Palestinians' rifts remain over Oslo Accord

Nabil Shaath, political adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
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Updated 15 September 2020

Palestinians' rifts remain over Oslo Accord

  • Renewal of political life needed, says expert

GAZA CITY: Palestinian opinion was divided in 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accord, which was aimed at ending the conflict with Israel. 

It was signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel, under US auspices, on Sept. 13. Supporters of the agreement saw it as a gateway to establishing Palestinian statehood and ending the occupation, while those opposing it saw it as a free concession.

This division remains almost three decades after the landmark moment, but is more intense than ever as the Palestinians have yet to achieve their dream of an independent state and the occupation is intact. 

The accord’s supporters maintain a peaceful approach to obtaining their rights, even though they are harshly criticised by those who have not proved that their stance is the better one.

The political advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Shaath, has been one of the leading Palestinian negotiators for many years. 

He affirmed the Palestinian leadership’s adherence to peace as a way to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Many achievements had been made, according to Shaath. “We returned with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the diaspora to Palestine, and we established institutions and a state economy, even if we are still under occupation,” he told Arab News.

Shaath understood those who criticized the peace option, due to the long years of negotiations, but said that the defect lay with successive Israeli governments that had worked to destroy the Oslo agreement. The most extreme, aggressive and hostile administration to peace was the current one headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he added.

The accord included a declaration of principles on arrangements for a Palestinian self-transitional government. The aim of the negotiations at the time was to form an autonomous transitional Palestinian authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for a period not exceeding five years, after which it would lead to a final settlement.

Oslo guaranteed the return of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the diaspora, and the building of state institutions, but it did not lead to the establishment of an independent state that was supposed to be announced in 1999.

The Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out a few months later and the situation ended with internal Palestinian rifts.

Hamas, which opposed Oslo from the first disclosure of the negotiations that led to it and refused to participate in the first legislative elections that took place in 1996, still opposes the agreement despite participating in the second legislative elections that took place in 2006 and forming the government at the time.

The conflict over the Oslo gains became a gateway to the internal division that the Palestinians suffer from to this day. But Hamas does not see a contradiction between its political participation and its continued opposition to a political settlement with Israel.

The spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, Hazem Qasem, told Arab News that the Oslo agreement had inserted “our cause and our people into a labyrinth of political absurdity, and dragged on it the scourge of annexes of agreements from which our people only reaped more handcuffs and concessions.”

Qasem said the agreement was responsible for the continuous retreat of the Palestinian cause in exchange for the expansion of the “Zionist project” through settlement expansion and “shackling” Palestinians with security and economic agreements.

He added that Hamas had demonstrated the correctness of its position in rejecting the peace option, and that only resistance was capable of extracting rights for Palestinians.

Hamas, with its participation in legislative elections, had succeeded in providing an umbrella and protection for the “resistance in Gaza.”

The leader of Islamic Jihad, Ahmed Al-Mudallal, said that Oslo was the beginning of the “deviation and division” that the Palestinian people were enduring.

“To those who have made us believe that we are moving from occupation to independence: Here we are moving toward more occupation, displacement, killing, arrest, Judaization, settlement, starvation and siege,” Al-Mudallal told Arab News.

Political science professor Ibrahim Abrash believed that everything on the ground said the Oslo Accord was over. Israel had played a key role in drafting the terms of the agreement and, on the ground, it practiced “everything that contradicted” the political settlement process and the principle of land for peace.

“All Palestinians have reached a dead end, whether Hamas or Fatah,” he told Arab News. “We need a renewal of political life and, without that, the dream of liberation and the state will not see the light.”


Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

Turkish Cypriot politician Ersin Tatar celebrates his election victory in Turkish-controlled northern Nicosia, Cyprus October 18, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 October 2020

Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

  • The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations,” while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months

NICOSIA: Turkish Cypriots in breakaway northern Cyprus on Sunday narrowly elected right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, in a run-off poll, at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tatar, 60, clinched his surprise victory in a second round of presidential elections, winning 51.7 percent of the vote, official results showed.
He edged out incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, 72, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriot south of the divided island, leaving attempts to relaunch long-stalled UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.
Tatar is an advocate of a two-state solution and held the post of premier in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Ankara.
He controversially received the open backing of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the election campaign.
In a victory speech to hundreds of cheering and Turkish flag-waving supporters, Tatar thanked Turkey’s head of state and said: “We deserve our sovereignty — we are the voice of Turkish Cypriots.
“We are fighting to exist within the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, therefore our neighbors in the south and the world community should respect our fight for freedom.”
There was no immediate official reaction from the Greek Cypriot government or ruling party in the south of the island, which is a European Union member state, although opposition parties were quick to lament the outcome.
Erdogan was swift to celebrate the victory, which followed a high 67-percent turnout at the polls.
“I congratulate Ersin Tatar who has been elected president ... Turkey will continue to provide all types of efforts to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people,” he wrote on Twitter.

HIGHLIGHT

Ersin Tatar edged out incumbent Mustafa Akinc, leaving attempts to relaunch UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.

In a telephone call the same night, Erdogan said he was confident the two leaders would maintain close cooperation in all areas, “starting with the hydrocarbon linked activities in the eastern Mediterranean,” his office said.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly assertive regional power that is now engaged in a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters.
The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations,” while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months.
The second-round ballot was triggered after Tatar won 32 percent of the vote on Oct. 11 ahead of Akinci, who garnered just under 30 percent.
Akinci was tipped to secure a second term, having won the backing of Tufan Erhurman, a fellow social democrat who came third last time around.
After his defeat, Akinci, who had accused Ankara of meddling in the polls, thanked his supporters and said: “You know what happened ... I am not going to do politics on this.”
The TRNC, with a population of about 300,000, was established after the north was occupied by Turkey in 1974 in reaction to a coup that aimed to annex Cyprus to Greece.
Earlier in October, Turkish troops angered the Republic of Cyprus by reopening public access to the fenced-off seaside ghost town of Varosha for the first time since Turkish forces invaded the north.
The reopening was announced jointly by Erdogan and Tatar at a meeting in Ankara just days before the first round of polling.
It drew EU and UN criticism and sparked demonstrations in the Republic of Cyprus, which exercises its authority over the island’s south, separated from the TRNC by a UN-patrolled buffer zone.
On the eve of Sunday’s vote, Greek Cypriot demonstrators massed at a checkpoint along the so-called “Green Line,” holding signs that read “Cyprus is Greek,” in protest at the reopening of nearby Varosha to the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey has repeatedly said it seeks to defend Turkish and Turkish Cypriots’ rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Akinci’s relationship with Ankara had come under strain, especially after he described the prospect of the north’s annexation by Turkey as “horrible” in February.
When Akinci took office in 2015, he was hailed as the leader best placed to revive peace talks.
But hopes were dashed in July 2017 after UN-mediated negotiations collapsed in Switzerland, notably over Greek Cypriot demands for the withdrawal of the tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers still stationed in the TRNC.