational document of the organization in which it presents its principles, goals, and aspirations. As such, the PLO Covenant contains repeated expressions of the organization’s goal to destroy Israel.

While the PLO commitment to amend its Covenant was not expressly mentioned in the 1993 Declaration of Principles, in a letter5 signed four days earlier and addressed to then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat wrote:

[T]he PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel’s right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid. Consequently, the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant.

Arafat and the PLO did not make the necessary changes to Covenant, despite the unequivocal commitment and despite Israel’s implementation of its obligations to initially redeploy from large parts of the Gaza Strip and from the city of Jericho to allow Arafat and other PLO leaders to enter those areas and to transfer the powers and responsibilities needed to administer those areas.

Noting the failure to fulfill their commitments, Article XXXI(9) of the September 1995 Interim Agreement reiterated the PLO’s obligation to amend its Covenant:

The PLO undertakes that, within two months of the date of the inauguration of the Council, the Palestinian National Council will convene and formally approve the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant, as undertaken in the letters signed by the Chairman of the PLO and addressed to the Prime Minister of Israel, dated September 9, 1993, and May 4, 1994.

Resting on the renewed commitment, Israel again implemented its obligations under the Interim Agreement to redeploy from additional territories and to transfer more powers and responsibilities to the PA. Even though the “Council” referred to was established in January 1996, the PLO again failed to comply with its commitment.

In April 1996, the PLO feigned compliance, but in actuality, all it did was adopt a general decision about “canceling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the P.L.O. and the Government of Israel” and charged a legal committee with the task of redrafting the document.

Two years later, in January 1998, Arafat sent a letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton again claiming that the prejudicial clauses in the Covenant had been removed. Notwithstanding Arafat’s letter, the October 1998 Wye River Memorandum6 again required the relevant PLO bodies to meet and confirm the change:

The Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Central Council will reaffirm the letter of 22 January 1998 from PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat to President Clinton concerning the nullification of the Palestinian National Charter provisions that are inconsistent with the letters exchanged between the PLO and the Government of Israel on 9–10 September 1993. PLO Chairman Arafat, the Speaker of the Palestine National Council, and the Speaker of the Palestinian Council will invite the members of the PNC, as well as the members of the Central Council, the Council, and the Palestinian Heads of Ministries to a meeting to be addressed by President Clinton to reaffirm their support for the peace process and the aforementioned decisions of the Executive Committee and the Central Council.

Only in December 1998, five years later, both the United States and Israel could ostensibly affirm that the relevant PLO bodies had met and made the necessary changes.

Having said that, to this day, as Palestinian Media Watch exposed,7 PA official TV still presents the original provisions of the PLO Covenant to the Palestinian people.

Similarly, the PLO official website in Arabic still presents the entire PLO Covenant, including all the original provisions. The provisions presented include Article 19, which provides that “The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal,” and Article 20, which declares that “The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void.”

Leaving no room for misinterpretation as regards the means to destroy Israel, the PLO website includes the provisions of the Covenant that explicitly call for Israel’s destruction through terror, such as Article 9, which declares that “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine,” Article 10, which adds that “Commando action (i.e., PLO euphemism for terror) constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war,” and Article 21, which emphasizes that “The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine.”

The PLO website also still includes the viciously antisemitic Article 22, which presents Israel and Zionism as a threat to all humanity:

Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and the geographical base for world imperialism, placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-a-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.

Only after presenting the full version of the Covenant does the PLO website mention that articles 9, 10, 19, 20, 21, and 22 were canceled in 1998 and that others were amended. The website does not specify which additional provisions were amended and does not present an alternate text.

The purpose of including the requirement to amend the PLO Covenant was more than just semantic. The changes were required as a fundamental expression of the change in attitude the PLO was meant to have adopted. Even if the PLO/PA can claim that de jure, the relevant provisions of its Covenant that were prejudicial to the Oslo Accords have been amended, in practice, the day-to-day representations and activities of the PLO/PA undermine the substantive commitment. They are certainly a breach of the spirit of the agreements.

PLO/PA Fails to Fulfill Its Commitments to Combat Terror

In the Oslo Accords, the PLO not only agreed to abandon terror but also made repeated commitments to combat terror actively. To fulfill this commitment, Israel agreed that the PA would have substantial police and security mechanisms and that in area A – the area under complete PA control – the Palestinian security forces could even carry weapons. Despite being given the capabilities to meet these commitments, the PLO and the PA failed to do so.

The PLO is a conglomerate of different Palestinian organizations, the biggest and most dominant of which is Fatah, the party of Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas. But while Fatah and its head do control the PLO from the outset and to this day to a great extent, the PLO members still include internationally designated terror groups, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is the second largest PLO member, and others.

Despite the commitment of the PLO, the PFLP has never abandoned terror. Instead, to this day, the PFLP remains committed to Israel’s destruction and constantly carries out terror attacks, including, among many others, the 2001 murder of Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Rehavam Ze’evi, the 2019 murder of 17-year-old Rina Schnerb, and even active participation in shooting missiles from Gaza indiscriminately targeting Israel’s civilian population.

Fatah has also not abandoned terror. The most lethal Palestinian terror organization, responsible for hundreds of the deaths of Israelis, is the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which was established by, and is an integral part of Fatah. Luckily for Fatah, while the international community has mostly moved away from the paradigm of dividing terror organizations by separating their political wings from their armed wings for political expediency and to avoid declaring the outright failure of the Oslo Accords, only the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is designated as a terror organization.

Given that the PLO’s members are themselves terror organizations, and since Fatah has dominated the PA since its creation, it is unsurprising that the PA failed to fulfill its commitments to dismantle the terror organizations and combat terror.

While PLO/PA hypocrisy is not uncommon, even they have limits. Since the PLO members never abandoned terror, it became internally politically untenable for the PA to actively combat Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both of which are homicidal terror organizations.

To feign compliance, the PA quickly adopted what became known as the “revolving door” policy, whereby terrorists were subjected to token arrests by the PA security forces and almost immediately released.

Instead of actively fighting terror, the PA cultivated an all-encompassing terror environment.

In every walk of Palestinian life, the PLO/Fatah used the PA and its mechanisms to promulgate messages of hate and demonization of Israel and Israelis. True to the PLO charter, instead of disseminating messages of peace, conciliation, and recognition of Israel’s very right to exist, the PA messaging to the Palestinian population was that Israel is an illegitimate state, borne out of Western colonialism on stolen Palestinian land.

Using the school system and Soviet-style dominated media – TV, newspaper, radio, and eventually social media – the PLO/PA propaganda machine engaged in wide-scale brainwashing. Recognizing its potential value to inflame religious fervor, the PLO/PA used the inflammatory libel that “Al-Aqsa is in danger” – as if Israel was about to imminently destroy the Temple Mount with its gilded Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque – as a means to rally thousands of terrorists.

Alongside the incitement of violence and terror, the PA, heavily reliant on foreign aid, also established one of the most egregious terror-supporting and -rewarding mechanisms. According to Palestinian Authority public documents and affidavits provided by PLO/PA officials and other publications, since the creation of the PA, the PLO/PA has paid monthly salaries to imprisoned terrorists and monthly allowances to the families of dead and wounded terrorists. While the payments –collectively referred to as the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay policy”8 – were initially relatively conservative under Abbas, the payments grew substantially. They now cost the PA between 600 million to a billion shekels (170 to 270 million U.S. Dollars) every year.

Despite witnessing these events, and while Israel often cried foul and accused the PLO/PA of breaching the accords, Israel did not do much.

From 1995 to 2000, Israel predominantly refrained from invoking its overriding jurisdiction to combat security threats for the first five years of the Oslo Accords. Instead of conditioning any progress to implement the Israeli commitments under the agreements on the PLO first fulfilling its elementary obligations, Israel chose the path of compliance irrespective of the Palestinian actions. Since Israel gave the Palestinian leaders effective impunity to continue inciting hatred, violence, and terror, the Palestinian leadership had no incentive to stop the destructive messaging.

Moreover, with Israel overlooking PLO and Palestinian Authority violations of the Oslo Accords, the United States and the UN, and European witnesses to the Accords also failed to demand enforcement of the Accords’ restrictions.

The Absence of PA Democracy

Entire sections of the Oslo Accords were dedicated to molding the evolving Palestinian democracy. According to these provisions, the Ra’ees and the PA Legislative Council (PLC) were to be elected by popular vote in free and open elections. Each would be elected for an initial maximum five-year period. PA law later limited the term of the PLC to four years. The term of the Ra’ees was also defined as four years with an option, subject to re-election, of a second four-year term.

In practice, since the PA was established in 1995, only two elections have ever been held for the Ra’ees. The first, held in 1996, was won by Yasser Arafat,9 who remained in his position until he died in 2004. The second, held in 2005, was won10 by Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 18th year of his first four-year term.

Similarly, only two general elections have been held for the PLC. While the first election, held in 1996, ended in a landslide victory for Fatah,11 the second, held in 2006, finished with a landslide victory for Hamas.12

Even if it could be argued that Israel is less interested in ensuring that the PA elections occur on time, Israel should never have accepted, or again accept, the open participation of Israeli and internationally-designated terror organizations, such as Hamas and the PFLP.

The participation of Hamas and the PFLP in the elections was a direct breach of a specific provision in the Interim agreement. Annex II of the Interim agreement dealt explicitly with the Palestinian election process and included, inter alia, provisions stipulating who could, and more importantly, could not, present their candidacy for election. Article III(2) of Annex II provides:

The nomination of any candidates, parties or coalitions will be refused, and such nomination or registration, once made, will be canceled if such candidates, parties or coalitions:(1) commit or advocate racism; or(2) pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful or nondemocratic means.

At the very least, both the PFLP and Hamas pursue the implementation of their aims – the destruction of Israel – by unlawful means: Terror.

The problem, however, was that from day one, the PLO/PA breached the provisions of Annex II.

Article I(2) of the Annex provides:

The holding of elections for the position of Ra’ees and for the Palestinian Council shall be governed by this Annex, and the Law on the Election of the Ra’ees and the Palestinian Council (hereinafter “the Election Law”) and the regulations made under this law (hereinafter “the Election Regulations”). The Election Law shall be adopted by the Palestinian Authority. The Election Law and the Election Regulations shall be consistent with the provisions of this Agreement.

While the PLO/PA committed that the Palestinian Election Law would be “consistent with the provisions of this Agreement,” the actual Election Law,13 adopted in December 1995, less than three months after making the specific commitment, did not include any provision disqualifying the registration candidates due to the pursuit of their goals by unlawful means or their commission or advocacy of racism. All the 1995 Election Law required was that the representative of any registered party sign a statement “affirming that the entity does not advocate racism.”14 Instead of demonstrating a bona fides intention to implement the PLO/PA commitment, the Election Law merely placed the proverbial cat to guard the cream.

Despite the breach, the election process continued unabated since both Hamas and the PFLP boycotted the first elections.

The PLO/PA breach of the Inter Agreements further deepened in the run-up to the 2006 elections general election after both terrorist organizations indicated their intention to participate.

The first breach was the unilateral changes made in the PA Election Law.15 Issued in August 2005, under the direction of newly elected PA Ra’ees Mahmoud Abbas, the new law made several fundamental changes. While Article IV of the Interim agreement provided that the PLC would be “composed of 82 representatives,” in the new 2005 Election Law, Abbas tried to stack the odds in his favor by enlarging the number of PLC members to 132.16

Not only did the new PA election law not include any provision disqualifying candidates for the pursuit of their goals by unlawful means – Terror – it even abandoned the mealymouthed requirement that the parties running reject racism.

Despite these breaches, the 2006 election process continued unabated, resulting in Hamas winning 74 of the PLC seats and the PFLP winning three.

Instead of fulfilling their commitment to combat terror, the PLO/PA embraced the terror organizations, including them among the “Palestinian factions.” By ignoring the PLO/PA breaches of the Interim Agreements and by agreeing to the participation of terrorist and terror organizations in the elections, to a large extent under American pressure, Israel allowed the PLO/PA to entirely abdicate their commitment to combat terror, even within the PA electoral process.

The “State of Palestine”

For clarity, it is important to stress that the Oslo Accords contains no Israeli commitment to allow or facilitate the creation of a “State of Palestine” in any form. By their nature and content, the Accords were only interim agreements, limited temporally to five years, which left several cardinal subjects – Jerusalem, settlements, specified military locations, Palestinian refugees, borders, foreign relations, and Israeli residents ­– for so-called “permanent status” discussions.

Presenting the 1995 Interim Agreement in the Knesset on October 5, 1995, then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin stated clearly,17 that the Palestinian entity he envisaged would necessarily be “less than a state.” Rabin added that the Palestinian entity in Judea and Samaria would be surrounded by Israel, including the Israeli settlement blocks.

Nonetheless, over the last 30 years, the PLO/PA has devoted considerable attention, effort, and funds, to persuade the international community to recognize the existence of a “State of Palestine” whose borders with Israel are the June 4, 1967, “borders.” These efforts did not go unrewarded. Even though “Palestine” lacks accepted Montevideo requirements for statehood,18 many countries do recognize the “State of Palestine.” More importantly, the efforts reached a substantial symbolic peak in 2012, when the United Nations General Assembly voted to grant the non-existent “State of Palestine” special “non-member observer State status.”

The symbolic peak of the UN General Assembly’s recognition of “Palestine” as a state, turned into a practical disaster when the non-existent “State of Palestine” joined the International Criminal Court and started flooding it with sundry complaints.

Since all these activities are funded from the coffers of the PA, and since Israel provides the PA with 65%-70% of its budget, in practicality, Israel is financing the PLO/PA-driven international onslaught against itself.

It’s All a Question of Money

To ensure PLO/PA compliance Israel holds a wide variety of options, the most obvious of which is the financial option.

As noted above, as part of the Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to waive billions of shekels of tax revenues in favor of the PA. These taxes account for 65%-70% of the PA’s entire budget. Without the taxes, the PA cannot exist. Without the taxes, the PA cannot engage in all its activities that breach the Accords.

But while the Israeli government holds the financial existence and future of the PA in its hands, all Israeli governments have consciously chosen to avoid or limit the use of this leverage considerably.

Records of the Israeli tax collection from 2010 through the end of January 2023, provided by the Finance Ministry in response to requests under the Freedom of Information law, show that only once, during that entire period, has Israel withheld the tax revenues, in response to the PA – as the “State of Palestine” – joining the International Criminal Court. Unfortunately, the measure lasted only a few months, after which Israel resumed transferring the income and even retroactively transferred the temporarily withheld income.

In 2018, Israel also adopted the “Law to freeze monies paid by the Palestinian Authority in connection to terror from the monies that Israel transfers to it” (The Freeze Law). The law was passed soon after the United States adopted the Taylor Force Act. Essentially, the Freeze Law penalizes the PA for its Pay-for-Slay policy.

According to the law, at the end of each year, Israel’s Minister of Defense prepares a report detailing how much the PA spent in the previous year on its Pay-for-Slay payments. The report is presented to the Security Cabinet, and after its approval, Israel then deducts from the tax revenues, in 12 equal parts, the sum stipulated by the Minister of Defense. Since the law passed, Israel has deducted and frozen a cumulative sum of almost 2.7 billion shekels.

In August 2021, just as it appeared that the Freeze Law would have a decisive effect, Israel’s Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Finance stepped in and provided the PA with a 500-million-shekel lifeline.

While the law has been successful in forcing the PA to make difficult decisions,19 it has yet to achieve its goal of forcing the PA to abandon its pugnacious program.

Since Israel provides the PA with the vast majority of its budget, in practice, Israel is assisting the PA to implement the very same policies that fundamentally breach both the letter and the spirit of the Oslo Accords.

The Palestinians, having realized that they could shirk all the commitments made in the Oslo Accords and continue to benefit from the free flow of funds from the Israeli government, the Palestinian leadership lost all interest in adhering to the Accords.

Ignoring Non-Compliance as a Recipe for Disaster

Under the Oslo Accords, Israel allowed the return of the PLO leadership to Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. Israel redeployed its forces from 40% of Judea and Samaria and, eventually, 100% of the Gaza Strip. On most occasions, Israel fulfilled its commitments, oblivious to or consciously ignoring the fact that the Palestinians were systematically breaching their obligations.

Far from inspiring or forcing Palestinian compliance, Israel’s behavior created the perception, and to a great extent, reality, that it was no longer genuinely insistent on the Palestinians ever living up to their commitments. As this process developed from stage to stage and from milestone to milestone, Palestinian non-compliance grew in substance and nature. Incitement to violence and terror is still rampant in the PA. While Israel often prosecutes Palestinians for small-time incitement, as a general rule, the Palestinian leadership, which is often responsible for some of the most virulent incitement, has enjoyed de facto impunity.

Internationally-designated terror organizations responsible for the murder of thousands of Israelis not only operate freely in the PA-controlled areas but the PLO/PA also accepts them as legitimate Palestinian factions. When Israel arrests terrorists, the PA still pays them substantial monthly payments to reward their participation in terror. While the Oslo Accords creates an entity far short of being a state, the PLO/PA has declared the existence of the “State of Palestine,” has gained United Nations Observer State status, and has joined scores of international bodies and conventions in which membership is limited to full-fledged states.

In practicality, the PA has now breached almost every single one of its commitments in the Oslo Accords. Israel’s failure to demand compliance has allowed for the growth of Palestinian terror organizations and emboldened the Palestinian leadership to do whatever they please.

For almost 30 years, Israel has practically ignored the Palestinian leadership’s malfeasance and refrained from using its considerable leverage to ensure PLO/PA compliance.

With the benefit of hindsight, Israel’s approach has failed to achieve the desired effect. The PLO/PA enjoyed and continues to enjoy all the benefits of the Oslo Accords, including the substantial financial benefits, without paying any price.

If Israel and the PLO/PA maintain the appearance that the relations between them are guided, however loosely, by the Oslo Accords, Israel must re-evaluate how it conducts its relations with the PLO/PA and fundamentally change its behavior.



  1. Letter from Yasser Arafat to Prime Minister Rabin, Sept. 9, 1993↩︎

  2. Article 49(2)(b)↩︎

  3. Ibid, Articles 2(3) and 3(2)↩︎

  4. The accepted criteria of statehood were laid down in the Montevideo Convention (1933), which provided that a state must possess a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to conduct international relations. Britannica,↩︎

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Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch

Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch served as Director of the Military Prosecution for Judea and Samaria. Since retiring from the IDF, Hirsch worked as the Head of Legal Strategies from Palestinian Media Watch, as a Senior Military Consultant for NGO Monitor, as an advisor to the Ministry of Defence, and as head of an advisory committee in the Ministry of the Interior. Hirsch was the architect of the Israeli law that strips citizenship from Israeli terrorists who have been convicted for terror offenses, sentenced to a custodial sentence, and receive a payment from the Palestinian Authority as a reward for their acts of terror.


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