For the Labor Party, the fall from the heights of political hegemony to the depth of political oblivion is a fitting fate for the perpetration of the Oslo Accords, which ran counter to every prevailing Zionist norm of the time
Kryptonite: Something that can seriously weaken or harm a particular person or thing – Oxford Dictionary.
Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. An ancient proverb, mis-attributed to Euripides.
More Israelis have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in the 5 years since the first Oslo agreement was signed in September 1993 than in the 15 preceding years…– Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, January 10, 1998.
Today there is no Palestinian state, no peace — and no sign there ever will be either. Since Oslo, about 10,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel…, and more than 1,500 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. – Jon Schwarz & Alice Speri, No One Will Be Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Oslo Accords, The Intercept, Sept 13, 2018.
Last Sunday was the 27th anniversary of the signature of the Oslo Agreements.
In the global media, there was precious little to mark the event that had once fired the imagination of millions across the globe. Moreover, almost all the scanty coverage accorded the occasion was caustically critical of it — in stark contrast to the rosy reports, approving assessments and skewed analyses that accompanied the unfounded hopes and ill-founded expectations that it generated in the past.
Of course, I realize that the past week provided an abundance of more topical issues to write on than a failed and fatally flawed agreement signed well over a quarter century ago. For example, there was the signing of the peace/normalization pacts between Israel and the UAE/Bahrain; the soaring COVID-19 infection rate; the tightening polls for the November presidential elections; the renewed rocket fire from Gaza; or the natural and man-made disasters that are ravaging the US from coast to coast…
When virtue became vice — and vice, virtue
Yet despite the temptation to dive into each and every one of these worthy topics, I have nevertheless decided to focus (or refocus) on what I have referred to in the past —see here (2018); here (2019) and here (2020)—as a traumatic point of inflexion in the annals of the Zionist enterprise and a point of singularity, after which all that followed it was radically different to that which preceded it.
After all, it is difficult to overstate the pernicious and perilous effect that the Oslo Accords have had on the evolution of Zionist endeavor. Indeed, as I noted in a recent article, they constituted a major metamorphosis that transformed what were hallowed virtues into heinous vices. Thus, steadfast devotion to the land and to its settlement by Jews, once considered the defining essence of Zionism, were now branded odious symptoms of territorial avarice. Similarly, military prowess, once a source of pride and an instrument for the preservation of liberty, mutated not only into a means of malevolent oppression, but also into an ominous precursor of imminent fascism.
The reverse was also true. What once was a nefarious vice became a noble virtue. Thus, pursuit of Palestinian statehood transitioned from being borderline sedition to being an essential requirement for enlightenment and the sine qua non for access and acceptance into “polite circles”. Likewise, an abhorrent arch-terrorist miraculously morphed from a brutal, blood-soaked butcher into a sought-after statesman and an internationally lauded peace laureate. No less grotesque was the astounding transformation of his murderous organization from a thuggish terrorist gang, with which contacts were prohibited — and punishable — by Israeli law, into a prospective peace partner, indispensable for the preservation of Zionism.
Blatant bad faith
Many still recall how the ill-conceived Oslo Accords were concluded with great pomp, ceremony and fanfare on the White House lawn in mid-September, 1993. The event was accompanied by giddy optimism and grand promise of the emergence of a “New Middle East”, similar to the EU, stretching from Casablanca to Kuwait, with open borders and linked by a network of modern communications, heralding a new era of peace and prosperity for all the peoples of the region.
Of course, none of these pie-in-the-sky promises were ever fulfilled. Indeed, things began to go awry almost from the get-go. Thus, in 1994, almost immediately after the Palestinian Authority was established, Arafat attempted to smuggle, in his own motorcade, several terrorists into Gaza, who were prohibited from entering the territory by the terms of the Oslo Accords — including by sitting himself on one of them, lying on the back seat of his car! This gross violation of trust was to typify the bad faith shown to Israel throughout the post-Oslowian years — which have compelled it to undertake four major military operations since the heady days on the White House lawns, to contain Palestinian terror launched from territory handed over by Israel to Palestinian-Arab control.
Yet despite being subjected to heavy losses, Palestinian-Arabs have continued their efforts to harm Israel and Israelis unabated — particularly from Gaza. Indeed, only a combination of Israeli forbearance, together with excellent civil defense and good fortune (which have largely rendered ineffective the myriad of Judaeocidal efforts by Palestinian-Arabs) have prevented — or at least postponed — harsher responses than those hitherto undertaken.
A swathe of devastation—political and physical
The Oslo Accords — and the attempts to implement them — cut a swathe of devastation — both physical and political — through the lives of any and everyone who were impacted by them.
For the average Israeli, they heralded trauma and tragedy on an almost daily basis. Every mundane outing was a harrowing and hazardous ordeal. Every trip to a neighborhood café, every visit to a shopping mall, every meal in a restaurant, every ride on a city bus could–and not infrequently, did — culminate in grisly death or grievous injury.
Indeed, rather than fulfill its promise to reduce terror attacks against Israel and Israelis, Oslo in fact heralded an unprecedented increase in them. Thus, in the five years after the Oslo Accords, more Israelis were killed by Palestinian-Arab terrorists than in the fifteen years that preceded them.
But if average Israelis paid dearly for the ideological caprices of their Oslo-era leadership, the cost imposed on the general Palestinian-Arab population has been decidedly greater.
The enhanced access that the Oslo Accords provided the Judaeocidal terror groups to an abundance of firearms and military grade explosives encouraged them to launch a wave of gory attacks on Jewish civilians, which in turn compelled Israel to launch several large punitive counter-attacks, which inevitably and unavoidably inflicted grim collateral damage on Palestinian-Arab civilians.
The initiative, spawned by the Oslo Accords, to foist self-governance on the Palestinian-Arabs produced dismal results.
Despite almost universal international endorsement and huge financial aid, all the Palestinian-Arabs have managed to establish after almost three post-Oslo decades, is a corrupt kleptocracy in Judaea -Samaria and a tyrannical theocracy in Gaza, with a minuscule private sector and a bloated public one, and dysfunctional governance in both.
Not only Right-wing recriminations
In Gaza, the situation is particularly dismal, where much of the dwindling natural water supply is undrinkable; streets are awash with untreated sewage that pollutes the beaches and flows directly into the sea, and incessant power outages reduce supply to a few hours a day.
Condemnation of the dire consequences that the Oslo Accords precipitated, has not been confined to detractors on the Right-wing side of the political spectrum.
For example, radical left-wing political scientist, Neve Gordon, in an article in Aljazeera, entitled The Oslo Accords’ calamities ,writes: “On the eve of the September 1993 Oslo agreements, just before responsibilities were transferred from Israeli hands to the Palestinian Authority, five percent of Gaza’s residents did not have access to running water…Twenty years later… more than 80 percent of Gazans buy bottled drinking water either because they are not connected to water supply or because the water they receive is undrinkable.”
Gloomily, he remarks: “The water crisis in the Gaza Strip is just one concrete manifestation of Oslo’s legacy.”
Looking beyond Gaza and the water crisis, Gordon sums up the grim statistics of the post-Oslo casualties on the Palestinian side: “Surveying the contemporary Palestinian landscape, everywhere one looks calamities meet the eye. During the first 27 years of occupation (1967-1993), Israel killed an estimated 1,850 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. By contrast, during the 20 years since Oslo it has killed more than 7,100.”
He thus concludes dourly: “Following the implementation of Oslo’s so-called separation principle…the average number of annual Palestinian deaths actually increased fivefold.”
For the Palestinian-Arabs, Oslo’s failure on the economic front has been no less resounding. Glumly, Gordon writes: “Along similar lines, the peace accords have increased the economic fragility of the Palestinians. GDP per capita in the West Bank and Gaza has risen from $1,320 in 1994 to $2,489 in 2011, not much more than a $1,000 increase in 18 years. In Gaza…the per capita GDP has risen by less than $300 in two decades, amounting to $1,534 in 2011.”
Accordingly, he underscores the impotence of the Palestinian economy: “…this minute increase is an outcome of foreign aid and has nothing to do with an improvement of the productive capacity of these two regions. Twenty years after Oslo, Palestinian society is completely dependent on humanitarian assistance.”
Thus, despite the fact that its resounding failure is conceded even by the majority of its erstwhile proponents, they still cling doggedly to the elements that underlaid it — such as Palestinian statehood, territorial concessions and political appeasement. Indeed, these pernicious perspectives still permeate much of, indeed, virtually all the aspects of, the current political discourse on the Palestinian issue.
A lingering malignancy in Israel’s body politic
Indeed, the Oslo Accords, or enduring allegiance to the remnants thereof, continue to exert a lingering malignant influence, which overshadows nearly all discussion on policy options — and the lack thereof — on how Israel is to deal with the Palestinian-Arab population west of the Jordan River .
Accordingly, it is of crucial importance to maintain a sustained discussion on the Accords so as to generate the widest possible public awareness of their deadly detriments — for both Jew and Arab alike — and to ensure that nothing even remotely similar to them is ever undertaken again.
The Oslo Accords were the result of one of two elements—or perhaps, a hapless hybrid of both:
(a) The triumph of naïve optimism and fanciful hope, with caution cast to wind with reckless abandon, over somber circumspection and responsible restraint, born of long and bitter experience; and/or
(b) An unscrupulous — and desperate — ploy in domestic politics to marginalize political opponents, with scant regard for the security of the nation and the safety of its citizens.
But whatever the motivation — naïve or nefarious — they clearly backfired on the instigators—consigning them to political oblivion.
Oslo as political Kryptonite
Significantly, the parties which opposed the Oslo Accords show growing strength and, according to the findings, are consistently able to establish a majority coalition in the Knesset — without the inclusion of Avigdor Liberman’s recalcitrant Yisrael Beiteinu, which also opposed them.
But perhaps not less interesting is the fate of the party which initiated and implemented the Oslo process: The once hegemonic Labor Party — the party, which was once, for many, almost synonymous with the State itself; the party, which in many respects was responsible for initiating and establishing a good number of the nation’s primary institutions — from the IDF to the defense industries, from the agricultural enterprises to numerous national infrastructures, from much of the country’s financial institutions to some of its major medical facilities; the party that once boasted a cavalcade of iconic leaders from David Ben Gurion and Haim Weizmann, Israel first Prime Minister and President; to Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister during the Six Day War, Pinchas Sapir, the omnipotent Finance Minister, who laid the foundation for much of Israel’s early industry and commerce…to name but a few.
In every one of the recent surveys, the Labor Party failed to pass the minimum threshold for representation in the Knesset.
The fall from the heights of political hegemony to the depth of political oblivion is perhaps the most fitting fate for the perpetration of the Oslo Accords, that ran counter to every Zionist norm that prevailed at the time.
Thus indeed, Oslo has proven to be political Kryptonite—at least for its perpetrators.
Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.