Proving that what’s old is new again, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas asserted in a Jan. 14, 2018 speech that Israel has “killed” the Oslo Accords, which created the authority nearly a quarter-century ago. Abbas’ bizarre comments—intermixed with claims that Jews have no historical connection to Israel and give Palestinian children drugs, among other absurdities —drew the attention of The New York Times and some other major news outlets. But for years it is the PA that has been violating Oslo—and the press and policymakers would do well to note it.
The PA was established in May 1994 as a result of the Israel-Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Declaration of Principles (DOP) during the Oslo peace process. As with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Fatah movement has long dominated the PA. All three entities are currently led by Abbas, the 82-year old successor to Yasser Arafat, who is currently in year thirteen of a single elected four-year term.
Four days before Oslo was signed in a White House lawn ceremony, then-PLO head Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin authored letters of mutual recognition on Sept. 9, 1993. Arafat asserted that a “new era” had dawned and pledged that the PLO “recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security,” a commitment to a “peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.” The PLO also renounced the “use of terrorism and other acts of violence” and pledged that the Palestinian Covenant—which denied Israel’s right to exist—would be changed.
In exchange, the PLO was given a base for limited self-rule in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, much needed international donor funds and the chance to establish a state through bilateral negotiations with Israel.
As historian Efraim Karsh has pointed out, Oslo rescued the PLO. In the preceding years, Arafat’s PLO had retreated from Lebanon and was a US-listed terror group with its headquarters in Tunis. Infighting had increased, and Arafat had alienated key Arab allies and donors by supporting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
But Arafat and his PLO soon disregarded what President Bill Clinton referred to as “the promise of a new beginning.”
As early as May 10, 1994, Arafat told South African Muslim leaders that the Oslo accords “fell into the same category as the Treaty of Hudaibiya that was signed by the Prophet Muhammed with the people of Mecca in 628, only to be reneged on a couple of years later when the situation titled in Muhammad’s favor.” Arafat’s words were recorded by a member of the Jewish community who had infiltrated the meeting posing as a Muslim—provoking demands from Israeli officials that he repudiate them. Arafat never did.
Nor did the Palestinian leadership cease its support for terrorism. Arafat and other top PA apparatchiks both approved and funded the creation of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a U.S.-designated terrorist group. Arafat’s own personal bodyguard unit, Force 17—trained and equipped by the U.S. and EU as part of Oslo—carried out terror attacks throughout the 1990s and during the Second Intifada, from 2000-2005.
Arafat himself reportedly decided to launch the Second Intifada—in which more than one thousand Israelis were murdered—while pretending to engage in peace talks with the U.S. and Israel.
In fact, the PA rejected U.S. and Israeli statehood offers in exchange for peace with the Jewish state, in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference, among other occasions.
Arafat’s successor—and his right hand man during Oslo negotiations—has hardly been better. In addition to refusing the Israeli government’s 2008 offer and, in recent years, bilateral negotiations with the Jewish state, Abbas has both incited and condoned terrorism.
In the last four years alone, Abbas’ government has doled out more than one billion to terrorists and their families. Those who murder Jews are rewarded with streets signs, sports teams, even schools, named in their “honor”—all approved by PA entities.
The hatred that fuels terrorism is approved by the PA’s Ministry of Education. A 2016 study by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education found that Palestinian textbooks “groom young Palestinians to sacrifice themselves for martyrdom” and use maps that erase Israel—violating Oslo, which stipulates that both parties “will ensure that their respective educational systems contribute to the peace between Israel and Palestinian peoples.”
The PA’s disdain for Oslo is so complete that its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riyad al-Maliki, said during a press conference on Feb. 15 2016, that he would never directly negotiate with Israel. His remarks were widely underreported.
If Oslo was “killed,” the culprit—if often unacknowledged—is obvious.