Oslo Accords 30 Years On: New Framework for Middle East Peace Must Be Found

Thirty years have elapsed since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords, which aimed to achieve peace, yet both sides continue to reciprocate violence. A new framework for peace negotiations must be found.

The Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993 after negotiations in the capital of Norway, which mediated the negotiations.

Until that time, Israel, which was established in 1948, and the Palestinians had a hostile relationship due to the immigration of Jewish people to the area that forced Palestinians off their homeland, and wars between Israel and Arab nations that supported the Palestinians repeatedly occurred.

The Oslo Accords recognized the mutual legitimate right to exist and set forth the direction toward a two-state solution in which a Palestinian state will be established in the future to coexist with Israel. There is no doubt that the accords were historic, given the fact that many countries welcomed them.

Difficult issues, however, such as the legal status of Jerusalem with both sides claiming as their capital and the timing of the return of Palestinians to their homeland, were left to future negotiations. Despite repeated efforts by the United States to mediate, the gap between the two sides could not be bridged, and peace negotiations have remained at a standstill since they were last held in 2014.

Israel has been expanding Jewish settlements in the Palestinian Authority’s territories in recent years. Palestinians lack the capability to be a responsible party to peace negotiations due to corruption in the self-governing authority and its split with the Islamist group Hamas.

Terrorist attacks against Israel by Hamas and Israeli attacks on the territories of the Palestinian Authority show no signs of abating. The Oslo Accords have effectively collapsed, and it must be said that reviving them will be difficult.

At the very least, Israel and the Palestinians need to exercise restraint and put a stop to the cycle of violence.

U.S. involvement in the Middle East has waned, and it is difficult to expect Washington to play the role of an influential mediator that it had once undertaken. New forms of engagement are essential to break the stagnation in the process to solve the Palestinian issues.

Saudi Arabia, with its growing influence in the region, likely holds the key.

While maintaining cooperative ties with the United States, Saudi Arabia has normalized relations with Iran, which had been an enemy, amid the process of reforming its economic structure to become less dependent on oil and diversifying its foreign policy. The kingdom is also reportedly seeking to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are among the Arab nations that have already established diplomatic relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia, a leading power among Arab nations, may be able to encourage progress on the Palestinian issues during normalization talks with Israel.

Japan, which has good relations with both Israel and the Palestinians, should continue to advocate the significance of coexistence.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 19, 2023)