OSLO: FIVE YEARS OF DELUSION

In September 1993, representatives of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation initialled an interim peace agreement named after the city in which it had been negotiated in secret.

Subsequently signed in a high-profile ceremony on the White House lawn, the Oslo Accords held the promise of an end to decades of Arab terror against Israel, while meeting Palestinian aspirations to rule themselves within a negotiated framework.

Five years and around 300 funerals later, however, practically the only ones celebrating the anniversary of the much-heralded breakthrough are the accord's architects, the Israeli "peace camp", and the Palestinian Authority elite which has enriched itself in the process.

If the last election results are anything to go by, most Israelis are of the view that too much was being conceded too quickly—with little in exchange. Of deepest concern has been the continued campaign of anti-Jewish terror, with suicide bombers alone murdering at least 160 people, and wounding thousands more, since the Oslo signing.

For their part, Palestinians are reportedly unimpressed with the results of Oslo, either because their unrealistic expectations of total Israeli surrender and Palestinian triumph haven't been met; or because the process has foisted upon them a corrupt and often brutal dictatorship.

The process has been effectively deadlocked for more than a year now, stalled over Israel's unwillingness to cede more territory to the PA until it acts firmly and consistently against terrorist elements operating from areas it already controls.

Nonetheless, PA chairman Yasser Arafat has vowed to declare an independent state in May 1999, the deadline envisioned by the Oslo drafters for the completion of "final status" negotiations.

Some Israeli commentators believe Arafat would prefer the current stalemate not to be broken before that date, on the grounds he would win more domestic and foreign support for a unilateral declaration of independence in a climate of increased anger and frustration over Israeli "intransigence".

Writing in The Jerusalem Post, veteran political commentator Moshe Zak argued that Arafat wanted "to reach the ceremony in which he will announce the independence of Palestine with a deep rift with Israel forming the glue to unify his own camp. For the same reason, he wants the Palestinian National Covenant to be unchanged, including all its anti- Israel clauses" (August 26).

As our unofficial "scorecard" shows (pages 2,3), the Palestinians have gained far more from Oslo than have the Israelis. The "land for peace" formula upon which American Mideast policy is so uncompromisingly founded has been shown over and over again to be a travesty.


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