Israel Must Terminate the Oslo Accords

by Ted Belman

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

Lazar Berman wrote a detailed article on the letter which was published by 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. The Israeli settlements are located in Area C.

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.”

Area C, controlled by Israel under Oslo Accords, in blue and red, in December 2011

By excluding Jerusalem and the settlements from the areas to be transferred to the Palestinians, Israeli presence, including the military to protect them, would not change without a negotiated agreement. The Accords also preserve Israel’s exclusive control of the borders, the airspace and the territorial Gaza waters. Oslo II, Article XII:”.

Thus there is a limit to how much the military is to be withdrawn. Israel can rightly refuse to withdraw the military from all of Area C arguing the military is needed to protect the settlements. I would also point out that the soon to be  government has agreed to recognize additional settlements thus making the military protection all the more important.. The Accords did not require a freeze of settlement construction.

I have never read of a Palestinian demand that Israel withdraw its military from Area C. To my mind, that supports my thesis.

In addition, the military has many times entered Area A to apprehend terrorists. No one could argue that such incursion wasn’t necessary or illegal.

The preamble to the Interim Agreement provides;

“Recognizing that the aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, i.e. the elected Council (hereinafter “the Council” or “the Palestinian Council”), and the elected Ra’ees of the Executive Authority, for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years from the date of signing the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area (hereinafter “the Gaza-Jericho Agreement”) on May 4, 1994, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338;

Reaffirming their understanding that the interim self-government arrangements contained in this Agreement are an integral part of the whole peace process, that the negotiations on the permanent status, that will start as soon as possible but not later than May 4, 1996, will lead to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and that the Interim Agreement shall settle all the issues of the interim period and that no such issues will be deferred to the agenda of the permanent status negotiations;”

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 transfer  Area C is limited by the terms of Oslo.

The “Palestinian territories” are not synonymous with the “West Bank.” I think the “Palestinian territories are A, B , Jericho and Gaza.” The withdrawal of the military was only intended to enable Palestinian rights in A and B as defined by the Accords. Remember that “negotiations for final status ” were to be based on Res 224 and Res 338. The key thing to be negotiated were “secure and recognized boundaries” and the nature of the Palestinian autonomy, inter alia. These resolutions did not require Israel to withdraw from “all” the territories. Thus Israel is entitled to insist on retaining all of Area C.

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 signed with Israel and the United States and turned over responsibility over the occupied territories back to Israel.

“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 according to Abbas. Once terminated, it can not 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.

I have not been able to find what Israel said in response nor if Abbas reiterated this declaration subsequently.

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 everything in this letter have been violated.
  4. The US and the USSR both signed the agreement signifying their support but the US 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 Institute 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 negotiate an arrangement that suited 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.

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