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.