Twenty Years Later: Oslo's Rocky Legacy

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As Jews in Israel and around the world mark Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, the holiday this year falls on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, Sept. 13, 1993.

That ceremony was supposed to bring an era of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, a time when they would begin to put their differences aside.

The concept seemed simple enough: Israel would give up West Bank territories it won in the 1967 Six-Day War, while the Palestinians would recognize Israel and get their own state. The two peoples would then live side by side in peace and secuirty.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin hailed the agreement on that day, telling a crowd of distinguished politicians, diplomats, and journalists, "Enough of blood and tears. Enough!"

But a Palestinian Authority government mired in corruption had different ideas, and through the 1990s terrorist groups increased their campaign against Israelis. And just two years after the White House ceremony, Rabin was murdered by an Israeli gunman.

Still, the peace process moved forward, and President Bill Clinton almost brokered a deal between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 1999, in which the Israelis would give up most of the Judea and Samaria--the West Bank--and part of Jerusalem.

But Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected the agreement. The result was a second Intifada and a wave of terror attacks and suicide bombings leading to more than 2,000 deaths on both sides.

Former Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia claims Israel is at fault.

"I blame the Israeli soldiers for two reasons," Qureia said. "One, they have the power, and second, they are the occupier, and they want to take; they want to take more from the empty pocket of the Palestinians."

Under pressure from the West, the peace process continued. But the Bush administration departed from past U.S. policy and refused to deal with Arafat, seeing him as part of the problem rather than the solution.

With Mahmoud Abbas in power after Arafat's death in 2004, the Israelis, under Ariel Sharon, pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, uprooting more than 8,000 Jewish residents from their homes. They hoped it would lead to peace.

Instead, it led to elections favoring the radical Hamas in Gaza, and thousands of rocket attacks on a growing number of Israeli cities.

By this time, many Israelis had begun to realize that their concessions weren't leading to peace. And when President Barack Obama called for Israel to return to negotiations with the 1967 borders as a starting point, plenty of Israelis were outraged.

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon exclaimed, "Enough with giving land. Enough with giving concessions. Enough with President Obama telling us to go back to the '67 lines. We will not do it. We will not get out from our homeland. We will build in Judea and Samaria."

This spring, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to jump start talks between the Palestinian Authority and the Netanyahu government. But in mid-September, as Israelis commemorate Yom Kippur with signs of war all around them, the promise of Oslo seems like a distant memory.

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CBN News
John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

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