The famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, under the benign urging of President Bill Clinton, accompanied the signing of the first part of what became known as the Oslo accords. That first agreement, the Declaration of Principles (DOP), outlined a new relationship between the two sides, following more than a year of secret negotiations held in and under the auspices of the Norwegian capital.
The agreement signed 13 September 1993 between the PLO and Israel did not bring an independent Palestinian state into being; it did not call for an end to Israeli occupation or even use the word occupation. But it did transform the terrain on which the diplomatic and political efforts to end the conflict would be waged.
For the Palestinians, the DOP brought about two important goals. First was recognition of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people-important (despite its current weakness) because it meant Israeli recognition that resolving the Palestinian issue meant more than just the question of that part of the Palestinian population living under occupation. Recognition of the PLO reversed a longstanding Israeli policy which rejected the PLO because the organization represents the Palestinians as a separate people, inside and outside the occupied territories. Second, it called for redeployment of Israeli troops out of the Palestinian cities and population centers. It was not an end to military occupation, or even a withdrawal of troops (the troops would remain throughout the occupied territories, on the roads, surrounding towns and villages, etc.). But it represented a major improvement in the lives of ordinary Palestinians who could now go to work or send their children to school without worrying about Israeli soldiers camped on their roof or in the road in front of their house. Neither the letters nor the DOP, however, included Israeli recognition of the Palestinian right to an independent state.
For the Israelis, the DOP brought official recognition by the Palestinians of Israel's right to exist, a renunciation of terrorism and armed struggle. It opened the door to an end to the Arab boycott and the beginning of normalization of Israel's relations with Arab neighbors. That meant the opening of trade relations with surrounding countries, a potentially huge boon for Israel's high-tech advanced economy. It also reflected Palestinian acceptance of responsibility for the economic and social needs of the Palestinian population and for security for Israelis-all without ending Israeli control over the occupied territories.