What were the details of the Oslo Accords?
On September 13, 1993 representatives of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)signed the “Declaration of Principles On Interim Self-Government Arrangements”, a document also known as the “Oslo Accords”. They were signed at a Washington ceremony hosted by US President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1993, during which Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ended decades as sworn enemies with an uneasy handshake. This agreement was the fruit of secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, represented by the PLO, following the Madrid Conference in 1991.
The Oslo Accords contain a set of mutually agreed-upon general principles regarding a five year interim period of Palestinian self-rule. So-called “permanent status issues” are deferred to later negotiations, to begin no later than the third year of the interim period. The permanent status negotiations were intended to lead to an agreement that would be implemented to take effect at the end of the interim period.
The main points of the Oslo Accords (or Declaration of Principles = DOP):
- Transfer of Powers to the Palestinians:
- The DOP features an agreement in principle regarding a transfer of power and responsibilities to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, so they may have control over their own affairs.
- The DOP does not prejudge the Permanent Status:
- The DOP specifically states that permanent status issues, such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements and borders are to be excluded from the interim arrangements and that the outcome of the permanent status talks should not be prejudged or preempted by the interim arrangements. During this period, the Israeli government retains sole responsibility for foreign affairs, defense and borders. Israel’s position on Jerusalem remains unchanged. When the DOP was signed, Prime Minister Rabin stated that “Jerusalem is the ancient and eternal capital of the Jewish people.” An undivided Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, with religious freedom for all, is and remains a fundamental Israeli position.
- Security remains an Israeli responsibility:
- In the DOP, Israel and the PLO agree that during the interim period, Israel will remain responsible for security along the international borders and the crossing points to Egypt and Jordan. Israel will also retain responsibility for and the overall security of Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli settlements in those areas, and freedom of movement on roads.
Implementation of the DOP was specified to involve the following phases:
- Gaza-Jericho: Self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, including a withdrawal of Israeli forces from those areas (the “first redeployment”), is to serve as a first step in the implementation of the DOP. The details of the Gaza-Jericho aspect of the DOP were negotiated and concluded in an agreement signed in Cairo between Israel and the PLO on May 4, 1994.
- Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities: In the rest of the West Bank, five specific spheres — education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism — are to be transferred to Palestinian representatives through early empowerment. Additional spheres may be transferred as agreed by the sides. The DOP proposed that this transfer of powers take place immediately following the implementation of the Gaza-Jericho agreement.
- The Interim Agreement and Elections: A modalities agreement regarding the election of a Palestinian Council and a comprehensive Interim Agreement specifying the structure and powers of the Council will be negotiated. The Interim Agreement will detail the self-government arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza. Concurrent with the elections, Israeli forces are to be redeployed outside populated areas to specified locations. The Palestinian Council will have a strong police force in order to guarantee public order and internal security. Central to the DOP are two economic annexes which outline economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians, both bilaterally and in the multilateral context.
- The Permanent Status: Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the permanent status will commence as soon as possible but not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period (May 1996). These talks will determine the nature of the final settlement between the two sides. It is understood that these negotiations will cover remaining issues including Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest. Under the DOP, the permanent status will take effect 5 years after the implementation of the Gaza-Jericho agreement, namely May 1999
A letter on key issues of the PLO and Israel, addressed to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was signed by Yasser Arafat on September 9, 1993. The letter says specifically that:
- The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.
- The PLO accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338
- The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process… all outstanding issues … will be resolved through negotiations
- … the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators
- … those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel’s right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid
- … the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant.
Rabin gave a letter in exchange to Arafat, also dated September 9, saying:
- … Israel has decided to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and commence negotiations with the PLO within the Middle East peace process”