Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

From Oslo to the Geneva Accords: A Rough Terrain

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

From Oslo to the Geneva Accords: A Rough Terrain

Article excerpt

The recent Geneva initiative agreed upon by Israeli opposition figures and Palestinian negotiators has been "grasping the attention" of the world, according to political analyst and commentator Ibrahim Dakkak, who spoke at a Nov. 4 briefing at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC. The conflict between the natives of Palestine and their colonizers has been lurching from "one impasse to another," he said, and the Geneva Accords have offered an alternative and, perhaps, progress.

The Geneva Accords stand little chance of being implemented at this point, in Dakkak's opinion. At least on the Israeli side, he pointed out, the negotiators of this initiative have no official standing and no power in the government. Although Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has expressed support in principle for the accords, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has contemptuously dismissed them. Dakkak recalled, however, that the Oslo accords also began as unofficial contacts between non-governmental representatives on both sides. Negotiations had begun in London before moving to Oslo, eventually producing an international document whose signing was witnessed by the president of the United States.

Dakkak ascribed both parties' agreement to the Oslo document to "immediate conveniences." At the time, he noted, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was marginalized: its leadership was in exile in Tunis, and it had few remaining options. Israel also was backed into a corner. The Palestinian intifada had been going on since 1987 and Israel was powerless to stop it. For both sides, Oslo was a necessary escape from their problems at the time.

The accords had wide-ranging effects, stated Dakkak. For the first time the PLO was recognized by Israel as the official representative of the Palestinian people, and the United States committed to overseeing the implementation of the agreements.

Since the universally acknowledged death of Oslo, Dakkak continued, the first international initiative to make any headway was the road map. Theoretically a product of the "Quartet" comprising the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, the road map was a U.S.-backed and supported initiative.

The road map was released after the war on Iraq as a public relations gesture to the Arab world, Dakkak argued, and effectively represented the final "death certificate for Oslo." Dakkak described the road map as structured in such a way as to make implementation impossible for the Palestinian Authority (PA). The different steps required of the Palestinian side could never have been implemented to the satisfaction of the Americans or the Israelis, he pointed out. …

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