On 13 September 1993, a beaming US President Bill Clinton, flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, stepped onto the lawns of the White House.
The men were there to sign the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, also known as the Oslo Accords.
The Accords were heralded as laying the foundation for interim Palestinian self-rule in the Occupied Territories, which was supposedly a stepping stone to a Palestinian state.
It was rubbish. Arafat renounced the claim of the Palestinian people to 80 percent of historic Palestine and agreed to postpone negotiations regarding the final status of Jerusalem, the Occupied Territories, water, sovereignty, security, the illegal Israeli settlements and the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the last stage of the “peace process”.
No guarantee was given by Israel regarding the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and statehood. Israel did not renounce control over the Palestinian territories it had occupied in 1967, nor did it agree to withdraw troops or dismantle the colonies it had been building since the 1970s.
The Oslo Accords were in part an attempt by the Israeli and US ruling classes to defuse and undermine the Palestinian popular uprising (Intifada) that erupted in 1987.
The uprising had spread across the Occupied Palestinian Territories and was led by the United National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU), a popular democratic coalition of Palestinian factions, including Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian Communist Party and Islamic groups.
The UNLU called for the formation of popular committees in each village and town to oppose Israel’s occupation through a coordinated boycott of Israeli goods and refusal to pay Israeli taxes, a boycott of working in Zionist settlements and a general strike and closure of all businesses for designated periods both in the Occupied Territories and inside Israel.
In response to the Intifada, Israel placed the Occupied Territories under curfew and instituted a policy of mass arrests, accompanied by the beating and shooting of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and mass exile of Palestinians from the territories.
In both the occupied West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian refugee camps were put under siege in an attempt to force the more than 120,000 Palestinians workers who worked in Israel to return to work.
Unable to stop the Intifada by force, the Israeli ruling class reluctantly entered into “peace negotiations” with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
While Israel’s signing of the Oslo Accords has often been depicted as the Zionist state being committed to peace, the Accords in fact simply provided a more efficient way for Israel to achieve its long-held strategic goal of controlling the occupied West Bank and other Palestinian territories.
According to the Israeli academic Tanya Reinhart, Oslo was “in effect the realisation of Labour’s long standing Allon plan, by which Israel would keep about 40 percent of the West Bank’s land and in the rest, the Palestinians would be allowed to have a functioning autonomy”.
The Allon Plan left Jerusalem district, Hebron district and the Jordan Valley under Israeli control, with the remaining territory under Palestinian autonomous control. Oslo, far from being a stepping stone to a fully fledged Palestinian state, instead allowed Israel to enact a version of the Allon Plan, while stabilising and deepening its occupation of Palestinian territory.
During the 20 years of the Oslo Accords, Israel has doubled the number of settlers from 260,000 to more than 520,000 and expanded the area controlled by settlements to over 42 percent of Palestinian land.
In the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the White House lawn signing of the Declaration of Principles, Israel approved the construction of at least 3,600 more housing units in its illegal colonies in both the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.
During the 20 years of the “peace process”, Israel has also demolished approximately 15,000 Palestinian buildings, including homes, water systems and agricultural facilities.
A new policy brief released by Palestinian organisation Al Shabaka notes that in 2009-10, 50 percent of Palestinians were living in poverty.
The Oslo Accords have caused the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to become, as Palestinian scholar Edward Said predicted, Israel’s “enforcer”, helping to deepen the Zionist state’s economic and political control over Palestine.
Yet while the US government, Israel and the leadership of the PA have continued to push forward a fake peace and flog the Oslo dead horse, Palestinians have continued their struggle for self-determination and national liberation. They deserve our solidarity.