For most Palestinians, and for other observers of events since the signing of the Oslo accords over two decades ago, the main reaction to the announcement by President Abbas that the Palestinian Authority will no longer abide by the Oslo accords is probably: “It’s about time!”
Since the very beginning, these accords were never implemented by Israel, either in spirit or letter. Moreover, the yawning gulf between Israel’s formal commitments and its actual performance has been growing wider and wider in recent years under increasingly hard-line settler-dominated Israeli governments. This was true in terms of Israel’s many violations cited by Abbas in his speech. It was also true in terms of its usurpation of Palestinian rights and property in Jerusalem, on the economic front, or regarding the time frame for negotiations, which by the original American time table were supposed to conclude in a final status agreement and a peace treaty by 1998. Instead of peace, we have had futile and endless negotiations constantly stymied by Israel, and intended only to anesthetize the Palestinians and the world while Israel’s land grab in occupied Arab East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank proceeded unimpeded.
Since its establishment, the Palestinian Authority has provided the main service demanded of it, viz providing security for Israel’s occupation and colonization regime, which has metastasized since 1993. It has gotten nothing in return in terms of the main Palestinian desiderata: independence and an end to the subjugation of military occupation and the land theft embodied in constantly expanding colonial settlements.
The international community, led by the United States, financially underwrites, diplomatically supports and arms to the teeth this indefensible system of oppression of the Palestinian people. It is time for all to stop hiding behind the fictions of a non-existent “peace process” and of the tattered Oslo accords, which Israel has never respected. Instead, it is incumbent on them to act immediately to end the longest occupation in modern history, which these accords have helped to prolong. This is not as hard as it seems: Israel could never act as it does on its own, without massive external support. That external support must be halted, and these unconscionable violations brought to an end.
Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies, and the editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies.
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