Jonathan Zausmer

Oslo is dead! Long live Oslo!

The tradition arose in medieval France and England. For fear of an unmanned throne in the event of the death of the monarch that could, in its wake bring chaos and civil war, on burial of the dead king the new king was declared. So began the saying “The king is dead. Long live the king!”

Now how does this play out here? Well we are always hearing the phrase “Oslo is dead”. We don’t quite know who actually killed Oslo. Settlers were the first to declare it. As early as 1995 with the death of Rabin, the construction of illegal outposts (those deemed illegal by the Israeli Supreme Court built on land not “state owned”. For clarification, according to international law all settlements in occupied territory are illegal) and rogue settlement activity precipitated an uninterrupted course of sowing havoc in the face of a possible peace. Indeed those who declared Oslo dead were in the advanced stages of driving a sword through it: “Oslo is dead” was the triumphant cry of those involved actively, illegally, and with premeditation in assassinating the peace process. Along the way since then, not only the settlers have been party to the dismantling of the peace process. From Netanyahu in 1996 through to Barak at Camp David, from Arafat through to Hamas, from the Tanzim through to the one-state-solution left, all have had their moment. Oslo has been stabbed a thousand times but here’s funny thing. Unlike Henry III in England in 1272, unlike Charles VI in France in1442 and unlike Henry XV, all of whom were definitively human and actually died, the Oslo Accords have transmuted into the Oslo Accords (henceforth simply “Oslo”). And unlike the kings who ruled, the mutated Oslo has become a slave, a tool in the hands of those who killed it – and who keep it alive.

Confused? So was I until I saw the answer in an epiphany of radiant clarity on a tour of the West Bank. Oslo is alive and well and living in Palestine. In Israel we call Palestine Judea, Samaria and G…(we don’t like to say Gaza anymore. The G word was quickly forgotten by settlers who realized no one has plans to go back there). Oslo is today the oil that lubricates the machine of occupation, the grease that eases the crunching wheels of oppression, the instrument that shapes the mighty Greater Israel under the guise of “disputed territory” to be negotiated on the never-never schedule while we grow and cultivate our little colonial welfare state enterprise where only Jews have rights and the rest have obligations.

It works like this: Oslo set rules and determined boundaries for Palestinian areas still part of the greater Israel and in 1993 destined for negotiation and ultimately a two-state solution.

So you have areas A, B and C. To make it simple, A = Arabs, i.e. areas such as cities like Ramallah, Jericho and so on. There the Palestinian security forces control the population and Israelis are not supposed to be there and, if there at all, are there either there as peace missionaries, curious adventurers or Shin Bet agents. Then you have Area B. B = Both. In other words towns in the West Bank that are usually small villages under the authority of local municipalities and Palestinian jurisdiction but where Jews and Arabs may wander to and fro under  the umbrella of Israeli security. Finally you have C. C = Control.  Our control. Area C is 60% of the West Bank and thus 60% of the future Palestinian state to be. This is under the full and total control of the “Civil Administration” (which is not at all civil but a military authority under the control of the Israeli army which rules civilians). This is the area that Mr. Bennett wishes Israel to annex under the pretext that this will “calm” the situation. Who will be calmed? Israel, nations of the world, the Palestinians. Why will they be calm? Well Israel will grant citizenship to several thousand Palestinians and leave the remaining millions without land for a state. Why will that calm them?  No one has figured that out yet. Bennett didn’t tell us that part.

It is Area C that Israel rules with a powerful military presence; man’s checkpoints at random; stop locals at a whim; allows the abuses and flagrant flouting of law by Jewish radical settlers while fixating on the smallest infringement by locals who wish to build a fence or a wall; practices differential ethnic preference in roads, electricity, water and allocation of resources.

The story doesn’t end here though. Palestinian security forces were once, as we all know, a raggedy poorly trained, poorly chosen collection of folk in the early days of Oslo. And yes, they abused their position and committed crimes more than once at the outset of the second intifada. However since Bush’s Roadmap for Peace and during the Abbas government rule, they have been trained, skilled and are managed carefully. Today the Palestinian security forces are an integral, if not the integral factor in maintaining law and order, in preventing terror and coordinating matters on a daily basis with Israeli security. This in fact was one of the core concepts at Oslo in order to create conditions for withdrawal from Palestinian cities and ultimately a future Palestine. It was a key stipulation within the Roadmap and it has been met. Another condition of the Roadmap was to be met by Israel: no more settlement.

Oslo lives on. And in its mutated form, still ensures Palestinian recognition of Israel while denying Israeli recognition of Palestine. And while Israel builds in Palestine the Palestinians keep the peace. Settlers continue their mission in Area C unabated and Palestinian police take care of Palestinians in the seething cities.

Field of dreams.

–          If you build it, they will come.

–          Who will come?

–          Never mind

Oslo is dead?

–          Here lies Oslo. Long live Oslo!

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.