Opinion

A Victim of Abuse Called Oslo

This agreement was, and still is, the only ripple of hope in 100 years of conflict

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin speaks to a crowd of more than 100,000 Israelis at Tel Aviv's municipal square shortly before being killed, on November 4, 1995
NATI HARNIK,AP

For many Israelis and Palestinians, assailing the Oslo Accord has become a mass-participation sport. A dim light was lit amid the darkness in September 1993, but all the tempests of the world united and still are uniting to extinguish it.

Both before and after this accord, extremists in Israel held “funeral ceremonies” for those who dared to sign it, while Hamas and other Palestinian extremists lined up against the deal. Yasser Arafat was accused of being a traitor. In Israel, extremists assassinated the symbol of Oslo, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, while Palestinian extremists committed terror attacks every time the two sides managed to reach understandings.

>> Rabin’s man in Oslo analyzes what went wrong – and right – with the 1993 accords

And afterward, people accused Oslo of all the sins the extremists from both sides committed. Did the Oslo Accord furnish Yigal Amir with the pistol he used to assassinate Oslo’s Israeli architect, Rabin? Did the Oslo Accord furnish the suicide bombers with the explosive vests they used to perpetrate attacks on Israeli civilians?

“They took his food, his clothes and his banners, and threw him into the well of the dead. They said: You’re a thief,” wrote the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish under different circumstances, which nevertheless resemble the fate of the Oslo Accord. After having destroyed the agreement, they stand around its corpse, flogging it and shouting, “Why didn’t you bring peace?”

Nu, really. We should ask Oslo’s opponents: Is there a single part of Oslo’s body that you didn’t wound?

>> Down and out in Jericho, where the Oslo process began in the West Bank

My poor Oslo Accord. What did they do to you, the wicked and the purists alike? Those who crucify Oslo from the left scream that Rabin didn’t go far enough – as if the spectrum of opinion in Israel at the time lay between Gideon Levy and Amira Hass. They have forgotten that merely for recognizing the PLO, Rabin was depicted as a traitor.

Even former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who today gives lectures on the history of fascism, opposed transferring Palestinian cities to the Palestinian Authority’s sovereignty. Barak asked the Palestinians to accept either whatever the masters gave them, or nothing. And in the end, we all got Benjamin Netanyahu.

And on the other side, many were heroes at Arafat’s expense, as if by signing the Oslo Accord, he caused the first intifada to fail. These honorable people have forgotten that during its waning days, the intifada had become a war among armed gangs, with no unified defense and a great deal of despair among a great many Palestinians.

>> The real Oslo criminals | Opinion

They have also forgotten the abuse of the Palestinian leadership by their “brothers,” the leaders of Arab states, each of whom converted the Palestinians’ interests into his own regime’s narrow interests. At that time, Arafat was ordered by Syria’s then-president, Hafez Assad, to leave Damascus within eight hours.

I’m not writing about the Oslo Accord 25 years after it signing in order to say that it was the ultimate agreement. In this “Swiss cheese,” as Barak called the agreement, the holes occupied more space than the cheese that strung them together.

But the Oslo Accord reflected the balance of power in Israel. The right had come out ahead in almost every election, and in that window of time after Rabin was elected in 1992, he tried, under very difficult circumstances, to effect substantive change in the relations between Israel and the Palestinians, first and foremost by recognizing the Palestinian people’s national leadership.

The Oslo Accord shattered many axioms, and to the “Oslo criminals” – by which I don’t, heaven forbid, mean the agreement’s supporters, but those who slew it with lies and unbridled incitement – it was a nightmare. Because this agreement was, and still is, the only ripple of hope in 100 years of conflict.

This ripple gave rise to a huge wave of hope and optimism that swept the entire world, and not just our region. And that is what the extremists were determined to bury deep in the earth. Therefore, those who must be brought to account for Oslo’s failure aren’t its stewards, but its destroyers.

Israeli extremists assassinated Rabin, while Palestinian extremists committed terror attacks every time the two sides reached understandings.