Uri Savir on the Oslo Accords

Savir:

The Oslo Accords were a tremendous historical breakthrough. Without the Oslo Accords, Israel would have continued its settlement spree, Israel would have annexed the West Bank in Gaza, and what we would have seen is one state for two nations, and a kind of scenario, former Yugoslavia was a lot of bloodshed. It was the end of the dream of a greater Israel, which to me is a nightmare, and it was the end of Palestinian rejection of Israel’s existence, the end of a greater Palestine, which is a nightmare. Paradoxically, Israel needs the Palestine in order to be Israel as a Jewish state, and Palestine needs an Israel in order to be Palestine as a Palestinian state, and this [route] began in Oslo, and, to a large degree, with all its flaws and ups and downs, it is irreversible. It will lead, ultimately, to a solution by and large along the 67 boundaries, by and large with some separation in Jerusalem among neighborhoods and holy sites, without the [right to] return of influx of a large number of Palestinians into Israel, creating Israeli settlement blocks and maybe having a territorial swap. So, we know how it will end. What it really needs is courageous leadership, not leadership that looks for popularity. This is what Rabin and Peres were all about, and I strongly believe that without the assassination of Rabin and Netanyahu’s victory in the elections, Oslo would have brought already the solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and from there to comprehensive peace.

Oslo had several flaws. The Palestinians too much looked for assets out of negotiations, for kind of flagship achievements rather than for internal nation building of a cohesive Palestinian society, with improved Palestinian economy, with open, transparent institutions, with a new democracy and we both suffered from our mistakes and there were [abundance]of them. A participatory peace, to a large degree, if you look at civil society world… I’ve been engaged in hundreds, if not thousands of projects between Israelis and Palestinians, and I’ve yet to see one that fails. Palestinians and Israeli do have a latent common language. We come from the same land, we breathe the same air, we drink the same water, and, yes, security is also participatory peace, because if you want security, the hearts, minds and soul of people needs to change, and it can change when people get together and work together on projects. There were many memorable moments in the Oslo process. I think, to me, the most, the two most moving ones was the first meeting on May 20th, 1993, when I was the first Israeli official to ever meet with the PLO. Suddenly, the PLO, from [something] from a monster, from a terrorist organization out to kill us, out to kill me, became human beings like you and me, with a sense of humor, sense of cynicism, with fears, and we have a lot in common. That was the first meeting with Abu Ala, May 20th, 1993. And then the famous signing on the White House lawn a few months later, September 13th, exactly 15 years ago, 1993. It was President Clinton, Arafat, Rabin and Peres not just for the ceremonial value. It has a symbolic value, that people who never thought they would shake hands finally did, and in this gesture there was a mutual recognition, and since then, with all the up and down, there’s always been a dialog between an Israeli government and a Palestinian government. And never mind how low the situation will be, it always… there always will be, from that point, a dialog between a Palestinian government and an Israeli government.

The Oslo Accords had key strengths and flaws, Uri Savir says.

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