Those who regard Israel as occupying the West Bank (Judea & Samaria) should reconsider the issue in view of the way they regard legally binding contracts.
All countries have legal ages of majority, the age at which an individual can sign a legally binding contract. In the USA, for example, contracts can only be signed by those over the age of 18. In some countries, 21 is the age at which contracts become legally binding. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that the signatories to the Oslo Accords were old enough to be legally bound by the contracts they co-signed on behalf of their respective populations. For those who are not familiar with the individuals involved, a photo taken at the time should dispel any doubt about the matter of age.
This means, furthermore, that successive leaders are likewise bound by the set of agreements collectively called the Oslo Accords, unless and until a replacement contract is drawn up and signed by similarly authorized individuals.
From “Occupation” to Self-Administration
Without going into an accounting of how either side of the agreement has not lived up to expectations detailed in the Accords, it is important that we point out the relevance of the Oslo Accords to the so-called Israeli occupation. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a military occupation thus:
control and possession of hostile territory that enables an invading nation to establish military government against an enemy or martial law against rebels or insurrectionists in its own territory.
And a reading of the full text of the second Oslo Accord shows clearly how even if one could call the situation before Oslo an occupation (and there are those who dispute even that), the signing of the Oslo Agreement meant that was no longer true. For example, Section I states:
Israel shall transfer powers and responsibilities as specified in this Agreement from Israeli military government and its Civil Administration to the Council [Palestinian Council] in accordance with this Agreement. Israel shall continue to exercise powers and responsibilities not so transferred.
Furthermore, Oslo II made provision for coordination in civil administration between the Palestinian Council and Israel with the PC offices being located: “in areas under Palestinian territorial jurisdiction in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
In the section covering Israeli military redeployment, the Oslo II Accord states that:
Israel shall continue to carry the responsibility for defense against external threats, including the responsibility for protecting the Egyptian and Jordanian border, and for defense against external threats from the sea and from the air, as well as the responsibility for overall security of Israelis and Settlements, for the purpose of safeguarding their internal security and public order, and will have all the powers to take the steps necessary to meet this responsibility.
To be clear: Arafat agreed to these terms on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs. AGREED TO THESE TERMS.
Dividing Up the Land According to the Oslo Accords
Judea & Samaria was divided into three areas: Area A under exclusive Palestinian Council civil administration and security control, Area B under Council civil administration and conjoint Council and Israeli security arrangements, and Area C, under exclusive Israeli civil and security control. Chapter III states that:
The territorial jurisdiction of the Council shall encompass Gaza Strip territory, except for the Settlements and the Military Installation Area shown on map No. 2, and West Bank territory, except for Area C which, except for the issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations, will be gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction in three phases, . . . [emphasis added]
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the administration of the Palestinian Arab regions is now called the Palestinian Authority (PA).
While there are clearly defined regions in Area C that include a collection of Israeli communities, parts of Area C can be compared to a sea within which Area B villages and towns are scattered as if they are islands. That means that there is a high degree of discontinuity within the territory falling within Area B such that individuals travelling from place to place potentially find their trip seriously impeded by the need to go through Israeli checkpoints (between Areas B and C) in many places.
Without getting into a discussion concerning the hardships claimed by the Palestinian Arabs regarding moving from place to place (something that is apparently debatable), the point here is that this was part of the agreement signed by adult men representing their respective populations. Arafat and other Palestinian Arab negotiators saw the map and they fully understood the implications of the division of the territory, yet they still signed.
If anyone has a problem with the consequences of the land division, let them take it up with Arafat or agree to move on to the final negotiations in which the matter is to be resolved.
Can a Legally Signed Agreement Still Constitute Occupation?
And when they signed, they turned what was more easily called (truly or falsely) an Israeli occupation into something that was no longer an occupation by any means, but an agreed-upon interim status awaiting the final negotiations that seem farther away than ever. The point is, therefore, that you cannot have signed a legal document agreeing to the current situation and then turn around and claim that you are occupied. Well, I suppose you can, and unfortunately many people believe the occupation-lie.
It is time to remind everyone that the Palestinian Arab leaders agreed to the facts on the ground as they are today.
This was first published on Israel Diaries with the title: The Oslo Israeli-Occupation Accords.