Zalman Shoval
Zalman ShovalPR photo

On the stages of Broadway a play called "Oslo" by playwright T.J. Rogers is currently playing, and describes the meetings that took place behind the Israeli government's back in a flattering way. Those unofficial representatives from Israel were certainly convinced that they were doing an important service to their country and were promising a lasting peace - and there was no doubt about the sincerity of their belief - but unfortunately they were completely wrong about their partner's true intentions and did not take into account the potential destructive consequences.

The slogan "Peace Now" sounds hollow today, like Chamberlain's statement which promised, after the signing of the Munich Agreement, "Peace in our time." While the Israelis saw the outline of a gradual process of resolving the conflict with the Palestinians on the basis of mutual recognition between the State of Israel and a future Palestinian state and an immediate cessation of terror, in the eyes of the PLO it was a means of redeeming the organization from its exile in Tunis, to which it was expelled after its expulsion from Lebanon in the first Lebanon war - in addition to the official recognition it received as the sole recognized representative of the Palestinian people thus preventing the emergence of any other leadership. In coming stages, they hoped, a final step would be taken to realize its ultimate objective, namely, the total destruction of the State of Israel. The leaders of the PLO also expected that the emerging agreement would lead to a split in the unity of the Israeli public (as indeed happened). Faisal Husseini, the unofficial "Foreign Minister" in the Palestinian Authority, told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Arabi that the Oslo Accords would be "a Trojan horse placed by the Palestinians at Israel's doorstep in order to open it to Palestinian national demands."

The initiators of the talks in the Norwegian capital were Terje Roed-Larsen, a diplomat and sociologist by profession, and his wife Mona Yol, also an experienced diplomat and politician from the Norwegian Socialist Party - both of whom had experience and connections in the Middle East. Their intentions were also fundamentally honest - and it was even possible to agree in principle with their explanation that on such a charged and complicated subject, informal and non-binding personal contacts should be dealt with gradually and informally. But they, too, were apparently unaware of the trap that their approach had placed on the Israeli side.

Shimon Peres, the foreign minister in the Rabin government, and who was introduced to the issue at an early stage, adopted the Oslo agreement enthusiastically and in his mind saw the agreement as the opening for a "new Middle East." Rabin, who learned of the contacts apparently only later and at first even ordered them stopped, was more reserved, but in the end was convinced for various reasons to cooperate with the Oslo people. However, according to hearsay, he expressed himself on one occasion that he "was forced to adopt Oslo as one is forced to adopt an illegitimate child," and apparently came to the conclusion that Arafat cheated him.

It seems that Treje Roed-Larsen, the producer and director of the talks, has also cooled over time, and although he initiated the writing of the play now being performed in New York, it is not clear whether he still believes that his work, in light of the experience gained since then, justified the renunciation of other ways of promoting a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For this you will have to judge not the criticism of New York theater, but history.

Courtesy Israel Hayom.