Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Oslo Accord – Twenty Years On
HIRAYAMA Kentaro  / Former NHK Executive Commentator

September 18, 2013
The showdown over Syria seems to have robbed the media's attention away from the Middle East peace issue. It was on September 13, fully twenty years' ago, that the foundations for a negotiated peace were laid down by the signing of the Oslo Accord. The agreement was based on mutual recognition by the Israeli government and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) as counterparties in the negotiations, and resulted in the establishment of the Palestinian interim self-government. The plan was to gradually expand the autonomous region while seeking a final solution to the tough issues facing Israel and Palestine, such as setting borders and dealing with refugees, within a five-year framework.

The peace process that began with the Oslo Accord has since come to a complete standstill in the face of a myriad headwinds that have blown its way: the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by an Israeli ultra-rightist; the forming of a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu; the lackluster attempts at mediation by U.S. President Bill Clinton; the Palestinian armed uprising (Second Intifada); the death of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat; the rise of Hamas and the subsequent split between the "West Bank" and Gaza; declining interest in peace negotiations on the part of Israel, which had contained Gaza and was relieved by the dramatic decline in suicide bombings; and a rightward shift in opinion among the million or so new immigrants that poured into Israel from the former Soviet Union.

Over the years there have been intermittent proposals for "guidelines" premised on a process of direct negotiation between Israel and Palestine, such as that of the current U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, which is based on the recognition of an independent state of Palestine by the previous administration of President George Bush and the United Nations Security Council, and recommends the two sides to decide on a borderline through land swaps along the ceasefire line preceding the 1967 war. However, successive Israeli governments – most notably under Prime Minister Netanyahu – have accelerated the construction of settlements in the "West Bank," especially around Jerusalem, and 60% of the territory on the West Bank of the Jordan River has remained under Israeli occupation.

In its reluctance to return occupied territory, the Netanyahu government has frantically sought to turn the attention of the international community, and that of the U.S. government in particular, to the "threat of Iran's nuclear arms development, which is of vital interest to Israel." Following Russia's lightening proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control, the Obama administration's stated intentions of launching a limited strike against Syria has been put on hold. Yet, Israeli newspapers have reported that even now AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the largest pro-Israel lobby in America, is continuing its efforts to convince the U.S. Congress into authorizing a military strike against Syria by the Obama administration to deter Iran’s nuclear arms development.

Yakob Rapkin, a Jewish history professor at Montreal University, once said that "the greatest existential threat to Israel lies not in Iran's nuclear capability but in the occupation policy that Israel itself has maintained in Palestine." Mindful of these words, I believe America should give serious consideration to the very roots of anti-U.S. sentiment that persists among the Islamic people, who are by no means all radical extremists.

In early summer this year, ahead of the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commented on Israel's continued construction of settlements, stating clearly for the first time that the United States "views all of the settlements as illegitimate." President Obama has frequently mentioned "America's credibility" with respect to his planned limited strike against Syria. I would like to see that "credibility" verified in the context of the Middle East peace negotiations as well.

The Russian proposal of placing Syria's chemical weapons under international control is expected to result in volatile developments in a new process of multilateral diplomacy. Is it premature to hope that by involving Iran, which has reportedly adopted a "softer approach" under President Hassan Rouhani, we could turn this into an opportunity to create positive change towards resolving Iran’s suspected nuclear arms development and the Palestinian issue as well?

Kentaro Hirayama is former Executive Commentator of the NHK.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山 健太郎 / 元NHK解説主幹

2013年 9月 18日







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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Oslo Accord – Twenty Years On