NY Times Errs on Oslo and Two-State Solution

APRIL 11 UPDATE:

New York Times Corrects

After CAMERA informed journalists of the problems detailed here, the New York Times corrected its inaccurate description of the of the Oslo Accords. See below for a detailed update.

The New York Times incorrectly claimed this week that the Oslo Accords "committed both sides to a two-state solution." The inaccurate description appeared in Richard Pérez-Peña’s story online on April 8 and in print the following day.

While the Accords, a set of peace agreements signed by Israel and Palestinian leaders in the early 1990s, did give Palestinians self-government and promised further negotiations on the main issues dividing the parties, none of the agreements call for a Palestinian state.

This was underscored by Martin Indyk, formerly a U.S. ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, in a piece for the Atlantic marking the 25th anniversary of the agreements. The Oslo Accords, he wrote, "did not provide for a Palestinian state." Later in the piece he re-emphasized that the two-state solution is "a concept that is nowhere mentioned in the Oslo Accords."

Virulent critics of Israel acknowledge the same. In the New Yorker, Rashid Khalidi wrote that "In Oslo and subsequent accords, the Israelis were careful to exclude provisions that might lead to a Palestinian political entity with actual sovereignty." Palestinian statehood, he continued "are never mentioned in the text." Avi Shlaim stated in the Guardian that the Accords "did not promise or even mention an independent Palestinian state at the end of the transition period," and reiterated in the Journal of Palestine Studies that “The most basic criticism [of the Accords] was that the deal negotiated by Arafat did not carry the promise, let alone a guarantee, of an independent Palestinian state.”

In the New York Times itself, Henry Siegman pointed out that “The Oslo accords obligated Israel to engage in negotiations of ‘final status’ issues, but the accords provided no hint as to what Palestinians had a right to expect as the outcome of those negotiations. Indeed, the very term ‘Palestinian state’ did not appear in the accords.”

The Times has also published a Q&A by the Council on Foreign Relations that contrasts a reference to Palestinian statehood in the 2003 "road map" peace plan with Oslo’s omission of that end:

How does the road map compare to the 1993 Oslo Accords?

Experts say that, in some ways, it is much the same. Like the Oslo Accords, which collapsed in 2000 without being implemented, the road map sets incremental steps on a path toward Middle East peace. Both documents are a framework for negotiations, not set agreements.

But there are important differences that give some experts hope that the road map will fare better than Oslo. In the road map, both sides will agree at the outset on the goal of a Palestinian state. Oslo did not endorse any final settlement, leaving it open to negotiation.

CAMERA has called on Times editors to correct its error.

 

Update: New York Times Corrects

After CAMERA informed editors that the Oslo Accords do not refer to Palestinian statehood or a two-state solution, the newspaper published the following correction:

An earlier version of this article misstated a commitment of the Oslo accords, the 1993 agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Oslo accords called for a negotiated settlement, but did not commit both sides to a two-state solution.

We commend the forthright correction.

 

For a look at how the newspaper has fared in its coverage of Israel this year, see our 2019 Times Line