This Friday will mark 20 years to the day since Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chair Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, signing an agreement that established the Palestinian Authority (PA) and a framework for negotiations that has lasted to this day.
On the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, the infographic below demonstrates what these years of the US-led peace process have produced for Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip: an acceleration of Israeli colonisation and a cementing of an apartheid regime of control and discrimination. The infographic is far from comprehensive: The last two decades have also seen the siege and brutalisation of the Gaza Strip, the consolidation of the checkpoint and permit system, land confiscations, settler outposts expanding, and the detention and torture of thousands.
It is important to understand that such policies have been implemented not in spite of the peace process, but often thanks to the peace process. Oslo has served to provide Israel with the cover it needs to continue its systematic breaches of international law, acting as a shield to protect Israel from accountability and democratisation. In addition, the establishment of the PA has given Israel a valuable partner in administering (and subduing) the millions of Palestinians living under military occupation – as well as providing an “address” for a periodic disciplining of the colonised.
Even as he was signing up to Oslo all those years ago, Rabin was authorising construction plans for illegal Israeli settlement expansion on occupied land. Two years later in 1995, shortly before his assassination, Rabin made it clear that Oslo was about creating a Palestinian “entity which is less than a state” to “independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority”, while Israel would keep a “united Jerusalem” and the major settlement blocks.
Fast forward to 2013, and an Israeli government participates in peace talks whose ministers oppose Palestinian rights and openly flout international law. Not withstanding the impact of Oslo on the struggle of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and refugees in the diaspora, 20 years of Oslo has meant what Edward Said recognised it would be, earlier than many others did.
To Israelis, Rabin and Peres spoke openly about separation – not as providing Palestinians with the right to self-determination but as a way of marginalising and diminishing them, essentially leaving the land to the more powerful Israelis. Separation in this perspective becomes synonymous with apartheid, not with liberation. “Self-rule” is Netanyahu’s euphemism for it.
Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. He is a graduate of Cambridge University.