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By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.

On the thirtieth anniversary of the Oslo Accords, it becomes ever more clear, year after year, how enormous the catastrophe caused by this agreement (from a Palestian point of view) is for Palestine, its cause, its people, the wider Ummah (Arab and Muslim nation) to which It belongs, and its holy sites. In this article, we shine a spotlight on seven catastrophic consequences and “major sins” brought about by this agreement.

First: The Oslo Accords led to the relinquishment of the historical and inalienable right of the Palestinian people, the Arab and Muslim nations, to sovereignty over the majority of the land of Palestine. Indeed, leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) recognized the sovereignty of Israel on 77% of the land of Palestine. Yet the PLO leadership had no right to cede this right, forfeit one of the fundamentals of the Palestine issue, and dismantle the very foundation and “backbone” upon which the PLO was founded. Furthermore, this leadership did not consult its people, the Arab nation, or the Ummah. This concession was unanimously rejected by trustworthy Muslim scholars of the Ummah.

As a result, the “official” PLO leadership was transfigured into a leadership that tolerates the violation of the organization’s national charter instead of protecting it. It refuses the admission of significant and influential Palestinian forces into the PLO based on the charter, rather insisting on their accession only on the basis of violating the charter and upholding the commitments of Oslo instead.

Second: The diminution of the Palestinian national project, which was transformed from one aiming at the complete liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea into a project aiming at establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank (WB) and Gaza Strip (GS) only. Even so, the establishment of this state became contingent upon the consent of the Israeli occupation, as if it was a “charity” invested in paving the way for the establishment of an independent state. The Oslo Accords did not stop at that but compelled the PLO to relinquish one of the most fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, namely the right to engage in armed resistance to end the occupation. Moreover, the PLO leadership committed to preventing Palestinian resistance forces from engaging in armed resistance, pursued and dismantled their cells and imprisoned their members, claiming that they were obstructing the promised fanciful state. This effectively stripped Palestinians of the ability to exert any meaningful pressure on the occupation.

The diminution of the Palestinian national project also led to diminution of the PLO itself, which became a mere department of the bloated Palestinian Authority (PA), in turn subservient to the occupation. As decision-making shifted to inside Palestine, where the occupation holds sway, Israel became a conspicuously silent participant in the Palestinian decision-making process, given its ability to allow or prevent meetings from convening, determine who could participate, and complicate or facilitate Palestinian processes in line with its interests.

On the other hand, the diminution of the Palestinian national project resulted in the neglect and abandonment of the role of the Palestinians abroad, who represent more than half of the Palestinian people.

Third: Moving from the Illusion of a Palestinian State to a Functional Entity Serving the Occupation:

The Oslo Accords did not establish a two-state solution within predetermined commitments; instead, it effectively provided Israel with the ability to merely manage a peace process while advancing its goals, and subjected the resolution of final status issues to its will. Typically, when independence and liberation movements enter into agreements, they settle core issues beforehand, leading to the withdrawal of the occupier, then subsequent negotiations focus on procedural aspects and implementation mechanisms. By contrast, the Oslo Accords delved into details and particulars to form a limited self-rule administration dominated by the occupation and left major issues unresolved, such as Israeli withdrawal from WB and GS, independence, sovereignty over the land, the right to self-determination, control over borders, the future of refugees, the future of Jerusalem and the future of settlements. The Oslo Accords also removed the United Nations as a reference frame and waived international resolutions binding for Israel, effectively granting it endless room for stalling.

This gave Israel a golden opportunity to control the trajectory of Palestinian self-rule (PA) and link it to its conditions and requirements. Over thirty years, it succeeded in transforming the PA into a body that serves the occupation’s interests more than those of its own people. Its security forces expanded, consuming massive budgets to “control” the Palestinian population, suppress resistance and pursue its members. Consequently, it relieved Israel of the burdens and hardships of managing the daily lives of Palestinians.

Fourth: Laying Deep Foundations for Entrenched Palestinian Division:

While Palestinian history has witnessed divisions before, the agreements resulting from the peace process and the Oslo Accords laid the groundwork for a profound, severe and protracted division among Palestinians. This division emerged because one Palestinian faction made unilaterally a critical decision, including making a historic concession giving up most of Palestine and an unfair settlement with Israel. Consequently, Palestinian unity was shattered concerning the fundamentals, the management of the national project, the priorities of each stage and the Palestinian national program. This meant a blow to the common ground that had served as the basis for Palestinian action. It pivoted one major Palestinian faction from resisting the occupation to resisting resistance, on the pretext of new priorities and statehood.

Consequently, Ten Palestinian Factions emerged in opposition to the Oslo Accords, representing a significant popular weight in the Palestinian arena.

It became extremely difficult, if not impossible, to align the vision of either side with that of the other. Neither the resistance is willing to compromise its path nor is the leadership of PA and Fatah willing to abandon its commitments.

Fifth: Undermining Palestinian Institutional Work:

The diminution of the PLO was one of the casualties of the Oslo Accords. Its role diminished and was kept in the “resuscitation room,” only summoned to sign on predetermined decisions when needed. The PLO institutions, bodies and departments were effectively paralyzed. Its Palestinian National Council (PNC) could not convene, and its purpose was nullified, rendering it an empty vessel. Its door was closed to the resistance factions that had come to dominate more than half of the Palestinian street. The commitment to the Oslo Accords became an obsession for the PLO leadership that did not welcome the forces of resistance, as they had the potential to “disrupt” this commitment if they entered the PLO bringing in their full weight and influence.

On the other hand, a fragile PA emerged under occupation, with systems and institutional structures doomed to failure, where the occupation controls the land, sea and air, and the PA’s security, economy, land, and water. Israel directs the PA to meet its needs rather than the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Sixth: A Cover for Judaization and Settlement Activities:

The Oslo Accords did not compel Israel to halt its settlement and Judaization activities during the negotiations. Consequently, Israelis benefited from the peace process as a cover for land seizure, Judaizing holy sites, bringing in more settlers and establishing new facts on the ground. This effectively thwarted any possibility of the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state in WB and GS.

As a result, the number of settlers increased from around 280 thousand in 1993 to over 900 thousand by 2023, in addition to settlement expansion. Palestinians were deprived of the use of approximately 60% of WB, under the pretext that these were Area C regions controlled by the occupation. The Separation Wall was erected absorbing about 12% of WB, along with the construction of hundreds of bypass roads and checkpoints, isolating the WB regions from each other.

Israeli occupation became a “five-star” occupation and “sanitized” one under Oslo Accords, and under the protection of the PA.

Seventh: Israeli Penetration of and Normalization with the Arab and Muslim World:

The Oslo Accords helped to “legitimize” Israel, allowing many countries to establish relations with this occupation, justifying their actions by saying they can’t be “more royalist than the king”!!
The image of resistance was also tarnished, portraying it as “deviating from the national line.”!!

Normalization provided an opportunity for Israel to weaken and isolate the Palestine issue from its Arab and Islamic environment, leaving the Palestinians alone in the confrontation, as Israel worked to dictate its vision for a solution and close the Palestinian file. It allowed Israel to reset the conflict compass of Arab and Muslim countries, from being with Israel to becoming regional sectarian conflicts, effectively blocking the way to the forces of resistance and their popular Arab and Islamic support base. Thus, giving Israel what it needs to be stable and transform into a “natural” entity in this hostile environment, as well as becoming the “policeman” of the region.


In conclusion, the Oslo Accords and their aftermath were one of the biggest disasters to befall the Palestine issue, and a tragic indication of the failure of the PLO leadership in its political and institutional duties, deviating from the goals upon which the organization was founded.

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 20/9/2023

The opinions expressed in all the publications and studies are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of al-Zaytouna Centre.

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