The year 2013 began early in Jerusalem with a January 1 conference that could set the stage for organized Jewish resistance against the Oslo dream of an Arab state carved into Judea-Samaria (called by some, 'the West bank'). The conference, sponsored by ‘Women in Green’, focused on how to bring Israel sovereignty to Judea-Samaria, not an Arab state. It was the third such conference in as many years.
These conferences appear to be a delayed but strengthening backlash against the Oslo call for a ‘two-state’ solution. Since 1993, Oslo advocates have preached that peace would be ours if Israel surrendered land in order to create a new Arab state. But that hasn’t happened. If anything, Oslo made things worse because almost 6,000 Arabs and Jews have died in on-going Arab-Israel fighting since those Accords were signed, and some 10,000 rockets have been fired into Israel, most since 2005 when, consistent with Oslo’s dream, Israel withdrew from Gaza.
For conference attendees, Oslo does not deliver peace dividends. It delivers attacks. That’s why they gathered in Jerusalem. They want something different.
When the Accords were first signed, the world was delighted. The chief signatories, Yasser Arafat and Yitzchak Rabin, were hailed as heroes. With the stroke of a pen, two enemies appeared to have redrawn the geo-political map of the entire region (Avi Shlaim, ‘The Oslo Accord’, The Journal of Palestine Studies, 23:3, Spring, 1994). US President Clinton went so far as to declare that the ‘children of Abraham had taken new steps on a bold journey towards peace’.
Celebration turned into euphoria—for good reason. Four years earlier, 1989, the oppressive Soviet Union had collapsed; then in 1990, the first President Bush spoke of a new world order where men could solve problems through harmony. Now, 1993, one of history’s most intractable conflicts yielded to that harmony. Oslo was not just another peace agreement. It was a miracle which defied all expectations (Abdelwahab El-Affendi, ‘Making Peace Gambles work’, Journal of Peace, Conflict, and Development, Issue 17, August 2011). It was a miracle that promised to be the singular foundation for an epoch of peace (The LA Times, September 10, 1993).
In 1993, Oslo was therefore not just about the Middle East. It was about creating the new world order men had dreamed about. Arabs would get the freedom they wanted, Jews would get the security they wanted—and the world would get the universal peace it wanted.
It seemed possible: between 1990-2005, it has been estimated that fifty per cent of civil wars from that period ended with peace agreements, more than in the previous two centuries combined, when only one-in-five conflicts ended in negotiated settlement (Christine Bell, “Peace Agreements: their nature and legal status”, 2006). Oslo occurred near the beginning of this fifteen-year cycle. It occurred within a context of creating a new post-Soviet world where, finally, freedom, mutual trust and harmony would reign.
That Oslo dream endures. But the Oslo story does not. There is no peace.
That’s why anti-Oslo advocates met in Jerusalem at the beginning of 2013: to offer an alternative.
You see, there is something about peace-making that Oslo peacemakers might not understand: nearly half of all peace agreements break down within 5 years, and more break down within 10 years (ibid, p375). Many of the remainder collapse into a ‘no-war, no-peace’ limbo (ibid).
Talking about peace is popular. Signing peace agreements is popular. Getting peace to last is not.
The January 2013 conferences attendees appear to understand this. It’s why they look for a different solution. As one speaker hinted, those who oppose Oslo recognize that, in the Middle East, peace never comes to those who surrender land: never.
It’s been almost twenty years since the euphoria of Oslo. We do not have peace. We do not have harmony. We do not even have talks. The Region lives with ‘no-war, no-peace’; or, perhaps more accurately, the Region lives in a ‘war-truce’ limbo, where on any given day we have no idea which way the scales of war—not peace--will tip.
As a result of Oslo, we live suspended between two dreams, one dead (Oslo), the other powerless to be born (the future).
Now, Jews meet in Jerusalem to look for a new future.
One thing is certain: Oslo could never have brought peace. It attempted to solve the wrong problem. The Arab-Israel conflict is not and was not, as many claim, ‘a clash between the Jewish and Palestinian national movements over the land of Palestine’ (Avi Shlaim, ibid). Instead, this conflict is about something else. As one conference speaker put it, Arab Member of Knesset (MK) Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) had, just two days before the conference, summed up why Arabs fight Jews: speaking at Bar Ilan University Tibi declared, ‘all of Israel belongs to us (the Arab).’
The Arab knows what he wants. He wants one state for Israel-- an Arab state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
Those who came to this conference want something different for Israel. As another speaker suggested, Arab MK Tibi is correct. The future of Israel is very clear: it will be either 100 per cent Jewish or 100 per cent Arab.
Since the November, 2012 UN de facto recognition of a new ‘Palestine’, Arab leaders in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority have repeated that they want an Arab future for Israel.
On January 1, 2013, Jews gathered in Jerusalem to declare that they want a Jewish future for Israel.