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Sharon Travels to Oslo and Revisits Peace
Last uploaded : Friday 18th Jul 2003 at 22:42
Contributed by : Terje Roed-Larsen


This month Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel visits Norway for the first time. His trip is loaded with symbolism.

To many people, Norway's capital Oslo shares its name with the much-maligned peace plan between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization ? which marks its 10th anniversary this summer. Recently, Sharon courageously accepted the latest attempt to forge Middle East peace, the Quartet's road map (authored by the diplomatic coalition of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.)

By doing so, the Israeli prime minister effectively returns to the decade-long Oslo

As I write this, I can picture many Palestinians and Israelis from across the political spectrum throwing up their arms, rolling their eyes, and crying out, ?Enough!? To some of them, and many disinterested observers, Oslo was a failure. Better leave it, they say, in the overflowing dustbin of other failed peacemaking efforts.

But if you pin any hopes on the road map succeeding, then you must recognize that this really is just the next stage, and the last, along the Oslo road. The journey started on Sept. 13, 1993, with the Declaration of Principles. This process was based on gradual steps, taken in parallel, that encompassed political, economic and security moves.

The road map embodies the exact same principles and explicitly builds on Oslo's series of accords, the only agreements ever signed between Israel and the PLO. Moreover, by accepting the road map, the government of Israel has entered into a partnership for peace with the Palestinian institutions created by Oslo: the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestinian security forces.

The road map may be the continuation of Oslo, but there are important differences in its approach. The drafters of the road map learned from the cardinal mistake in the Oslo accords, the absence of a third party monitoring system. The road map has a mechanism, with broad and deep international backing, to oversee the parties' adherence to their obligations.

But the major difference is that while the original Oslo map was open-ended, the current plan has a stated end goal - two universally recognized states, Palestine and Israel, which have full diplomatic relations with each other. If the road map attains this goal, it will have fulfilled the aspirations of Oslo

An explicit end goal could not be stated ten years ago, simply because there was no possibility in Israel, even on the left, to get a popular consensus on the establishment of a state of Palestine. A decade on, the Oslo process has produced an ideological revolution in Israel: not only do the political left and center now support the establishment of a state of Palestine, but so does Israel's Likud prime minister. In this sense, Sharon's trip to Norway symbolizes that he is poised to travel further down the Oslo path than any Israeli leader before him.

It would be na?ve to believe that words can automatically be translated into a just and durable peace. Based on a true ceasefire, Sharon knows that his historic pronouncements must be matched by decisive first steps by West Bank checkpoints and settler outposts and releasing Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinian Authority on their side must ensure that a declared ceasefire takes hold and establish a monopoly on the control of arms.

To truly fulfill the goals of Oslo and the road map, Israel must also take another step in its ideological revolution: removing settlements, stopping ongoing West Bank and expropriation and, eventually, withdrawing from land Israel occupied in 1967. As the road map states, this must be accompanied by an end to all Palestinian violence and terror.

Sharon arrives in Norway amidst controversy, as many seek to focus on his actions in Israel's past wars. But when he meets his Norwegian counterpart, Kjell Magne Bondevik, Sharon deserves credit for the bold steps he has taken back to the negotiating table first set in Norway a decade ago. This is the time for encouragement - not for opening up quarrels between the past and the present, which might lead to a loss of the future.
First published in The International Herald Tribune.
The writer is the UN special envoy to the Middle East and an architect of both the Oslo accords and the road map.
JewishComment is grateful to Common Ground News Service for Copyright Clearance.




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