photo: Perez and Arafat in 2001 (EPA)
Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Perez, a.k.a. the â€śGodfather of the Oslo Accordsâ€ť has died at the age of 93, after suffering a stroke. For posterity, Perez, was the Israeli PM who signed the â€śaccordsâ€ť which were no â€śtreatyâ€ť.
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 â€“ Palestinian discourse closely will also beÂ remembering him as â€śThe Godfather of the Oslo Accordsâ€ť.
Perez earnedÂ thisÂ â€śhonorary titleâ€ťÂ when he openly admitted that Israelâ€™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 strategyÂ of negotiating as much as necessary to be able to continueÂ the implementation ofÂ plans for a greater Israel to the tee. In 2013 Perez would state â€śWe 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 itâ€™s not a good political planâ€ť.
That said, Perez never used his considerable political influence to mount a tangible opposition to Israelâ€™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 â€śinternational communityâ€ť.
History books will most probably be written to champion Shimon Perez for his â€śdedication to the peace processâ€ť even before the Oslo Accords. In the late 1980s Perez was involved inÂ covert negotiations with Jordanâ€™s King Hussein.Â In 1987 these negotiations resulted in the signing of the London Agreement that outlined a framework for an Arab â€“ Israeli peace. The agreement focused on the development of economic ties between Israel and Jordan and largely sidelined Syria and the issue of Israelâ€™s occupation of the Syrian Golan.
And even though, Israelâ€™s Prime Minister at that time, Yitzak Shamir, rejected the agreement, Israelâ€™s and Jordanâ€™s ties had become closer and Jordanâ€™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 â€śpeace processâ€ť while the colonization of Palestine and the Golan continued unabated without bringing peace.
Perez became again involved in the â€śpeace processâ€ť 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 â€“ Palestinian discourse would claim thatÂ both Peres and Rabin had to change their mind about dealing with the PLO abroad and thatÂ 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,Â transformed theÂ 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 â€śinterimâ€ť Palestinian National Authority (PA), which would fulfil functions of government within Palestinian territories includingÂ in education, social welfare, health care, direct taxation and tourism.
The accords stipulated thatÂ elections would be held within nine months and allowed Yassir Arafat to return to Gaza. Israel, for its part, wasÂ supposed to withdraw from Gaza and Jericho within four months. The PLO, in return,Â agreed remove chapters in its charter that called forÂ the destruction of Israel. One of Perezâ€™ great achievements was that he persuaded the PLO to give guarantees about the Israeli peopleâ€™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 differenceÂ between theÂ 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 â€śjailâ€ť has been manifest in the form of decades of â€śpeace talks, accompanied by an ever more aggressive military occupation. The Oslo Accords were, legally speaking, an interim agreement, not a treaty. HowÂ incompetently the Al-Fatah dominated PLO leadership was, like a sleepwalker, and it walked into the trap that had been prepared by Rabin. This blunderÂ becomes painfully obvious when one studies the Oslo Accords carefully and discovers that the Accords did not:
The PLO signed the accords based on the â€śassumptionâ€ť that Israel would, in earnest, negotiate a final settlement of these issues within a five-year period. What the PLOÂ received from the hands of IsraelÂ 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 â€śA Palestinian Surrenderâ€ť. Saidâ€™s assessment of the accords as a surrender were as correct as his assessment that the product of the Oslo Accords would be â€śa Palestinian leadership in disarrayâ€ť. He was correct in that assessment too. These are the real achievements of the late Shimon Perez. These achievementsÂ are part ofÂ â€śtheirstoryâ€ť, the history of the Palestinians.Â It is unlikely that they will be published in official â€śhis-storyâ€ť textbooks.
CH/L â€“ nsnbc 28.09.2016
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Chris Carlson is a student of religion at Mount Mercy University, United States, and has been a regular volunteer with the IMEMC since 2013. He assisted in providing extensive coverage of the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip, and continues into the present day, with the issues at hand. He can be reached via email at c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g.