Has Oslo Achieved Anything for the Palestinians?

March 6 2019

Taking a long view of the place of the Oslo Accords in Palestinian history, and frankly examining their many failures, Ghaith al-Omari nonetheless sees some positive outcomes. In the short term, he argues, Palestinians are best off seeking gradual improvements rather than a grand bargain:

While much can justifiably be said in criticism of the Palestinian Authority (PA), it has so far proved resilient and is fulfilling important functions for the Palestinians. Governance-wise, Palestinian leaders today manage a significant proportion of the Palestinians’ daily lives. While Israel maintains overarching authority, the space for Palestinian self-governance and exercise of political and national life is unprecedented. And despite the PA’s inherent limitations, its establishment brought about a measure of stability to Palestinian national institutions better than at any previous time in modern Palestinian history. [It] seems less vulnerable to dislocation than the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was during its time in Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia. . . .

It is also worth noting that the traditional alternative [to diplomacy and PA governance]—a return to armed resistance using violence and terrorism—also proved ineffective. Palestinians paid a steep price during the second intifada. After three wars between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which only produced disastrous results for Gaza’s population, the idea that independence will be achieved through armed action has lost all credibility. Even Hamas today seems content to limit its demands from Israel to the improvement of living conditions in Gaza. . . .

As for the peace process, . . . a [final] deal is unlikely given both the weaknesses and the divisions within the Palestinian body politic, with no Palestinian leaders today having the political capital necessary to make the hefty concessions needed to reach peace. Also, the current state of Israeli politics and its steady shift toward the right hurt peace prospects.

Instead, the only available option is a series of less ambitious yet concrete steps that impact the lives of Palestinians (and Israelis) such as modestly expanding areas under PA jurisdiction and generally reducing the footprint of the occupation in the West Bank. While such moves fall far short of Palestinian aspirations, they can create a sense of progress, allowing Palestinian leaders to claim that their commitment to diplomacy and non-violence is moving their nation, albeit slowly, toward de-occupation, while giving Palestinians a sense of hope that their future may be better than their present.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Oslo Accords, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians

War with Iran Isn’t on the Horizon. So Why All the Arguments against It?

As the U.S. has responded to Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf, various observers in the press have argued that National Security Advisor John Bolton somehow seeks to drag President Trump into a war with Iran against his will. Matthew Continetti points out the absurdities of this argument, and its origins:

Never mind that President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and Bolton have not said a single word about a preemptive strike, much less a full-scale war, against Iran. Never mind that the president’s reluctance for overseas intervention is well known. The “anti-war” cries are not about context, and they are certainly not about deterring Iran. Their goal is saving President Obama’s nuclear deal by manipulating Trump into firing Bolton and extending a lifeline to the regime.

It’s a storyline that originated in Iran. Toward the end of April, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showed up in New York and gave an interview to Reuters where he said, “I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” but “that doesn’t exclude him basically being lured into one” by Bolton. . . . And now this regime talking point is everywhere. “It’s John Bolton’s world. Trump is just living in it,” write two former Obama officials in the Los Angeles Times. “John Bolton is Donald Trump’s war whisperer,” writes Peter Bergen on CNN.com. . . .

Recall Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes’s admission to the New York Times Magazine in 2016 [that] “We created an echo chamber” to attack the Iran deal’s opponents through leaks and tips to the D.C. press. . . . Members of the echo chamber aren’t for attacking Iran, but they are all for slandering its American opponents. The latest target is Bolton. . . .

The Iranians are in a box. U.S. sanctions are crushing the economy, but if they leave the agreement with Europe they will be back to square one. To escape the box you try to punch your way out. That’s why Iran has assumed a threatening posture: provoking an American attack could bolster waning domestic support for the regime and divide the Western alliance.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Javad Zarif, John Bolton, U.S. Foreign policy