Israel Should Terminate the Oslo Accords

Dozens of Knesset Members have written a scathing letter to the EU’s top officials accusing them of animus against Jews and Israel in light of leaked program on the West Bank's  Area C.

Lazar Berman wrote a detailed article on the letter which was published by the Times of Israel on Dec 21/22. It contained this gem:

Area C, which is the only contiguous section of the West Bank and contains the most fertile land and valuable natural resources, was supposed to be gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction, according to the accords, but that has not happened.

This statement is misleading, to say the least. Yes, it was supposed to be “gradually transferred” but such requirement had many limitations.

The Oslo Interim Accords provide:

”Area C means areas of the West Bank outside Areas A and B, which, except for the issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations, will be gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction in accordance with this Agreement.”

The issues that will be negotiated, according to Article XVII.1, are:

“Jerusalem, settlements, specified military locations, Palestinian refugees, borders, foreign relations and Israelis; and … powers and responsibilities not transferred to the Council.”

The preamble to the Interim Agreement provides;

“Recognizing that the aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations [..], leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338;

Reaffirming [..] that the negotiations on the permanent status, [..] will lead to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338,[,,]”

Berman says “Area C…. was supposed to be gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction”. The Accords say "Area C ...except for the issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations, will be gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction in accordance with this Agreement.”

Nowhere in the accords does it say that all of Area C was to be gradually transferred. In fact, the obligation to withdraw from C is limited by the terms of Oslo.

Remember that “negotiations for final status” were to be based on Res 224 and Res 338. The key things to be negotiated were “secure and recognized boundaries” and the nature of the Palestinian autonomy. These resolutions did not require Israel to withdraw from “all” the territories. Thus, Israel is entitled to insist on retaining all of Area C.

I have often wondered why Res 242 stipulated “secure and recognized boundaries” rather than “secure and recognized borders.” Do boundaries mean something different than borders?

Nowhere did the accords say what the boundaries would be nor what was to be the disposition of Area C. That’s to be negotiated.

Having said all that, I must admit that the accords are not explicit enough. In fact, they are confusing except for the bottom line which I have stressed.

As for the actions of the EU and the PA including but not limited to their violation of Area C, it is time for Israel to terminate the Oslo Accords. Contract law permits a party to an agreement or contract to terminate the same unilaterally if the other side has fundamentally breached it.

On May 19/20, President Mahmoud Abbas declared  (Ramallah Declaration) an end to the agreements and understandings.

"The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones" 

He did so because the Israeli government coalition agreement at the time, stated that "the Prime Minister will be able to bring the agreement that was reached with the United States on applying sovereignty starting on 1 July 2020 to the Cabinet and the Knesset.‘" This was during the Trump administration. The fact that Israel didn't follow up with applying sovereignty is neither here nor there, it only announced an intention to do so. That was breach enough. Once terminated, it cannot unilaterally be restored by the PA.

The soon to be installed Israeli government is sure to extend sovereignty over some of Area C.  An uproar is sure to follow.

Israel, on the other hand, could terminate the accords if they still exist, for any of the following fundamental breaches:

  1. The Ramallah Declaration,
  2. The PA has continually defaulted in its obligation to prevent hostile acts: “Both sides shall take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against each other, against individuals falling under the other’s authority and against their property, and shall take legal measures against offenders.” (Article XV)
  3. A condition precedent to Israel's signing of the Oslo Accords was the commitment set out in a 1993 letter from Chairman Arafat to Prime Minister Rabin: "The signing of the Declaration of Principles marks a new era... I would like to confirm the following PLO commitments: 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 a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status 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... the PLO affirms that 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. Consequently, the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant."  Virtually every commitment in this letter has been violated.
  4. The U.S. and Russia both signed the agreement signifying their support but the U.S. has done its utmost to force the Two State Solution on Israel which flies in the face of the fundamental principle of the accords, namely, that the parties themselves are to freely negotiate a final settlement in accordance with Res 242 and Res 338.

The Brookings Institution once contemplated the costs of termination:

"Cancelling the Oslo Accords would effectively remove the legal justification for the PA. Quite simply, it would mean dismantling the PA, laying off its employees, ending international funding, and nullifying the economic agreements between the PA and Israel as well as between the PA and many other countries around the world. It would also mean an end to security coordination between Israel and the PA, which would facilitate the return of the Israeli military to parts of the West Bank designated as Area “A.” This would certainly lead to another intifada. Such an uprising would, in all likelihood, turn violent, given the enormous amount of weapons currently held by PA police and security personnel; and there would be no guarantee that these weapons would be kept out of the hands of the militant groups in the West Bank."

Yes, it could, but wouldn’t necessarily result in all the things enumerated. The Palestinians and Israel could renegotiate an arrangement that suits them both.  This is what the Jordan Option envisages.

It is high time for Israel to abrogate the accords and deal with the violence which ensues.

Image: רוליג

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