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Oslo Still Points the Way to Peace
Last uploaded : Wednesday 1st Oct 2003 at 16:15
Contributed by : Shimon Peres


19 September 2003

TEL AVIV - People who have made mistakes throughout their whole life call
the Oslo peace accords, declared 10 years ago, an error. Those who
advocated a "Greater Israel," who opposed a Palestinian state (and changed
their minds in the last year), are the very ones who created the greatest
illusion in the annals of Zionism. Namely, that it is possible to maintain
a Jewish and democratic state on all of the territory that lies between the
River Jordan and the sea. On this stretch of land live 5.5 million Jews
and 4.5 million Palestinians. If a division of territory is not effected
within a decade, the Arab minority will have become an Arab
majority. Israel will no longer be a Jewish state - or will stop being a
democratic state.

A Jewish state is not a religious notion, but a democratic one: the
creation of one place in the world where the Jewish people are in the
majority. Should the Jewish people lose their majority, they will turn
into exiles in their own country. The 100-year effort to build a Jewish
and democratic state will have gone down the drain. If an attempt will be
made to rule, not by the strength of a majority, but by the strength of
force, then we shall have betrayed the ethical values of the Jewish
people. It is only in the last year that the political right wing in
Israel finally understood that if the territory is not divided, we shall be
unable to reach peace and we will fail to accomplish our goal - that of a
Jewish state with a democratic majority.

With Oslo, we applied the basic moral values of the Jewish people - not to
rule over another people against their will. Build our relations with our
neighbors on the basis of an agreed peace and mutual respect. Replace
terror by negotiations. We identified the Palestine Liberation
Organization as a suitable negotiating partner (preferable to Hamas); note
that the PLO agreed to the 1967 map, giving the Palestinians 24 percent of
the West Bank, as opposed to the 1947 map that granted the Palestinians 55
percent of the territory.

The Oslo peace accords aroused global enthusiasm. It garnered the support
of the major part of the Jewish public and most of the Palestinian
public. The agreement led to a drop in terrorist activities. The Israeli
economy, and the Palestinian economy, started to bloom. In the aftermath of
Oslo, we signed a peace treaty with Jordan, and the threat of a regional
war almost totally faded. What, then, went wrong? Basically, on our side,
accelerated settlement activities. On the Palestinian side, an
unwillingness or inability to clamp down on the terrorist militias that,
through their actions, derailed the peace agenda.

If those who encouraged the wave of settlements had understood a quarter of
a century ago what they now know (that maintaining a Jewish Israel
necessitates a Palestinian state), they would not have established hundreds
of settlements that created a map difficult to integrate into peace. Had
Arafat implemented his commitment to put a stop to terror by outlawing the
terrorist organizations and putting their leaders in prison, an independent
Palestinian state would have been established long ago. Nothing undermined
the aspirations of the Palestinian people more than the terror attacks by
Hamas and Islamic Jihad. When they murdered Israeli women and children,
they also killed the motivation and rhythm of a process that aimed at
putting a stop to the ongoing conflict, granting the Palestinians their

Nonetheless, a "road map" delineating a path to peace has been
outlined. This map, endorsed by both sides, demonstrates that an agreement
exists in principle regarding the character of a future solution. The
obstacles to its realization are the errors of the past. Democracy allows
for errors. But they need to be rectified. Israel corrected a basic
mistake when it recognized the need for the establishment of a neighboring
Palestinian state. On their side, the Palestinians are required to stamp
out terror, which threatens to destroy their own future, even as it is in
the making.

I engaged in negotiations with both Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and also with
Abu Ala (Ahmed Qurei). Neither is a Zionist. Both are ardent Palestinian
patriots. Yet they identified peace as a Palestinian interest. I saw how
they acted on its behalf. Arafat, who signed on to the Oslo map (with
little enthusiasm), headed the Palestinian revolution. Yet when he had to
start operating by the rule of law rather than the law of violence, he
failed the test. A decade has gone by since we signed the Oslo
Accords. No cause is forever lost, even if some lose their faith. Quite
the contrary - 10 years after Oslo, we possess a map that makes peace
possible on the basis of two states for two peoples. The peace process is
presently in crisis. Anyone with eyes knows that we must not succumb to
it. Peace will prevail. It started in Oslo, and at the end of the day, it
will prove to be the only option for all the peoples of the Middle East who
choose life.
The writer is the former foreign minister and prime minister of Israel. He
shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for
crafting the Oslo Accords. On Sept. 22, Peres will celebrate his 80th birthday. This comment was distributed by Global Viewpoint for Tribune
Media Services International, Ten Years Later.

JewishComment is grateful to Common Ground News Service for copyright clearance.



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