photo: Perez and Arafat in 2001 (EPA)

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Perez, a.k.a. the “Godfather of the Oslo Accords” has died at the age of 93, after suffering a stroke. For posterity, Perez, was the Israeli PM who signed the “accords” which were no “treaty”.

Shimon Perez will primarily be remembered for the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Those who have followed the Israeli – Palestinian discourse closely will also be remembering him as “The Godfather of the Oslo Accords”.

Perez earned this “honorary title” when he openly admitted that Israel’s long-term strategy aims at negotiating as much as necessary to buy time to implement the plans for a greater Israel.

In 1994 Perez was awarded the Nobel peace prize along with then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The 1993 Oslo Accords also led to a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, one of the Arab countries that today cooperates closely, although covertly, with Israel in the war against Syria.

The signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan was, however, also no great surprise for those who recall that Jordan previously called on the Israeli Air Force for help when tank units of the Palestine Liberation Army, supported by Syrians, rushed toward Jordan where the Jordanian Army was fighting against the PLO.

Perez has always been a skillful negotiator and he refined the strategy of negotiating as much as necessary to be able to continue the implementation of plans for a greater Israel to the tee. In 2013 Perez would state “We can and should bring an end to the conflict, and we have to be the initiators. Playing hard-to-get may be a romantic position, but it’s not a good political plan”.

That said, Perez never used his considerable political influence to mount a tangible opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and against open statements by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, to the effect that Israel will permanently annex the Syrian Golan Heights, regardless of international law, UN resolutions and the “international community”.

History books will most probably be written to champion Shimon Perez for his “dedication to the peace process” even before the Oslo Accords. In the late 1980s Perez was involved in covert negotiations with Jordan’s King Hussein. In 1987 these negotiations resulted in the signing of the London Agreement that outlined a framework for an Arab – Israeli peace. The agreement focused on the development of economic ties between Israel and Jordan and largely sidelined Syria and the issue of Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan.

And even though, Israel’s Prime Minister at that time, Yitzak Shamir, rejected the agreement, Israel’s and Jordan’s ties had become closer and Jordan’s advocacy for the PLO and Syrians in the Golan became side-issues, to be taken up when it was politically opportune. It is in this regard that Shimon Perez also will be remembered as a great negotiator. The Godfather of the Oslo Accords that have led to decades of “peace process” while the colonization of Palestine and the Golan continued unabated without bringing peace.

Perez became again involved in the “peace process” in the early 1990s, while serving as foreign minister under Rabin. To launch negotiations with the PLO top-leadership and PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat in Tunis. Some students of the Israeli – Palestinian discourse would claim that both Peres and Rabin had to change their mind about dealing with the PLO abroad and that Peres felt that it was futile to keep Arafat in exile in Tunisia since it made co-operation between the two sides more difficult.

Others would note that having the PLO leadership move to East Jerusalem, then force it to flee to Ramallah, transformed the PLO leadership into an Israeli hostage, made it more easily accessible for Israeli military action than it would be in Tunisia, broke the back of the international struggle against the Israeli occupation, and rendered the PLO obsolete as a military factor that could pose a threat to Israel.

What is little known is also the fact that parts of the Oslo Accords remain classified, by both Israel and the PLO, until this day. One of the most important known points in the accords is that Israel would recognize Palestine and that the PLO would recognize the State of Israel. The accords also created the “interim” Palestinian National Authority (PA), which would fulfil functions of government within Palestinian territories including in education, social welfare, health care, direct taxation and tourism.

The accords stipulated that  elections would be held within nine months and allowed Yassir Arafat to return to Gaza. Israel, for its part, was supposed to withdraw from Gaza and Jericho within four months. The PLO, in return, agreed remove chapters in its charter that called for the destruction of Israel. One of Perez’ great achievements was that he persuaded the PLO to give guarantees about the Israeli people’s right to live in peace and security while Israel did not make concessions such as guaranteeing the right of Palestinians to return.

When Palestine is concerned, it appears, the difference between Perez and current Prime Minister Netanyahu is like the difference between the good and the bad cop during a police interrogation. In the end, you are more likely to confess to a good cop like Perez, but make no mistake, both are there to put you in jail if they can. For the PLO and Palestinians this “jail” has been manifest in the form of decades of “peace talks, accompanied by an ever more aggressive military occupation. The Oslo Accords were, legally speaking, an interim agreement, not a treaty. How incompetently the Al-Fatah dominated PLO leadership was, like a sleepwalker, and it walked into the trap that had been prepared by Rabin. This blunder becomes painfully obvious when one studies the Oslo Accords carefully and discovers that the Accords did not:

  • Settle the status of Jerusalem;
  • Consolidate the right of return for refugees displaces in 1948 and their descendants;
  • Clarify the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza;
  • Delineate the borders of Israel or of a Palestinian State;

The PLO signed the accords based on the “assumption” that Israel would, in earnest, negotiate a final settlement of these issues within a five-year period. What the PLO received from the hands of Israel was decades more of settlement expansion but no settlement. No final treaty was signed in 1998, as promised.

The prominent Palestinian scholar Dr. Edward Said criticized the Oslo Accords from the get go as “A Palestinian Surrender”. Said’s assessment of the accords as a surrender were as correct as his assessment that the product of the Oslo Accords would be “a Palestinian leadership in disarray”. He was correct in that assessment too. These are the real achievements of the late Shimon Perez. These achievements are part of “theirstory”, the history of the Palestinians. It is unlikely that they will be published in official “his-story” textbooks.

CH/L – nsnbc 28.09.2016

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