25 years on, Israeli right-wingers ready to declare Oslo accords dead

Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sealed the first Oslo agreement with a handshake on the White House lawn. (File Photo / AFP)
Updated 10 September 2018
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25 years on, Israeli right-wingers ready to declare Oslo accords dead

AMICHAI, Palestinian Territories: A panoramic view of mountains and neighboring Palestinian villages before him, Avichai Boaran thinks back on the Oslo accords first signed off on 25 years ago and happily declares them dead.
“Oslo is buried deep in its grave,” says the 45-year-old resident of Amichai, a new Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, referring to the first of the two accords signed on September 13, 1993.
“And Israelis are jumping on the earth to pack it down hard.”
Twenty-five years after the first Oslo accord offered the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian peace, Israel is governed by what is seen as its most right-wing government ever, Jewish settler numbers have soared and an end to the conflict looks remote.
When Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sealed the first Oslo agreement with a handshake on the White House lawn, there were 110,066 settlers in the West Bank and another 6,234 in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now.
Today the Gaza settlers are gone, pulled out in a 2005 move by prime minister Ariel Sharon that fiercely divided Israeli opinion.
But there are some 600,000 settlers living among nearly three million Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Key members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current coalition openly oppose a Palestinian state and have harshly criticized the Oslo accords.
In June last year, work started on Amichai in the northern West Bank, the first new government-sanctioned Jewish settlement since 1991, though existing settlements and rogue outposts have expanded greatly during that time.
Amichai is being built for about 40 families that were evicted from Amona, a community built without Israeli permits that was demolished in February 2017.
One of them is Boaran, a former Amona resident who fought against its closure then became a leader of the campaign to rehouse those evicted.
In March he and his family moved into their new home, a modest prefabricated building but with modern amenities such as a dishwasher and air conditioning.
He told AFP that the Oslo agreement galvanized Israeli public opinion against a Palestinian state on land that many Jews consider their biblical birthright.
“The aim was complete withdrawal (by Jewish settlers) and to set up in the heart of the land of Israel, the heart of the Jewish homeland, an additional state...an additional Arab state,” he said.
“We are not prepared to accept a society which will turn its weapons and its national aspirations against us. We are ruling out strategically the vision of a Palestinian state.”
Netanyahu entered office as prime minister for the first time in 1996 after elections in which he was buoyed — at least in part — by a groundswell of anti-Oslo opinion among voters.
Rabin had in the meantime been assassinated in November 1995 by a Jewish extremist opposed to the accords.
Envisaged by the Oslo plan, although not stated explicitly, was a sovereign Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel.
Terje Roed-Larsen, a Norwegian academic who in 1992 headed an Oslo institute for social research, became a prime mover of a covert plan to bring together Israelis and officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
At the time, the PLO was listed by Israel as a terror organization.
Roed-Larsen spoke with Yossi Beilin, who would later become Israeli deputy foreign minister, and eventually explored setting up back-channel talks with Arafat.
“We started talks with Faisal Husseini, who was the Palestinian leader in Jerusalem,” Roed-Larsen said by phone from New York, where he now heads the International Peace Institute think-tank.
“What I realized through those talks was that without the PLO and Arafat it was impossible to reach any kind of agreement because it would have been blocked by the PLO.”
It was agreed that the Norwegians should be the brokers at the sessions, which took place largely in Oslo, lending the agreement its name.
Although the Oslo process eventually ground to a halt, Roed-Larsen says it was not a failure.
“Still the two-state solution is a viable idea,” he said.
He added that without the signs of a thaw between Israel and the Palestinians, Jordan could not have signed a 1994 peace treaty with the Jewish state.
While the international community still sees two states as the preferred outcome, Israelis are evenly divided and few see any end to the conflict with the Palestinians in the near term.
An August poll by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University showed 47 percent of respondents in favor of two states and 46 percent against.
It said that 86 percent saw the chances of a peace breakthrough in the coming 12 months as “low” or “very low.”


Qatar accused of building World Cup stadiums on land stolen from persecuted tribe

Updated 21 min ago
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Qatar accused of building World Cup stadiums on land stolen from persecuted tribe

  • Al-Ghufran tribe hand a letter of protest to the game’s world governing body, FIFA
  • The tribe claim that land used for World Cup stadiums was taken from them by force

ZURICH: Qatar was accused on Monday of building stadiums for the 2022 football World Cup on land stolen from a tribe it has persecuted for more than 20 years. 

A delegation from the Al-Ghufran tribe handed a letter of protest to the game’s world governing body, FIFA, and demanded that Qatar be stripped of the right to hold the tournament unless the tribe receives justice. 

“The World Cup is a gathering of people who come together for the love of the game, honest competition, brotherhood and love and respect among nations; how will Qatar play the role of supplying this when it is so unfair to its own citizens?” a spokesman for the tribe said. 

“The FIFA system states that the country where the World Cup is held must respect and preserve human rights, but this is a country that harms its own citizens and strips them of their rights, and then talks about freedom and democracy.”

The tribe claim that land used for World Cup stadiums was taken from them by force, and that sports facilities were built illegally and illegitimately after the owners were thrown off the land and stripped of their citizenship.

“The state resorted to every illegitimate method in dealing with the Al-Ghufran tribe, from deprivation to expulsion from the country, withdrawal of their official documents and denial of education and health care,” the spokesman said.

The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, the Qatari emir deposed the previous year by his son Hamad, father of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim.

About 800 Al-Ghufran families, more than 6,000 people, were stripped of their citizenship and had their property confiscated. Many remain stateless, both in Qatar and in neighboring Gulf countries.

A delegation from the tribe has been in Switzerland for the past week, presenting their case to UN human rights officials in Geneva. 

They have asked the UN to stop Qatari authorities’ continuous and systematic discrimination against them, to protect the tribe’s members and restore their lost rights, and to punish the Qatari regime for human-rights violations.

A delegation from the tribe organized a demonstration on Monday at the Broken Chair, a monumental wooden sculpture opposite the Palace of Nations in Geneva that symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs.

“The international community must stop turning a blind eye to the human rights violations committed against the Al-Ghufran tribe by the Qatari regime,” said Mohamed Saleh Al-Ghafzani, a member of the delegation.

“We are talking to everyone who comes in and out of the United Nations building about our crisis and our stolen rights; after Qatar took our nationality away, there is nothing else we can lose.”