The Prime Minister’s handshake with Chadian President Idriss Déby makes a great photo op and media reports about his secret visit to Oman also sound great, but we must not let the flashes of the cameras blind the public and blur the facts. The accomplishments for which Benjamin Netanyahu takes credit were not set in motion today, nor during the ten years he has been in office. They are a distinct reverberation of the historic process that began in 1993 , a process that we all know as the Oslo Accords.
Those who remember the political and economic climate of the State of Israel at that time can testify that the country prior to the Oslo Accords is not the same country as today. Netanyahu has benefited both directly and indirectly from the relationship between Israel and the Arab world that was formed in the wake of Oslo.
Netanyahu tends to easily take credit
The media is treating the resumption of ties with the African country of Chad favorably and so are we. After 47 years of severed ties, Benjamin Netanyahu and Idriss Déby have shaken hands. Netanyahu has called the move a “breakthrough” and is enjoying the fruits of a tree that he neither planted or cultivated. Since this is not the first time that Netanyahu has taken credit for an achievement that is not his, it is important that we understand where it all started and how this process developed. Who knows, perhaps we will be able to formulate a strategy on this basis that will lead Israel to achieve similar successes.
Where are the Oslo Accords’ opponents taking us?
To this day, public debate continues over the Accords that ranges from fierce opposition and even incitement to an understanding of the profound meaning and long-term potential inherent in them.
The Oslo Accords represent a desire and willingness to create a separation between us and the Palestinians. They are not perfect, but they outlined a great path to the alternative of a binational state, or in other words, an apartheid state and the destruction of a Jewish and democratic state. Those who seek such a binational state seem to be deluding themselves into believing in a miracle that the Palestinians will disappear from Israeli soil, that we will have a Jewish majority, and that we will take over and rule forever. This fantasy clearly has no basis in reality.
Bibi “opposes” Oslo, but has never revoked it
Oslo was an agreement of principles that gave the Palestinians autonomy in Area A and a bit in Area B. The agreement had two objectives. One was to transfer the responsibility over tax collection and municipal administration to Palestinian control, thereby removing the burden from the Israeli taxpayer. The second and primary objective was security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which has continued until today with even greater success than in the 1990s and which has prevented thousands of tragedies in Israel.
The arrangement was supposed to enter a phase of talks five years later for the purpose of reaching a permanent settlement, but this did not happen. Ehud Barak failed in the talks and Ariel Sharon chose to unilaterally disengage from Gaza. Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni actually made great progress, but it was stopped at crucial moments. Bibi, who has been serving as prime minister for 10 years now, is very critical of Oslo yet does not revoke it. In fact, he lives with Oslo, holds onto Oslo, speaks against it yet acts in favor of it, and incites against it but does not revoke it.
The seeds of Oslo bear fruit
The seeds that were sown back then in Oslo at the start of talks, with the Palestinians and with our other neighbors, have sprouted and grown in different directions. There are ups and downs as well as a range of approaches and opinions that are influenced by the expectations and wishes of each side. After all, this is a sensitive situation that demands mutual responsibility. However, it must be understood that Oslo has had a resounding effect over the years and has brought numerous benefits along with it.
The first advantage is the decision to separate both in principle and in practice – an agreement that says yes to dividing the land. Two states for two peoples. Another impact of Oslo is the peace agreement with Jordan signed by Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein in 1994, an agreement that normalized relations, set borders, and divided resources between the two countries.
Israel’s relations with Egypt were also deadlocked before Oslo. Only after Rabin worked to settle the agreements did the political and security alliance between the two countries resume. It began in the era of Hosni Mubarak and continues to this day with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Relations with North African countries, particularly with Morocco, were established and strengthened. Meetings with the king have taken place openly, there have been several official visits, there is Israeli tourism in Morocco, and four economic conferences for the Middle East and North Africa have been held there since 1994.
Concurrent with the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel succeeded in developing diplomatic ties with Tunisia and Mauritania, where an Israeli embassy was established but was unfortunately closed following Operation Cast Lead.
After the Oslo talks, diplomatic contacts were renewed with African countries that had severed contact with us as a result of Israel’s wars. Following the repair of diplomatic relations, new embassies were built and we were able to establish diplomatic representation in Qatar. The resumption of ties with Chad has also recently become a part of this series of diplomatic ties.
Additional developments in the form of intensive secret meetings have been taking place behind the scenes with the Gulf states. Rabin already visited Oman in 1994, and since then there have been other secret visits, such as to Abu Dhabi. These interactions are what enable Israel to establish strategic ties and to obtain intelligence from most of the Arab countries with which we do not have diplomatic relations.
The Israeli economy has also greatly developed thanks to Oslo. The diplomatic processes that were made possible by the Oslo Accords have had an impact on global banks and international funds. Investment in Israel has increased by tens of billions of dollars in American and European funds. The entire high-tech system has been built on foreign investments in which a variety of governments were involved.
The Oslo Accords, as problematic as they may have been, have played a significant role in strengthening our international relations. It is due to them that there is recognition today of the strategic and security problems faced by Israel. Yitzhak Rabin was accepted all over the world as someone who brought world peace and not just regional peace. It is for this that he also won the Nobel Peace Prize. This fact continues to have an impact on our image in the global arena to this day.
The Butterfly Effect
In conclusion, no Israeli prime minister that has served from Oslo until today has ever revoked the agreement. Even those who spoke out and incited against it never gave up on it for the simple reason that they understood its security, political, and economic benefits.
The fundamental decision that was made in 1993 and that continued in talks in subsequent years led to a dramatic change in Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, which went on to influence our relations with neighboring countries, the West, and the entire world. As a result of Oslo, diplomatic, security, and economic relations have developed that are the foundation of our state as we know it today. Without Oslo, they may have very well not been possible.