How fragile was the Oslo Accords between Israel, Palestine?

-Soroor Ahmed

Yitzhak Rabin, the architect of Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War (5-10 June 1967), is the only serving Prime Minister of the country to be assassinated––ironically not at the hands of a Palestinian, but a Jew.

He was the Chief of the General Staff of Israeli Defence Force during that period, that is between 1964 and 1968. He fought in the first war with Arabs at the time of its creation on May 14, 1948. He is among the most decorated soldiers of that country.

Yet he was assassinated on November 4, 1995 by an ultra-nationalist Jew, Yigal Amir, as the latter was opposed to the signing of Oslo Accords two years earlier (1993).

Rabin shared Nobel Peace Prize with PLO leader Yasser Arafat and his own foreign minister Shimon Peres. It was a landmark agreement, which in a way paved the way for a sort of a two-nation solution–Israel and Palestine with some autonomy.

Incidentally Amir shot Rabin at the end of a peace rally in Tel Aviv on November 4 night.

Apart from Labour Party, whose Prime Minister Rabin was, and a couple of small Left-leaning parties no one was there to really accept the Oslo Accords and even give this much concession to Palestinians.

The rightist Likud Party, now led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, its breakaway Kadima (of now late Ariel Sharon) and several smaller religious groups never accepted Oslo Accords. So was the ultra-rigthist Evangelists like  Trump in the United States.

Once again ironically, it was the first Likud government led by the then PM Menachem Begin, a known hardliner (1977-83), who signed Camp David Agreement with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. They both shared Nobel Peace Prize. It was after the signing of this Agreement on September 17, 1978 that Israel withdrew from Sinai, which it had snatched from Egypt in 1967. But it was then said that the Camp David Agreement was actually the outcome of the pressure applied by the then US President Jimmy Carter on Israel.

However, the same Likud and other rightists were dead against any deal with Palestinians.

With hardline Likud in power in Israel and even rightist Donald Trump in Washington the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state was a foregone conclusion.

As reported Trump’s move has been widely criticized by almost all the countries of the world but not much has been written about the impact it will have on the internal politics of Israel, the country in which the Labour Party has last won the election in 1999. Very much like Congress in India the Labour Party–under different nomenclature till 1968–ruled Israel in the first three decades since its existence (1948-1977).

The Labour Party has changed its leader eight times in the last 18 years––it is out of power since 2001. It seems that after Rabin it could hardly retain its ground. At present it has 19 MPs in the Knesset of 120 and it is headed by Avi Gabbay.

Analysts are of the view that majority of electorate supports the two-state solution of Labour and left parties yet they continue to vote for right-wing parties. Perhaps that will change if Labour is led by a right-winger within the party.

Gabbay is determined to break the image of Labour as a left-wing party.  He is not the first leader of any Labour party in the world to tilt to the right.

One of those he has sought advice from is former British prime minister, Tony Blair, one of the architects of “New Labour”, and who dropped its commitment to nationalising industry.

But Gabbay’s position is different from that in Britain, where no religious and emotive issue is involved. That is why he welcomed President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

However, Gabbay added that he hoped it would be accompanied by trust-building measures that will “resuscitate” prospects for peace.

“We have to announce an end to settlement-building outside the [major settlement] blocs, to transfer Palestinian villages and neighborhoods in [Israeli-controlled areas of] the West Bank to civil Palestinian control. There is no realistic solution other than two states for two peoples,” Gabbay told Israel Radio.

Gabbay, however, went on to assert that Jerusalem would remain undivided under Israeli sovereignty in any future peace agreement.

(The writer is the author of the book, The Jewish Obsession.)


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