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25 Years After Oslo Accords, Mideast Peace Seems Remote as Ever

Apportioning blame occupies a cottage industry of analysts, ex-negotiators, lobbyists and partisans.

In fact, both sides have failed to pursue or engage meaningfully in peace talks since an Obama administration attempt to restart negotiations imploded in 2014. And both sides, early on, undermined what in retrospect was an extremely fragile achievement.

It was a right-wing Israeli extremist who massacred 29 Muslims in Hebron in 1994, setting off a first wave of bombings, and another who assassinated Mr. Rabin in 1995, gravely imperiling Oslo. It was Israel that halted agreed-upon withdrawals from occupied territory, leaving itself in full control of 60 percent of the West Bank. Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was so abrupt that critics say it contributed to the Hamas takeover.

And Israel has expanded settlements, not only seizing more land but also demoralizing its Palestinian neighbors, said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel. “On one side of the road is a Palestinian village, and on the other side is a brand-new Israeli town with red-roofed houses, swimming pools, greenery and trees, and on a commanding hill,” he said.

But there is also much for the Palestinians to rue in their own decisions and actions.

Whatever the justification, Palestinian violence crippled the peace process and led to other lasting setbacks: Israel’s re-invasion of West Bank cities in 2002, when it destroyed much the authority had built, and its construction of a barrier wall that bred resentment, entrenched some land grabs, and — in achieving the laudable goal of reducing terrorist attacks — allowed Israelis to largely tune out the Palestinians and the occupation altogether.

In hindsight, many analysts say, it was a mistake for the Palestinians to let the Israelis defer talk of core issues of the conflict — permanent borders, the fate of the Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian demand for a capital in Jerusalem — until final-status talks. It was a mistake not to insist on an explicit clause in the interim agreements freezing further Israeli settlement expansion where the Palestinians envisaged their state. And it was a mistake for the Palestinians to bargain away recognition of the state of Israel’s right to exist, and a renunciation of violence, for little more than Israeli recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

“What they got,” said Mr. Kurtzer, who remembers a sinking feeling evident on the faces of some Palestinians at the 1993 ceremony, “was poorly negotiated.”

Source: NYT > World

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