Marking the 20-year anniversary of the 1993 Oslo Accord between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), a local gathering of pro-Israel journalists, writers, and academics seemed to agree on one thing: It was a failure.
“One of the mistakes of Oslo was to imagine that peace was somehow in the hands of Israel to give, either by relinquishing settlements or withdrawing from territory,” said Bret Stephens, a Wall Street Journal editor and columnist who spoke to attendees from New York via Skype.
Hosted by the American Freedom Alliance (AFA), the “Oslo @ Twenty” daylong conference was held Sept. 29 at the Olympic Collection conference center in West Los Angeles and was attended by 170 people, according to organizers.
Speakers at various panels included Stephens; Daniel Pipes, political commentator and president of the Middle East Forum; Martin Sherman, a contributor for the Jerusalem Post; Walid Shoebat, a self-described former PLO terrorist, and David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of the Jewish Journal.
The Oslo Accord, which led to Israeli withdrawal from many areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and established the PLO as the official representative of Palestinians, has been divisive in Israel and abroad. It also called for the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The agreement was signed at the White House in 1993 by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, both of whom received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts the following year.
But as Stephens and the other speakers said, the Oslo Accord could not result in peace because the Palestinians were not and are not interested in accepting the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.
“Peace will only come when there is a fundamental and radical transformation in the political culture and the ambitions of the Arab and Muslim world,” Stephens said.
Sherman argued during the conference’s first panel that one lesson Israeli leaders should learn from Oslo is that giving land to the PA will only result in Palestinians using it to launch attacks against Israel. (In Israel, the Oslo accords are widely seen as resulting in an increase in terrorist attacks against Israelis.)
Just as the Palestinians used Oslo as a means to attack Israel, Sherman argued, they will use any future deals — including land transfers in the West Bank — to attack Israel from the highlands of the West Bank that overlook heavily populated Israeli land adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea.
“The infrastructure for waging war will be set up in Judea and Samaria,” Sherman said. “You have a line of sight from inside of Palestine,” he warned.
He showed images of potential Israeli targets, such as Ben Gurion Airport, that would be seen “through the binoculars of a Palestinian intelligence officer” able to freely move throughout the eastern part of the West Bank.
Walid Shoebat, a Palestinian-American who converted from Islam to Christianity, said that a Palestinian treaty with Israel would be used against Israelis.
“In the Quran, the word ‘peace’ is used as a strategy to gain the upper hand,” Shoebat said. “You can change the Palestinian charter, the Hamas charter; it will not work because the real charter is the Quran.”
Pipes said that Israel’s agreement at Oslo would have been like the Allies signing a peace treaty with Germany in 1942, while the Nazis were still waging war.
“You first have to defeat your enemy, and then you make peace with him,” Pipes said. “You can only make peace with your former enemy.”
Rabin’s desire to “end the conflict whether or not the other side was going to,” Pipes continued, is what ultimately led to Oslo.
The week before the Oslo @ Twenty conference, a similar analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was presented by Abraham Sion during a Sept. 24 speech at the Sherman Oaks Woman’s Club hosted by Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.
Sion, a law professor at Ariel University, located in the Ariel settlement in the West Bank, said that if the Palestinians “were ever interested in a state, they would have had that state years ago.
“We have made six or seven treaties or agreements with the Palestinians,” Sion said. “None of them were carried out.”