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Home   »  Resources  »  Miscellaneous Resources  »  Understanding the Conflict: A ...  »  PART THREE: Recent History

Why didn't the Oslo process work?


The problem was, the supposedly "easy" interim issues proved to be too difficult, and most of them never were resolved. As a result, no one ever even got around to discussing the final status questions. And no one-meaning the U.S., which remained the sponsor of the diplomatic process-was prepared to weigh in on the side of the Palestinians in the hope of balancing the extraordinary disparity of power that characterized relations between the two sides.

The Oslo process began under a Labor government. In May 1996, the right-wing Likud Bloc won the new Israeli elections, defeating the assassinated Rabin's successor Shimon Peres, and bringing to power Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Netanyahu had campaigned against the Oslo accords, and when elected he reneged on almost all of the Israeli troop redeployments his predecessor had agreed on. He continued the construction of settlements and bypass roads in the occupied territories that the Labor Party had encouraged, and consolidated the most nationalistic settlers as a core component of his constituency.

When the Labor Party returned to power in 1999, another hard-line general, Ehud Barak, became prime minister. He escalated the pace of settlement building even beyond that of Netanyahu, resisted troop redeployments, increased closures of Palestinian territory and house demolitions, and raised the government subsidies to settlements in the occupied territories.

For Palestinians, things went from bad to worse, and diplomatic exchanges between the two sides still trying to implement Oslo's "interim" issues, deteriorated. So at the end of his presidency, having invested a huge amount of personal prestige in figuring out a solution to the conflict, Bill Clinton summoned the top Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Camp David for a summit to jump straight into the final status issues. It was a go-for-broke plan, in which negotiators would immediately face the central issues that had divided Israelis and Palestinians, and had brought about the failure of earlier diplomatic efforts, for years.


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