Twenty Years Ago, Israelis Learned Something New about Their Conflict with the Palestinians. The Rest of the World Is Still Catching Up

In the years following the 1993 Oslo Accords—which gave Palestinians, for the first time in history, limited sovereignty as a step toward political independence—Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians became more common. With the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, suicide bombings became more frequent still, leaving hundreds dead. Shany Mor describes the state of public opinion at the time:

The consensus that a military offensive would be folly was not just the ramblings of mushy leftists and peaceniks. It was by and large the consensus of nearly all the experts in Israel and abroad. Any operation, it was argued, would result in hundreds of casualties to Israeli forces. It would not have the support of the United States or other major powers. It would leave in its wake hundreds if not thousands of civilian casualties. And, most importantly, it simply would not work. Every dead terrorist would spawn three new ones, increasing the sense of grievance and rage that was supposedly fueling the violence to begin with. We know today, with hindsight, that many of these premises turned out to be false.

In 2002, the IDF began extensive military operations that, contrary to all expectations, defeated the intifada. Israel has not since seen terror reach the levels of the 1990s, let alone the early 2000s. Mor assesses the impact of these events:

The 1993 Oslo Accords were pitched to Israelis with a double promise. They would improve the security of Israel, battered by decades of terrorism. And if that first promise remained unfulfilled—even after Israel recognized the PLO and carried out the staged withdrawals from the Gaza Strip and West Bank as called for in the agreements—then the whole world would see who the bad guys really were and stand by Israel. Neither promise was realized and each disappointment left deep scars on the Israeli psyche.

The rejection of statehood and descent into suicidal violence had yielded absolutely nothing positive for the Palestinian cause. . . . [Yet, the] idea that the final defeat of Israel is near if we just wish for it hard enough has never had more purchase on the pro-Palestinian intellectual discourse.

Read more at State of Tel Aviv

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Oslo Accords, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority