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Oslo Accords

The Oslo Accords were a series of agreements negotiated between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO, acting as representatives of the Palestinian people) in 1993 as part of a peace process between the countries, officially called the Declaration of Principles. Despite the high hopes expressed in the Accords and in the subsequent agreements, that also promised the normalization of Israel's relations with the Arab world, the problem has not been resolved.

Rabin, Clinton, and Arafat on September 13, 1993

The talks leading to the agreement was initiated by the Norwegian government, who were at reasonably good terms with both parties. Main architects behind the plan was Johan Jørgen Holst (the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs), Terje Rød-Larsen and Mona Juul. The negotiations were undertaken in total secrecy in and around Oslo, with breakthrough meetings taking place in the home of Minister Holst, and was signed on August 20, 1993. There was a subsequent public ceremony in Washington D.C on September 13, 1993 with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin.

The principles agreed were, in essence, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and the Palestinian right to self-government within those areas through the creation of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian rule would last for a five year interim period during which permanent status would be negotiated (beginning not later than May 1996). Permanent issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, Israeli settlements in the area, security and borders were deliberately excluded from the Accords and determined as not prejudged. The interim self-government was to be granted in phases. Until a final status accord was made, West Bank and Gaza would be divided into three zones:

Together with the principles the two groups signed Letters of Mutual Recognition - The Israeli government recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people while the PLO recognized the right of the state of Israel to exist and renounced terrorism, violence and its desire for the destruction of Israel.

In addition to the first accord, namely the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government, other more specific accords are often informally known as Oslo. The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (also called Oslo 2), signed in September 1995 which gave the Palestinians self-rule in Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Tulkarm, and some 450 villages.

Addition Israeli-Palestinian documents related to the Oslo Accords are the 1994 Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area (May 4, 1994), the 1994 Washington Declaration (July 25, 1994), the Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities Between Israel and the PLO (August 29, 1994), the 1997 Protocol on Redeployment in Hebron (January 15, 1997) and the 1998 Wye River Memorandum (October 23, 1998).

In 2000 USA President Bill Clinton sought to keep the "Oslo Peace Process" moving forward by convening a summit between PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This Camp David 2000 Summit ended in failure, with no resolution to the conflict. The al-Aqsa Intifada that started up in 2000 following the collapse of the summit added to the crumbling of the credibility of the Oslo Accords, to the point that by 2003 the right wing in Israel, and Palestinian Islamic groups such as Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah considered the accords to be dead for all practical purposes.

The escalation of violence by Palestinian suicide bombers and the military re-occupation of the West Bank by the Israel Defence Force made further discussions impossible even though President George W. Bush has laid out a so-called "road-map for peace" that could lead to a cease-fire and restart the negotiations and the stalled peace process. 2003 saw Ariel Sharon re-elected as Israel's prime minister calling Yasser Arafat a terrorist and would neither meet with him nor shake his hand. Rather consideration was given as to the whether Chairman Arafat should be kept holed up under siege in his head-quarters in Ramallah or sent away into exile. And, Israel was in no mood to negotiate, putting a complete military cordon , or "closure", around the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in February 2003 as war loomed in the Middle East between the United States of America and the Iraq of president Saddam Hussein.

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