On September 13, 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin shook hands with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn, marking the signing of the Oslo Accords that were supposed to pave the path towards an independent Palestinian state and peace for Israel.
Looking back after 25 years, with neither of those objectives achieved and often appearing more distant than ever, David Ze’ev spoke to Joshua S. Block, CEO & President of The Israel Project, about the prospect of peace in the future.
Asked why the Oslo Accords failed to become actualized, Block replied that the “same ingredients and obstacles to mutual recognition and progress remain the same now than they were 25 years ago.” As examples he listed Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis; a culture of incitement found “at every level of Palestinian society”; The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and the perpetuation of the refugee problem; as well as the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Block explained that the Israeli government and the Israeli public are largely in favor of the two-state for two people. However, “the question is do the Palestinians accept a permanent, sovereign Jewish presence in the land of Israel?” he asked.
Block said he “hoped” to see the peace process continue but lamented the Palestinian leadership’s failure to engage with their Israeli counterparts, American officials, and even Arab negotiators from Egypt.
The Palestinians “are putting themselves in a corner,” Block observed. “If they come out of that corner and want to engage in a peace process and genuine dialogue, I think there could be something successful.” Block cited the tectonic shifts in the region as a result of the Arab Spring and the “desire” for sustainable peace among Israel’s Arab neighbors.
When asked if the Trump administration were right to close the PLO mission in Washington, D.C., Block said that the “PLO, at the moment, is not engaging in an active peace process. They are rebuffing every opportunity to negotiate. They continue to give money to the salaries of terrorist in violation of the Taylor Force Act – money that governments around the world asked them not to give.”
He added: “You don’t need diplomatic missions, if you don’t engage in diplomacy.”
President Donald Trump has heralded the U.S-led peace initiative as “the deal of the century,” while PA President Mahmoud Abbas derided it as the “slap of the century.” The PA and Abbas have previously defied other efforts of the administration to facilitate peace with Israel.
The administration has criticized Abbas and the PA for blocking peace efforts. In December of last year, a White House official charged that Abbas’s rhetoric “has prevented peace for years.”
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]