Oslo Is Dead

How To Fix the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

A protester places a Palestinian flag over a section of an Israeli barrier. Courtesy Reuters

Although much remains to be done to ensure that the August cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians is not a mere lull in hostilities, many have already started looking beyond that basic requirement, arguing that it is time to address the root causes of the conflict. I agree. But I do not believe this should mean a rush to hit the reset button on the stalled peace process. That has repeatedly failed, and it is virtually certain to continue to fail in the absence of fundamental adjustments to the existing paradigm, the Oslo framework.

The adjustments I propose fall mainly in two areas. The first relates to Palestinian representation in the context of both the peace process and national governance. The second relates to the question of continued validity of the Oslo framework, especially given that it was designed on the basis of a timeline that long since expired in 1999. 

The question of who exactly has the power or privilege to represent the Palestinian people has been a prominent feature of Palestinian and Arab political discourse since the early days of the contemporary Palestinian revolution. Beginning in the mid-1970s, however, the drive to vest that power solely in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) gained momentum, and it ultimately culminated in Israel's recognition in 1993 of the PLO as "the representative of the Palestinian people" in the context of the highly asymmetrical formulation of recognition in the Letters of Mutual Recognition. Conspicuously, but not coincidentally, missing from that formulation was the characterization of the "representative" as the "sole legitimate" representative.

But that is not why the agreement should be regarded as highly asymmetrical. The more relevant fact is that the PLO received only a qualified recognition from Israel, in the sense of it being conditioned on the PLO's recognition of "the right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security" and with the PLO settling for much less than a reciprocal recognition of the right of Palestinians to a state

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