Dr. Philip BrodieThe author worked at the University of Pittsburgh where he received his doctorate. He made aliya recently with his wife and lives in Maaleh Adumim.
When the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, the signatories—Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the United States and Russia—created more than a political agreement. They created a political ideology. Oslo-as-ideology was to forge a new world order for Arab-Israel relations. It was a new logic to solve an old problem. It was new diplomacy. It would bring ‘a new era of peace’ between enemies (The LA Times, September 10, 1993).
The Oslo ideology attempted to create a new reality. Its design had four goals:
(1) “to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict”, so that both Arab and Jew could “recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights, and strive to live in peaceful coexistence’ (the overarching goal);
(2) to create a new Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority (to become the official Arab partner for that goal);
(3) to empower dialogue between the partners (the method needed to achieve that goal); and
(4) cooperation between the partners (the ‘mortar’ for that goal).
Normally, solutions for conflict do not require a new ideology. ‘Ideology’ applies to what happens after conflict ends--to serve as a basis for what happens next. But the Arab-Israel conflict was not normal. It was ‘one of the most bitter, protracted and intractable conflicts of modern times’ (Avi Shlaim, “The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Peace process,” 2005). Solving such a conflict required an altogether new path--a new ideology.
Oslo was that path. It would not simply focus on solutions; it would focus on process. It would develop trust (PLO Negotiations Affairs Department). It would show that people could think and act as partners, not enemies.
The genius of Oslo was that peace could now be redefined. Through Oslo, men could create a new order where nations lived in harmony (George H W Bush, 1990, describing his vision for a post-Cold War future); indeed, where Arab-Israel diplomacy had once focused on each other as enemies, it would now focus on dialogue (Shimon Peres, Nobel speech, 1994).
Oslo was to be an entirely new diplomatic mind-set: harmony and coexistence through trust, dialogue and cooperation.
That has not happened; and since November 2012, actions by Mahmoud Abbas have it crystal clear that Oslo has failed.
Oslo had once promised dialogue, cooperation and negotiation. Abbas has given us instead a steady stream actions designed to demonstrate that he rejects all that Oslo stands for: unilateral UN recognition, a Palestinian Authority (PA) logo with ‘Palestine’ in place of Israel, and a brand-new (as of January 11, 2013) tent-city outpost (to establish a formal claim) set up in an area designated by international agreement as completely under Israeli control—the geographic area at the edge of Maaleh Adumim called, E-1.
None of these actions promote peace or harmony. They promote Arab hostility, aggression and confrontation—the very opposite of the Oslo dream.
Looking back, the Oslo ideology looks now like a reverse image of Post-Zionism. Both Zionism and Oslo were dreams for a new world. Both articulated a new reality. But the Post-Zionist argues that the Zionist dream has terminated because the ideological dream—a Jewish homeland—has been achieved. We argue the reverse for Oslo:
Oslo has terminated because its ideological dream has failed.
The ideological premise of Oslo was that it would create a new way to think about resolving conflict. Read the 1993 Accords—and Shimon Peres’ 1994 Nobel speech.
Oslo was about trust. This was the historic breakthrough. Dialogue and cooperation built on trust would promote coexistence.
Abbas refuses to talk. He refuses to cooperate. He rejects coexistence.
The Post- Zionist wants to replace Zionism. He uses questions to highlight what he claims are Zionism’s failures.
We can use those same questions to highlight Oslo’s failures. We simply adjust the Post-Zionist vocabulary so as to focus on Oslo, and ask:
-Will the creation of a new state next to Israel create a truly safe haven for West Bank and Gaza Arabs?
-Aren’t there other political arrangements in the world where Arabs receive better security, economic stability and rights than they historically receive in Arab-controlled states?
-Is it possible to create an Arab state that makes peace with Israel?
-Do Palestinians maximize their efforts to obtain peace?
-Would the creation of a new Arab state create an undemocratic cultural hegemony?
The Post-Zionist uses answers to these questions (when Zionism is the subject) to overturn Zionism. We use the answers to overturn Oslo.
As the Post-Zionist argues that Zionism does not promote coexistence and harmony, we argue the same for Oslo. If the Post-Zionist argues that there is an ideological shift in Israel away from isolation towards Regional cooperation, we argue that there is an even more aggressive shift occurring within the Arab world—against cooperation with Israel.
The Arab ‘outposts’ in E-1 prove this very point.
As the Arab Spring openly introduces anti-Western sentiment to Arab consciousness, we see a distinctive shift away from the Oslo ideology of harmony through trust, dialogue and cooperation.
Oslo’s hope for a new world of coexistence appears increasingly incompatible with the new world of Arab insularity.
The post-Zionist shows us how to probe Oslo’s weaknesses. We should probe those weaknesses--and bury Oslo.