By DANNY DANON /NYTimes.com
JERUSALEM — This month marks 20 years since the signing of the first of the Oslo Accords between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Two decades after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat stood on the White House lawn with President Bill Clinton, Israelis and Palestinians are again in the midst of the umpteenth round of negotiations.
Despite these efforts, true peace seems as distant as it did before the secret talks in Oslo were revealed to the world. The government of Israel must admit that we made a mistake and declare that the Oslo process has failed.
Only by officially annulling the Oslo Accords will we have the opportunity to rethink the existing paradigm and hopefully lay the foundations for a more realistic modus vivendi between the Jews and Arabs of this region.
Despite attempts to rewrite recent history by fringe elements, the failure of the Oslo framework cannot be attributed to a lack of will and persistence by Israel. What didn’t we try? We attempted direct negotiations, third-party mediators, public conferences and back-channel talks. We staged withdrawals and unilateral disengagements, established joint Israeli-Palestinian military patrols in Gaza and deployed American-trained security forces in the West Bank. None of this worked.
The P.L.O., and later the Palestinian Authority, never truly accepted that Israel, as the national state and homeland of the Jewish people, was here to stay. No amount of impressive ceremonies, cosmetic changes to the P.L.O. charter and Palestinian doublespeak to Western media outlets about their commitment to peace was able to change this grim fact.
To understand the mind-boggling scope of Oslo’s failure, it is best to look at the statistics. According to the organization B’Tselem, during the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, six years before Mr. Rabin’s attempt to recast the archterrorist Yasir Arafat as a peacemaker, 160 Israelis were murdered in Palestinian terror attacks. In the mid- to late-1990s, as successive Israeli governments negotiated with the Palestinians, and Mr. Arafat and his cronies repeatedly swore they were doing their utmost to end terrorism, 240 Israelis were brutally killed as suicide bombs and other heinous terrorist acts targeting unarmed civilians were unleashed in every corner of our nation.
Things did not get better after Prime Minister Ehud Barak made the Palestinians an offer in 2000 that, judging by his landslide defeat in the election a few months later, was way beyond what most Israelis supported. Between then and September 2010, 1,083 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.
The Oslo process did not bring peace; it brought increased bloodshed. We must end this farce by announcing the immediate suspension of the Accords.
Little impact would be felt by average Israelis and Palestinians. Those who would suffer most would be full-time negotiators like Martin S. Indyk and Saeb Erekat, who would find themselves out of a job after 20 years of gainful employment in the peace process industry.
What should replace Oslo’s false promise? We should implement what I have called a “three-state solution.” In the future, the final status of the Palestinians will be determined in a regional agreement involving Jordan and Egypt, when the latter has been restabilized. All the region’s states must participate in the process of creating a long-term solution for the Palestinian problem.
In the short term, the Palestinians will continue to have autonomy over their civilian lives while Israel remains in charge of security throughout Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to as the West Bank. Following an initial period, the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria could continue to develop their society as part of an agreement involving Israel and Jordan. Similarly, Gaza residents could work with Israel and Egypt to create a society that granted them full civil authority over their lives in a manner that was acceptable to all sides.
Most veterans of the peace process will mock this proposal, protesting that there is no way it would be accepted by the Palestinians. Their argument may seem convincing today, but as I often remind my critics, our region is unpredictable. Had you told any Middle East expert five years ago that two successive Egyptian presidents would be deposed and Bashar al-Assad’s regime would be in the midst of a bloody civil war, you, too, would have been mocked. Things change. We can make them change.
I am aware that even if the Palestinians accepted this plan, we would still have to deal with a fundamentalist Hamas regime in Gaza and continuing instability in Egypt. No plan for Israeli-Arab peace can be fully implemented until these issues are resolved.
In the short term, Israel’s only option is to manage this conflict by refusing to compromise when it comes to the security of Israeli citizens. At the same time, our government should take all steps possible to improve the economic well-being of the Palestinians.
The dissolution of the Oslo Accords would serve as the official act validating what we already know — that this failed framework is totally irrelevant in 2013. Once the Palestinians were ready to sit down and seriously discuss how our two peoples, through this new paradigm, could live side by side in peace and prosperity, they would find willing partners across the political spectrum in Israel.
It may not be the utopian peace promised to all of us on that sunny day in September 1993, but in the harsh realities of the Middle East, this may be the best we can hope for and the sole realistic chance for our children to grow up in a world less violent than previous generations have had to endure.
Danny Danon is a member of the Knesset and the Deputy Defense Minister of Israel.