On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords, former military experts, politicians, security officials, and journalists gathered in Jerusalem on Monday at a conference titled “The Oslo Accords at 30: Lessons Learned.” The participants had been involved in or covered the Oslo Accords. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Habithonistim, and the Middle East Forum’s Israel Victory Project hosted the all-day event.
The participants, who represented a broad spectrum of political beliefs, examined the Oslo Accords, which were adopted by the State of Israel in September 1993. They evaluated voices supporting and opposing the agreements, assessed the observance of the agreements from the Palestinian side, the coverage and awareness of the Israeli public as a condition for the agreement, and formulated policy proposals for the future of the Accords.
The main conclusions of the discussions were that the government and many parts of Israeli society rallied to support and implement the agreement largely out of longing for a dream of peace, while the Palestinian side had no intention of reaching peace at all. For the Palestinians, the Oslo Accords saw the agreements as a victory for the violence of the First Intifada.
The Chairman of the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, MK Yuli Edelstein, said that after witnessing the manner in which the Palestinian Authority forces took control in 1995, he was so certain there would be an uptick in violence that he applied for a gun license for the first time.
Former Labor Member of the Knesset Einat Wilf said the Palestinians never wanted sovereignty, but rather, they wanted to prevent the existence of a Jewish state. Today, she said, the Arab countries are in the best position to tell the Palestinians what they have never been told, that they have lost the war against the existence of a Jewish state and must find a solution to live alongside Israel and not in its place.
The Director of the Government Press Office, Nitzan Chen, who covered the agreements as a reporter for Israel’s Channel One, said: “Looking at it from a broad perspective, there was no media pluralism. Of course, I am criticizing the way Oslo was covered, but we have to remember that the media of 1993 is not the media of 2023. The entire media discourse has changed. In 2023, the media would not work as it did then, and Oslo would probably not have passed in the same way. At that time, there were different opinions here and there, but the narrative, emphasis and tone were one-sided and in favor of the Oslo Accords.”
“Thirty years since the days of Oslo, the world has changed completely. That period was characterized by the fall of the Soviet Union, hopes for the rise of the European Union, and the consequences of the Gulf War, all of which brought the Arab bloc into crisis,” Major General (res) Gershon HaCohen, member of the Bithonistim movement said. “These brought forth new thinking, the perception of change and the creation of a dream in Israeli society to enter into a broad political agreement”.
“The Oslo Accords were never peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Whilst Israel was thirsty for peace, Yasser Arafat and the PLO simply saw the agreements as a trojan horse to establish a foothold in Israel from which it would build its military capabilities to realize the goal of destroying the Jewish state,” said the Director of the Initiative for Palestinian Authority Accountability and Reform at the JCPA Maurice Hirsch.
“What many understood then, and we understand even more now with the release of the records, is that Oslo was more of a hope than a strategy,” said Nave Dromi, director of the Middle East Forum Israel, which leads the Israel Victory Project. “It was built on dreams and illusions that the Palestinians wanted peace as much as we did. That was as false then as it is today. Palestinian violent rejectionism still leads their nationalist movement with no room for peace or a sovereign Jewish presence. Until they understand that we are strong and permanent, there can be no more compromise or negotiations.”
Among the other participants were former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Dan Diker, the Chairman of the Bithonistim movement Brigadier General (Res) Amir Avivi, former head of the research division of the IDF Intelligence Corps Brigadier General (Res) Yossi Kuperwasser, Director General of the Fund for Economic Cooperation and Initiatives of the Madrid Conference and the Oslo Accords Dr. Yair Hirschfeld, military reporter Yossi Yehoshua, the commander of Galey Tsahal Danny Zaken, political reporter Ariel Kahana, and the founder of the Shurat Hadin organization attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and others.