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The Oslo I Accord was an attempt in 1993 to set up a framework that would lead to the resolution of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was the first face-to-face agreement between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). (Wikipedia).
As we know, this is one of the significant causes that led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Israel was full of incitement towards Rabin at that time. Many people claim that the assassination led so the Oslo Accord would not be executed.
I have learned about this assassination fact, what happened and where it happened. In addition, I have tried to search in Internet what happened in this Oslo accord. Nevertheless, I don't understand besides of peace, what did say the accord. I would want to know why were people against the accord by each side. What were the consequences? What did the assassination stop of happening?
I think that Wikipedia article has an adequate description of the Oslo accord. The main point was the mutual recognition between Israel and PLA, a promise of PLA to stop violence against Israel, and withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza. This also implied that Israeli settlements had to be removed. Some people on both sides were against the accord. One of the results in the Israeli side was the assassination of Rabin. On he Palestinian side it was the revolution against the PLA, and establishment of Hamas government in Gaza. The net result is that Israeli troops were eventually withdrawn and settlements removed from Gaza, but violence against Israel did not stop, and the new Hamas government in Gaza does not recognize the accord.
Oslo accord was a temporary accord, it assumed further negotiations about Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem. These negotiations failed. (See 2000 Camp David Summit).
Oslo was Israel recognising that Palestinians have some rights that the PLO were entitled to negotiate for them, agreeing for the Palestinian Authority to be set up and giving it some autonomy and control over parts of the west bank. The Palestinians recognised Israel and the 1967 borders while agreeing to negotiate a permanent border. Basically both sides signing up to the Two State Solution. Some Israelis did not accept handing over any of the west bank, some Palestinians against recognising Israel.
There was a lot of criticism on the Palestinian side that the framework let all the power in the Israeli hands. there were meant to be serious negotiation on permanent issues and further hand overs of areas of the west bank. there is a strong perception that it enabled the creation of butu-stans isolated Palestinian enclaves while Israel continues to expand it's settlements in the west bank. (100,000 before Oslo 350,000 now not counting Jerusalem another 300,000)
Both sides had a lot of internal propaganda for years building up a following for no compromise at all. Oslo came out of the blue part of the reason the talks worked is that they were hidden and the wider leadership let alone the publics were unaware of the talks or their substance. the solo agreements were a surprise. there were strong groups on both sides which were opposed.
It's now clear: the Oslo peace accords were wrecked by Netanyahu's bad faith
Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister, signs the Oslo accords at the White House on 13 September 1993. Onlookers include Israel's PM, Yitzhak Rabin Bill Clinton and the PLO's Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Photograph: J David AKE/AFP
Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister, signs the Oslo accords at the White House on 13 September 1993. Onlookers include Israel's PM, Yitzhak Rabin Bill Clinton and the PLO's Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Photograph: J David AKE/AFP
E xactly 20 years have passed since the Oslo accords were signed on the White House lawn. For all their shortcomings and ambiguities, the accords constituted a historic breakthrough in the century-old conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. It was the first peace agreement between the two principal parties to the conflict: Israelis and Palestinians.
The accords represented real progress on three fronts: the Palestine Liberation Organisation recognised the state of Israel Israel recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and both sides agreed to resolve their outstanding differences by peaceful means. Mutual recognition replaced mutual rejection. In short, this promised at least the beginning of a reconciliation between two bitterly antagonistic national movements. And the hesitant handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat clinched the historic compromise.
Critical to the architecture of Oslo was the notion of gradualism. The text did not address any of the key issues in this dispute: Jerusalem the right of return of 1948 refugees the status of Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian land or the borders of the Palestinian entity. All these "permanent status" issues were deferred for negotiations towards the end of the five-year transition period. Basically, this was a modest experiment in Palestinian self-government, starting with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.
The text did not promise or even mention an independent Palestinian state at the end of the transition period. The Palestinians believed that in return for giving up their claim to 78% of historic Palestine, they would gain an independent state in the remaining 22%, with a capital city in Jerusalem. They were to be bitterly disappointed.
Controversy surrounded Oslo from the moment it saw the light of day. The 21 October 1993 issue of the London Review of Books ran two articles Edward Said put the case against in the first. He called the agreement "an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles", arguing that it set aside international legality and compromised the fundamental national rights of the Palestinian people. It could not advance genuine Palestinian self-determination because that meant freedom, sovereignty, and equality, rather than perpetual subservience to Israel.
In my own article I put the case for Oslo. I believed that it would set in motion a gradual but irreversible process of Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and that it would pave the way to Palestinian statehood. From today's perspective, 20 years on, it is clear that Said was right in his analysis and I was wrong.
In 2000 the Oslo peace process broke down following the failure of the Camp David summit and the outbreak of the second intifada. Why? Israelis claim that the Palestinians made a strategic choice to return to violence and consequently there was no Palestinian partner for peace. As I see it, Palestinian violence was a contributory factor, but not the main cause. The fundamental reason was that Israel reneged on its side of the deal.
Sadly, the Jewish fanatic who assassinated Rabin in 1995 achieved his broader aim of derailing the peace train. In 1996 the rightwing Likud returned to power under the leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu. He made no effort to conceal his deep antagonism to Oslo, denouncing it as incompatible with Israel's right to security and with the historic right of the Jewish people to the whole land of Israel. And he spent his first three years as PM in a largely successful attempt to arrest, undermine, and subvert the accords concluded by his Labour predecessors.
Particularly destructive of the peace project was the policy of expanding Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. These settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a huge obstacle to peace. Building civilian settlements beyond the Green Line does not violate the letter of the Oslo accords but it most decidedly violates its spirit. As a result of settlement expansion the area available for a Palestinian state has been steadily shrinking to the point where a two-state solution is barely conceivable.
The so-called security barrier that Israel has been building on the West Bank since 2002 further encroaches on Palestinian land. Land-grabbing and peace-making do not go together: it is one or the other. Oslo is essentially a land-for-peace deal. By expanding settlements all Israeli governments, Labour as well as Likud, contributed massively to its breakdown.
The rate of settlement growth in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem is staggering. At the end of 1993 there were 115,700 Israeli settlers in the occupied territories. Their number doubled during the following decade.
Today the number of Israeli settlers on the West Bank exceeds 350,000. There are an additional 300,000 Jews living in settlements across the pre-1967 border in East Jerusalem. Thousands more settlement homes are planned or under construction. Despite his best efforts, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, failed to get the Netanyahu government to accept a settlement freeze as a precondition for renewing the peace talks suspended in 2010. As long as Netanyahu remains in power, it is a safe bet that no breakthrough will be achieved in the new round of talks. He is the procrastinator par excellence, the double-faced prime minister who pretends to negotiate the partition of the pizza while continuing to gobble it up.
The Oslo accords had many faults, chief of which was the failure to proscribe settlement expansion while peace talks were in progress. But the agreement was not doomed to failure from the start, as its critics allege. Oslo faltered and eventually broke down because Likud-led governments negotiated in bad faith. This turned the much-vaunted peace process into a charade. In fact, it was worse than a charade: it provided Israel with just the cover it was looking for to continue to pursue with impunity its illegal and aggressive colonial project on the West Bank.
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The timely arrival of HBO’s ‘Oslo’
The opening scene of the film “Oslo” begins not in Norway but in an unusually snow-covered Middle East. A dream sequence intersperses videos of violence in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank with footage of a European woman, headscarf pulled down around her neck, wandering through Gaza. An ominous soundtrack crescendos as the violence grows more intense, until viewers see the woman in a United Nations car that takes a direct hit from a projectile — a bullet or a rock, it isn’t clear which.
The woman is Mona Juul, an official in the Norwegian Foreign Ministry who is haunted by her time in Gaza, including a memory of seeing a Palestinian boy with a stone in his hand get shot by an Israeli soldier. After returning from the region, she and her husband Terje Rød-Larsen, a social scientist, undertake the defining mission of their career: orchestrating the 1993 back-channel negotiations that kicked off what ultimately became the Oslo Accords.
The story of Mona and Terje — and the Israelis and Palestinians they brought together — was first told in the 2016 Broadway play “Oslo.” That show has now been adapted into a movie, which premieres Saturday on HBO and was produced by Marc Platt and Steven Spielberg. Playwright J.T. Rogers adapted the script, and his collaborator, Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher, directed the film.
The movie depicts how this unlikely Norwegian couple convinced Israelis and Palestinians to come together at a historic mansion in a Scandinavian forest to hash out their differences while enjoying traditional fish dishes and drinking copious amounts of liquor.
The characters at the heart of the story are not the expected leaders — no one plays Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin or U.S. President Bill Clinton, although Shimon Peres, then Israel’s foreign minister, makes a brief appearance. Instead, it features the lower-level politicians and intellectuals who participated in the early rounds of talks, before they became official. The Israeli side includes, first, a professor from Haifa, and later Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin and Uri Savir, director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The Palestinian side features Ahmed Qurei, the PLO’s finance minister who is living in exile in Tunisia, and Hassan Asfour, his associate.
“The premise was getting enemies into a room to actually see each other as human beings,” Sher told Jewish Insider in a recent interview in Washington, D.C. “Oslo” tells the story of a nearly three-decade-old event, but it does not attempt to offer a comprehensive history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead, it seeks to offer lessons on courage, leadership and humanity from an era that now feels quite distant.
Dov Glickman and Salim Daw in a scene from “Oslo.” (Larry D. Horricks)
The recent 11-day war between Israel and Hamas might be compelling marketing for a movie about Israelis and Palestinians who were committed to coming together to end decades of fighting. “I would give anything for it not to be like this at this moment. Let’s just make that clear,” Sher said. But, he added, he recognized that it could “stir up a huge amount of interest in the subject, and therefore someone [who] goes to see ‘Oslo’ will learn something good, about the positive, about the history of where we are.”
While the movie is coming out at a time in which increased attention has been given to the conflict, it is also being released into a cultural moment where one-sidedness is very much in fashion, at least on social media. Many people who have recently begun to speak out about the conflict seemingly shun the complexity that is an inherent feature of the film.
“Great theater is always not between a wrong and right, but between two rights. If both sides are right, in a way it makes for a better story,” said Sher. “For people now who’ve gotten so entrenched in certain positions, to see that there was a time when people were willing to be helping, doesn’t hurt.”
While the disputes between the Israelis and the Palestinians remain unresolved, Sher views “Oslo” as a historical film. “It’s not a story which has a conclusion, and I don’t make the conclusion that, ‘Oh, if only we could go back to Oslo,’” Sher explained. “Learning about your own history, especially in the crazy social media world, is good.”
The story of these early negotiations is told through the eyes of Mona and Terje, who are meant to be neutral facilitators. Throughout the movie, Mona remains calm, interjecting only to stop an outburst from one of the Israeli or Palestinian negotiators. Keeping thoughts internal is more difficult for Terje, but he, too, succeeds — the conversations are left to the Israelis and Palestinians, who often pull the doors to the negotiating room closed as Mona and Terje watch from outside.
“They delivered us into a world we didn’t know, but they didn’t take credit for or try to do it from a motivation, or like they’re there to save all these people,” Sher noted. Still, he recognizes that telling the story of one of the most complicated regional, religious conflicts in the world through the eyes of white Christian characters could be a minefield. “We assiduously avoided that. It would be a trap. It’s not up to us,” he said. “The agency and importance of the story has to live with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the Norwegians are simply the facilitators.”
This neutrality is what makes the roles of Mona and Terje so difficult for the actors to play, said Sher. “It’s hard on the actors playing those roles, because they don’t get to have their own emotional response. They have to withhold, and they have to stay back,” he said. The couple is played by the British actors Ruth Wilson, a Golden Globe- and Tony-nominated actress who recently appeared in “His Dark Materials,” and Andrew Scott, who gained international acclaim two years ago when he starred in the hit show “Fleabag.”
The Yom Kippur War comes to HBO Max
The play came about from a personal connection: Sher and Terje’s daughters were best friends who attended the same elementary school in Manhattan. They would see each other at the girls’ soccer games, where Terje recounted tales of his largely secret role in getting the Oslo peace process off the ground. “He would tell me the most outrageous stories about Middle East peace. It occurred to me that that was theatrical, the theatricality of hearing about going up there and doing a back channel and getting them to all sit and talk.”
Sher and Rogers, the playwright, have collaborated on other historical plays. The pair previously produced a play called “Blood and Gifts,” about the Stinger missile program in Afghanistan in the 1980s. “It was the most successful counterintelligence operation in U.S. history. It helped the Russians be driven out of Afghanistan, and it produced one thing that wasn’t so good. That was Osama bin Laden,” said Sher. The pair also worked on a project on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. They are now working on a production based on The Power Broker, Robert Caro’s bestselling book about Robert Moses, the influential and controversial New York City urban planner.
Sher’s CV is long, with a mix of originals plays and adaptations, including the 2019 Broadway production of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” But Sher has also directed a number of award-winning musicals, including a 2008 revival of South Pacific that won him a Tony and a 2015 production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“Like most people [in the industry], I was in shows in school, in high school, playing small parts in musicals,” Sher said. After writing plays in college, he went back to his high school in California to run the drama department. He went to graduate school in England, where he studied sub-Saharan African theater and then experimental Polish theater. “I had a weird range of influences,” Sher noted, “and then I got better teachers and mentors and went into theater, and have been doing it for a long time since.”
In bringing “Oslo” to the big screen, Sher had to learn an entirely new way of directing. For one, the length had to change the movie is just under two hours, while the play clocks in at two hours and 45 minutes. One challenge that he faced as a director was the fact that film is less interactive and less intimate than theater. At a play, with a live audience, “you get to select what you’re focusing on, and the whole thing’s going to unfold in front of you,” Sher explained. “In film, I’m going to select every single thing you see, and I’m going to really control all of that.”
With a play, the director can make changes before each showing. To now release “Oslo” to the entire world as a static, unchanging creation is something new for Sher. “The basic experience of releasing a film is so weird compared to theater, because you’re going every day, and you’re having audiences respond every night,” said Sher. “We’ve been working on it in this vacuum, and we’re gonna go from 250 to 300 people seeing it to millions.”
Salim Daw, Waleed Zuaiter, Igal Naor and Jeff Wilbusch in a scene from “Oslo.” (Larry D. Horricks)
The now-global reach of “Oslo” helps introduce the story to people around the world who are unfamiliar with it. But it also means astute and potentially critical Israeli and Palestinian viewers. (The play was staged in Israel, but “I think they cut a lot of it,” he noted.) Ultimately, Sher isn’t concerned. “All the actors were from Israel and Palestine, and they were so extraordinary and so invested in it,” said Sher. “I didn’t feel like I was suddenly just making up my version of the world there, but I was actually participating with people who lived through a lot of this.”
Sher has no obvious connection to the subject matter, but he argues that “I don’t have to live through something to work on it.” Still, he does have Jewish roots: His father was born in a shtetl in Lithuania and fled pogroms in Europe, a fact Sher only learned as a teenager, after his parents had divorced. Sher’s father rejected his faith as a way to assimilate and stave off antisemitism he thought he might face in the business world. He never spoke about it. “My mother was about to marry him and went home to meet his parents, and I think after a few days, she said something like, ‘Is there something you want to tell me?’ Because, of course, they’re speaking Yiddish in the house.”
Sher’s father died relatively young, and he never got to ask about his Jewish background. But it remained a fascination of Sher’s, eventually contributing to his decision to direct the “Fiddler on the Roof” revival. “Often the first generation holds onto their beliefs. The second generation will reject everything. Then the third generation will become obsessed with the first generation,” said Sher. “I always was kind of obsessed and fascinated myself… It didn’t become a religious obsession. I was most attracted to the culture, the ideas.”
While the topic of the film could, at least in theory, be rather niche, Sher understands that the conflict attracts outsized global attention. “I’ve always had this thing about the Middle East. It’s at the center of a lot of our consciousness in general, and it’s an unresolved thing,” he explained. “It does matter to everyone, so if something happens, like that has happened in the last couple of weeks, it affects the whole world, because that region is at the heart of so many things. We all have a responsibility for it.”
And while it might not be part of the official marketing campaign, Sher insists that the movie has broader resonance beyond one small corner of the Middle East. “Leaders and people who work in these positions make these efforts and have to do these courageous things. That’s just how it is. I don’t mean just about Palestine, Israel. I mean about everything,” said Sher. “When we first did it, we said it was basically about Republicans and Democrats.”
The play has been staged in numerous cities around the world. Sher said people who saw it in London left talking about Brexit while viewers in South Korea walked away discussing the country’s enmity with its northern neighbor. Sher met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) earlier this week, and he said they discussed this “sublayer” of the movie. “What is it going to take — can you get Ilhan Omar and AOC and Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz in the room together? And what would happen?”
It’s an almost laughably optimistic message to bring to Washington. Then again, no one thought anything would come of Mona and Terje’s plucky peacemaking efforts.
“I think that’s the kind of secret message,” said Sher. “If it’s between two opposing forces, can they come to agreement? How do you get that agreement to work? That’s really what we were always trying to do.”
Competing nationalisms and partition
Both Jewish and Palestinian expectations for an independent state in historical Palestine can be traced to World War I, as the United Kingdom attempted to shore up support against the Ottoman Empire and the Central Powers. The Hussein-McMahon correspondence of 1915–16 promised British support for Arab independence in exchange for Arab support against the Ottoman Empire. Though the correspondence discussed the extent of territory under Arab rule, historical Palestine, which was not located along the disputed edges and whose population was predominantly Arab, was not explicitly discussed and was assumed to be included in the agreement by Hussein ibn Ali, the emir of Mecca, and his supporters. The following year the Balfour Declaration promised British support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
Over the following decades, waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine led to a significant increase in the Jewish population. The rapid immigration rate, which was managed by the United Kingdom, was met with protests from the Arab population. In 1947, as the United Kingdom prepared to withdraw from the region, the United Nations passed a partition plan (known as UN Resolution 181) that would divide Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, an idea originally proposed by the British government about a decade earlier. The partition plan was rejected by the Arabs, and the ensuing conflict over territory led to the first Arab-Israeli war (1948–49).
At the close of the war, the State of Israel had captured additional territory, while Transjordan (now Jordan) took control of the West Bank and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled or were expelled, most of them becoming stateless refugees, while hundreds of thousands of Jews fled or were expelled from Arab countries and were resettled in Israel. Palestinians, having no government of their own, organized themselves into many separate groups to promote a nationalist struggle. These groups were largely superseded by the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, an umbrella group promoting Palestinian self-determination.
Construction in Norway has always been characterized by the need to shelter people, animals, and property from harsh weather, including predictably cold winters and frost, heavy precipitation in certain areas, wind and storms and to make the most of scarce building resources. Until modern times, transportation infrastructure was also primitive, and builders largely had to rely on locally available materials.
Pre-historic times Edit
Thanks to new digging methods like topsoil excavation, archeologists have been able to further uncover the remains or foundations of 400 prehistoric houses that were previously hidden beneath the ground. Prior to this only 200 sites were immediately visible from the surface layer. Throughout the 20th century, Scandinavian archeologists have also been attempting to reconstruct prehistoric houses. The largest reconstruction project in Norway is the Bronze age settlement at Forsand in Ryfylke and the Iron age farm at Ullandhaug close by Stavanger. There's also the rebuild of the large chieftain house from the Viking age at Borg in Lofoten. 
Most of our archeological material derives from surveys done in the 20th century, and excavations done in major cities the past 25 years [as of 2003], including other archeological surveys from the 80s and 90s.
The oldest surviving traces of construction in Norway dates back to about 9000 BC, in mountainous regions near Store Myrvatn in contemporary Rogaland, where excavations have found portable dwellings most likely kept by nomadic reindeer hunters.  Traces of similar albeit younger tents have also been found other places along the western coast: Kollsnes at Øygarden in Hordaland, on Slettnes, Sørøy, and Mortensnes close by Nesseby in Finnmark, and one dating back to around 6500 BC at Fosenstraumen near Radøy in Hordaland. Stone age hunters must have used such simple tent and turf hut constructions, which in principle could have been very similar to those still in use by Sami nomads, with straight or hook-formed rods. The oldest turf hut had an approximately circle shaped floor plan and was built with two sets of hook latches (rafters that intersect at the roof ridge) which forms roof and walls as one element. For materials they probably used hides and wooden poles. 
With time, such tents became semi-permanent through the introduction of a simple foundation, allowing people to stay in one place for longer parts of the year. These "houses" have a diameter of 3–6 meters (9.8–19.7 ft) and covers an area of 20 square meters (220 sq ft), and were found as oval pits that had been cleared for stones. In the centre of the building, there could well have been a fireplace, and a part of the floor could have been covered by a platform on which they could sleep on top of. They were also partly dug into the earth with external ramparts made of earth and stone. Traces of these constructions can be found along the whole coast, but especially in the north: Leksa i Sør-Trøndelag, Flatanger i Nord-Trøndelag, Mortensnes in Finnmark.  The most notable of these is located at the Vega archipelago, an area that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 
There have been many instances where several houses have been found together in a cluster. This suggests that multiple family groups that's been living together in the same place. On Vega, such houses were already in use by 7000 BC, and they were still in use 5000 years later, in the transition from the Stone age into the Bronze Age around 1800 BC. At this point, the houses became larger and they gained a rectangular form, covering an area of 70 square meters (750 sq ft), as demonstrated at Gressbakken in Nesseby in Finnmark. Excavations have revealed that the inner walls were protected by thick ramparts of stone and peat, and there is evidence of several entrances through this rampart-wall. The roof construction of these buildings is uncertain, however. It is difficult to conclude whether the rafts rested on the ramparts or on top of posts. Since it is not uncommon to find several fireplaces along the mid axis of the house, it is deduced that multiple families stayed collectively at these larger houses.
The first permanent dwellings were probably built between 3000 and 2000 BC, with the introduction of agriculture to Norway. Available evidence indicates that wood was the most used building material for these structures. Iron Age dwellings typically combined shelter for animals and humans in long houses in order to preserve heat. Remains of structures from the Stone Age through the Bronze Age and the Iron Age have been excavated at Forsand in Ryfylke, near Stavanger and several other locations. Most prehistoric longhouses had pairs of roof-bearing posts dividing the interior into three naves, and walls of palisades, wattle and daub or turf. Similar buildings have been excavated all over Northwestern Europe. 
Viking and medieval eras Edit
Two distinctive timber building traditions found their confluence in Norwegian architecture. One was the practice of log building with horizontal logs notched at the corners, a technique thought to have been imported from the peoples to the east of Scandinavia. The other was the stave building tradition (typically found in stave churches), possibly based on improvements on the prehistoric longhouses that had roof-bearing posts dug into the ground. Although there is scant archaeological evidence of actual buildings from the earliest permanent structures, finds of Viking ships (e.g., the Oseberg ship) suggest significant mastery of woodworking and engineering. In the Lofoten archipelago in Northern Norway, a Viking chieftain's holding has been reconstructed at the Lofotr Viking Museum.   
Not counting the 28 remaining stave churches, at least 250 wooden houses predating the Black Death in 1350 are preserved more or less intact in Norway. Most of these are log houses, some with added stave-built galleries or porches. 
As the political power in Norway was consolidated and had to contend with external threats, larger structures were built in accordance with military technology at the time. Fortresses, bridges, and ultimately churches and manors were built with stone and masonry. These structures followed the European styles of their time.
Stave churches Edit
Possibly more than 1000 stave churches were built in Norway during the Middle Ages, most of them during the 12th and 13th centuries. Until the beginning of the 19th century, as many as 150 stave churches still existed. Many were destroyed as part of a religious movement that favored simple, puritan lines, and today only 28 remain, though a large number were documented and recorded by measured drawings before they were demolished.
The stave churches owe their longevity to architectural innovations that protected these large, complex wooden structures against water rot, precipitation, wind, and extreme temperatures. Most important was the introduction of massive sills underneath the staves (posts) to prevent them from rotting. Over the two centuries of stave church construction, this building type evolved to an advanced art and science. After the Reformation, however, no new stave churches were built. New churches were mainly of stone or horizontal log buildings with notched corners. Most old stave churches disappeared because of redundancy, neglect or deterioration, or because they were too small to accommodate larger congregations, and too impractical according to later standards.
Romanesque architecture Edit
The first stone churches in Norway were Romanesque, built under the influence of Anglo-Saxon missionaries, particularly bishop Nicholas Breakspear.  Later churches were influenced by Continental architecture. Examples include the churches at Ringsaker, Kviteseid, and elsewhere. Many of these churches have either been lost or rebuilt in the Gothic style, but numerous examples still exist, notably the Trondenes Church at Trondenesin Troms.
Gothic architecture Edit
Several churches that were originally built as Romanesque structures were modified or extended during the Gothic period. Among these are the cathedral of Hamar, now in ruins, the Stavanger Cathedral, and the renowned Nidaros Cathedral, one of the most important pilgrim destinations in medieval Europe. 
Under Danish rule Edit
In the late Middle Ages, the Norwegian state was severely weakened. In 1389 Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark and Sweden in the Kalmar Union. As the kings resided in Denmark, Norway was gradually reduced to a provincial status, and after the Reformation most of its separate institutions were abolished. The Danish government in Copenhagen regarded Norway as a backward province to be exploited,  but not worthy of investment in monumental architecture. Hence, ambitious Renaissance architecture is unusual in Norway compared to other European countries.
Fortresses, such as Akershus in Oslo, Vardøhus in Vardø, Tønsberghus in Tønsberg, the Kongsgården in Trondheim and Bergenhus with the Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergen were built in stone in accordance with standards for defensive fortifications of their time. Many of these were modernized and rebuilt through the years.  
The Hanseatic League also built unique commercial buildings at Bryggen in Bergen, starting in the 16th century. They were log buildings combining native and German traditions. 
Renaissance architecture Edit
After the Black Death, monumental construction in Norway came to a standstill, except for vernacular building, only to be resumed in the 16th and 17th centuries under Danish administration.  There are few examples of Renaissance architecture in Norway, the most prominent being the Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergen, Barony Rosendal in Hardanger, and the contemporary Austråt manor near Trondheim, and parts of Akershus Fortress.  
Christian IV undertook a number of projects in Norway that were largely based on Renaissance architecture  He established mining operations in Kongsberg and Røros, now a World Heritage Site. After a devastating fire in 1624, the town of Oslo was moved to a new location and rebuilt as a fortified city with an orthogonal layout surrounded by ramparts, and renamed Christiania. King Christian also founded the trading city of Kristiansand, naming it after himself.
Baroque architecture Edit
As Norway became a strategic part of the Danish-Norwegian kingdom, Danish kings built fortifications along borders and the seacoast. Over time, many of the fortifications at border areas and ports were modernized in line with Baroque military practice.
Although most residences were built according to local vernacular traditions, some manors (such as Austråt and Rosendal) exhibit the influence of Baroque architecture. Only the city of Christiania (Oslo) had a building code that prohibited wooden houses, and a number of large town houses modeled after Continental building types were constructed. Some large churches were constructed with brick walls, notably in Bergen, Christiania, Røros  and Kongsberg. 
Probably the most famous Baroque structure in Norway is Stiftsgården, the Royal residence in Trondheim, a residential building that is one of the largest wooden structure in Northern Europe. 
Rococo architecture Edit
Rococo provided a brief but significant interlude in Norway, appearing primarily in the decorative arts, and mainly in interiors, furniture and luxury articles such as table silver, glass and stoneware. In some country districts, folk artists produced the distinctly Norwegian craft of decorative painting, rosemaling, and related wood carving style. In polite architecture, a few wooden town houses and manors show rococo influence, notably in Trondheim and Bergen, Damsgård Manor in Bergen being the most significant. 
In towns and central country districts during the 18th century, log walls were increasingly covered by weatherboards, a fashion made possible by sawmill technology. These buildings were better insulated and better protected against the harsh climate. But the main reason for the rapid adoption of this custom was the more fashionable appearance of boarded walls, which were more suitable than bare log walls as a background to details and ornaments borrowed from classical architecture.
19th century Edit
The Napoleonic Wars led to the separation of Norway and Denmark. Norway was restored in 1814 as an autonomous kingdom in a personal union with Sweden. The two states had separate institutions, except for the king and the foreign service. Regained statehood required new public buildings, mainly in the capital of Christiania. During the following century, the country experienced impressive growth in wealth and population, resulting in a need for new infrastructure and buildings.
At the dawn of the 19th century, less than a handful of academically trained architects were active in Norway, most of them military officers having studied civil engineering. The market for architects was limited in a sparsely inhabited country with no capital city, no court and no important government institutions. Architecture was of interest mainly to a limited group of wealthy merchants and landowners. However, toward the close of the previous century, this group saw a remarkable increase in prosperity. Large fortunes were made by a few, who then sought to surround themselves with buildings and gardens appropriate to their social position. Well connected internationally, these people were acquainted with the latest trends in architecture. Neoclassical structures were much in demand.
Architect Carl Frederik Stanley (1769–1805), educated in Copenhagen, spent some years in Norway around the turn of the 19th century. He did minor works for wealthy patrons in and around Oslo, but his major achievement was the renovation of the only seat of higher education in Christiania, the Oslo Katedralskole, completed in 1800. He added a classical portico to the front of an older structure, and a semi-circular auditorium that was sequestered by Parliament in 1814 as a temporary place to assemble, now preserved at Norsk Folkemuseum as a national monument.
Christian Collett (1771–1833), a graduate of the Mining Academy at Kongsberg, designed the splendid Ulefoss manor, built between 1802 and 1807 by sawmill owner Niels Aall. This is one of the few brick houses in Norway, boasting a palladian layout, a central cupola, and a classical colonnade. Collett designed several other manors and town houses.
The same period saw the erection of a large number of splendid neo-classisist houses in and around all towns along the coast, notably in Halden, Oslo, Drammen, Arendal, Bergen and Trondheim, mainly wooden buildings dressed up as stone architecture. By far the largest private house in Norway is the Jarlsberg manor, renovated 1812–14 by the Danish architect Løser for count Herman Wedel-Jarlsberg.
Christiania, promoted to the status of a capital city in 1814, had practically no buildings suitable for the many new government institutions. An ambitious building program was initiated, but realised very slowly because of a strained economy. The first major undertaking was the Royal Palace, designed by Hans Linstow and built between 1824 and 1848. Linstow also planned Karl Johans gate, the avenue connecting the Palace and the city, with a monumental square halfway to be surrounded by buildings for the University, the Parliament (Storting) and other institutions. But only the University buildings were realised according to this plan.  Christian Heinrich Grosch, one of the first fully educated architects in Norway, designed the original building for the Oslo Stock Exchange (1826–1828), the local branch of the Bank of Norway (1828), Christiania Theatre (1836–1837), and the first campus for the University of Oslo (1841–1856).  For the University buildings, he sought the assistance of the renowned German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. 
The German architectural influence persisted in Norway, and many wooden buildings followed the principles of Neoclassicism.
Romanticism and historicism Edit
Norwegian romantic nationalism also had an influence on Norwegian architecture from around 1840. Following the German lead, many classicist architects designed red-brick buildings in a revival of medieval styles. Romanesque and Gothic examples were considered eminently suitable for churches, public institutions and factories. Linstow was the first Norwegian architect to be inspired by the Middle Ages in his proposal of 1837 for a square to be surrounded by public building, bisected by an avenue between Christiania and the new Royal Palace. On the north side, planned buildings for the University were to be "composed in some Medieval or Florentine style", with exposed brick-work.  His classicist colleague Grosch was the first to convert to historicism and realize a number of red-brick buildings, after his 1838 visit to Berlin, where he met the famous architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The first major historicist work by Grosch was the neo-romanesque Bazaars and the adjacent fire station near the Oslo Cathedral, begun in 1840 and extended in several stages until 1859. Other architects followed, notably Heinrich Ernst Schirmer with the Botsfengselet (penitentiary) (1844–1851), the Gaustad Hospital (1844–1855) and the Railway Station (1854) (with von Hanno). Also in Oslo, the German architect Alexis de Chateauneuf (1799-1853) designed Trefoldighetskirken, the first neo-gothic church, completed by von Hanno in 1858.
Most urban apartment buildings and villas continued to be built in the classical tradition, with plastered brick walls. The repertoire of historic styles was expanded in Homansbyen, Oslo's first residential development of detached villas, planned by Georg Andreas Bull. He designed most of the early villas built from 1858 until 1862 in a variety of styles, ranging from medieval to classicist and exotic.
From around 1840, architects started to design wooden buildings in a new style, the so-called Swiss chalet style.  The style and its name originated in Germany, where Swiss popular culture was much admired by the romanticists. Elements such as projecting roofs, verandas and emphasis on gables were inspired from Alpine vernacular buildings. But the style may more correctly be termed historicism in wood, a term introduced by Jens Christian Eldal. A number of residential, institutional, and commercial buildings were built in this style, characterized by ornate, projecting details. Railway stations and churches, designed by trained architects, were distributed all in rural districts and helped to make this style popular and to keep it alive in the vernacular tradition long after it went out of fashion among architects.
The Swiss chalet-style evolved into a Scandinavian variation, known in Norway as the "dragon style”, which combined motifs from Viking and medieval art with vernacular elements from the more recent past. The most renowned practitioner of this style was the architect Holm Hansen Munthe, who designed a number of tourist resorts, exhibition pavilions and churches in the 1880s and 1890s. These caught the eye of the German emperor Wilhelm II, who visited Norway annually. He commissioned Munthe to design his "Matrosenstation" near Potsdam and a hunting lodge with a "stave church" in Rominten in East Prussia. These last buildings were destroyed during World War II.
Architects abandoned both the "Swiss" and the "dragon" styles shortly after 1900, but elements of the "Swiss style" survived in vernacular buildings for some decades. In the recent past, producers of pre-fabricated family homes have increasingly reintroduced motifs from the "Swiss" style in their repertoire.
Vernacular architecture Edit
Until the 20th century, most Norwegians lived and worked in buildings that were designed and built according to vernacular building traditions, what in Norwegian is known as byggeskikk. These practices varied somewhat by region and climatic conditions and evolved over time, but were largely based on use of wood and other locally available resources. 
Since the Middle Ages, most dwellings were log houses with notched corners, carefully crafted to ensure protection against the elements. Centrally placed open-hearth fires with smoke vents in the roofs gave way to stone stoves and chimneys in early modern times. Specialized buildings became commonplace, organized around farmyards or gårdstun. The introduction of exterior boarding (weatherboarding) in the 18th century improved housing standards considerably and gave rise to larger houses.
Building practices along the coast also included boathouses, fishing cottages, piers, etc. Here, houses for livestock and people were typically built up from the actual shoreline. A typical medium-sized farm in the inland of Norway would include a dwelling house (våningshus), hay barn (låve), livestock barn (fjøs), one or more food storage houses (stabbur), a stable, and occasionally separate houses for poultry, pigs, etc. Houses that had separate heat sources, e.g., washing houses (eldhus) and smithies were usually kept separate from the other houses to prevent fires. Outhouses were typically separate, small structures. If the farm housed craftsmen, there would also be separate houses for carpentry, wheel making, shoemaking, etc.
In Eastern inland Norway and Trøndelag, the houses around a tun were typically organized in a square (firkanttun) in Gudbrandsdal, there was a distinction between inntun (inner tun) and uttun (outer tun). The configuration of houses also depended on whether the farm was situated on a hill or in flatter terrain.
Depending upon the size and economic well-being of the farm, there might also be a feast hall (oppstue), a house for the retired farmers (føderådstue), farm hands' dormitory (drengstue), carriage house (vognskjul), and even distillery (brenneskur). Smaller, poorer farms might combine barns and dwelling houses, have simpler storage areas, and use the facilities of other farms for activities they could not afford to build houses for.
Building traditions varied by region and type of structure. Food storage houses – stabbur – were usually built on stilts in ways that made it difficult for mice and rats, but not cats, to get in. Exterior cladding varied by region, often to take into account local climate conditions. Roofs were often covered with birch bark and sod.
Many places in Norway farms also maintained mountain farms (seter/støl), where cows, goats, and sheep would put out to pasture during the summer months. These would typically include a small dwelling house and a dairy for making and storing cheese, sour cream, etc.
Modern Norwegian farms often maintain many building traditions but no longer need the many and varied buildings of the past. However, many of the traditions have been carried on in more recently built vacation cabins in the mountains and along the coast.
20th-century architecture Edit
The German influence brought into Norway by neo-classicism abated when Norway gained full independence in 1905. A new generation of Norwegian architects educated in Sweden took the lead in developing a distinctly national architecture, endeavouring to break the German historicist tradition. However, German modernism and town planning continued to influence early 20th-century architecture. As the Norwegian Institute of Technology was founded in 1910 and began to teach architecture in Trondheim, there also emerged a distinctly Norwegian collegium of architects that has contributed to a Norwegian regional architecture, discussed by the art historian Sigfried Giedeon. 
Art Nouveau architecture Edit
The Jugendstil, a variant of Art Nouveau, had a certain influence on much of the new construction in Norway around the turn of the 20th century. The city of Ålesund, after burning to the ground in 1904, was rebuilt almost entirely in this style and continues to be a prominent example, along with Riga and Brussels.  Trondheim also has numerous art nouveau buildings. In the capital Oslo, few art nouveau buildings were erected, due to a local economic crisis and a stagnant building trade during the first decade of the century. However, some public buildings were constructed in this style, such as the Historical Museum and the Government office building. In Bergen, the main theatre Den Nationale Scene is a monumental example.
Mass residential architecture Edit
Changing demographics and a growing social awareness led to increased political and architectural interest in providing cost-effective, sanitary, and comfortable residential space to the growing urban population in general and the working class in particular. This was known as boligsaken ("the housing cause") in Norwegian popular culture and continues to play a role to this day. 
Not unlike other countries during the evolution of their economies, Architecture became a tool for and manifestation of social policy, with architects and politicians determining just what features were adequate for the intended residents of housing projects. As late as in 1922, there were many who felt that working-class families had no need for their own bath apartments and small houses only included a small kitchen and one or two rooms.
Before World War II, a number of cooperative investment projects known as "egne hjem" (roughly "our own homes") resulted in a handful of developments, but after the war these gave way to cooperative organizations that were formed to finance and build large-scale residential complexes. The largest-- Oslo Bolig og Sparelag, known as OBOS—built its first complex Etterstad in Oslo, but there were similar initiatives throughout the country. These co-ops set standards for housing, hired architects to design solutions, and contracted to have them built. Entire sections, known as drabantbyer - or "satellite cities" - were built in the outskirts of major cities. The first of these - Lambertseter - introduced an entirely new phenomenon in the eastern areas of Oslo such as in Groruddalen, but similar areas also emerged in Bergen, Trondheim, and other cities. The apex of this trend was reached in 1966 with the massive buildings in Ammerudlia. 
This era—which had spent most of its force by the mid-1970s—led to an increased awareness of the physical and emotional needs of city dwellers. Some of the issues under debate were. 
- Kitchen - traditional Norwegian homes combined the family room and kitchen, but in early apartment buildings, small, so-called "laboratory kitchens" were popular. Over time, eat-in-kitchens took their place.
- Natural light--large apartment buildings were oriented to provide sunlight to the residents, ideally orienting the kitchen toward the east to get the morning light and the living room to the west for evening light.
- Privacy--providing separate sleeping quarters for parents and children, and among children led to larger apartments over time. Similarly, most buildings had a limited number of apartments adjoining each staircase.
- Alienation - monolithic, homogenous apartment complexes reinforced what some [who?] characterized as "social democracy's hell."
The perceived shortcomings of the mass housing movement led to efforts to create cost-effective housing solutions that were more varied, more integrated with natural surroundings, and above all more customized to families' needs. In 1973, the Parliament of Norway recommended a shift toward small residential houses rather than large apartment buildings. The Norwegian State Housing Bank (Husbanken) provided citizens with the ability to fund construction of their homes, and an entire construction industry formed to build these needs.
As a result of the pioneering efforts by Olav Selvaag and others, archaic and otherwise unnecessary restrictions were relaxed, improving opportunities for more Norwegians to build housing to suit their individual needs and preferences. Norwegians often undertake home improvement projects on their own, and many have built most of their own homes.
In the late 1920s, Modernism (or the International style) was taken up by Scandinavian architects. In Scandinavia this architectural trend was called Functionalism (or colloquially in Sweden and Norway "funkis"). Modernism found many adherents among young architects, especially in Norway. Its definite breakthrough was the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930, after which the majority of architects all over Scandinavia converted to the modern movement. Nowhere else did Modernism become so firmly established as the mainstream trend in architecture. It maintained its dominant position until about 1940.
A number of landmark structures, particularly in Oslo, were built in the functionalist style, the first one being the Skansen restaurant (1925–1927) by Lars Backer, demolished in 1970. Backer also designed the restaurant at Ekeberg, opened in 1929. The art gallery Kunstnernes Hus by Gudolf Blakstad and Herman Munthe-Kaas (1930) still shows influence from the preceding classicist trend of the 1920s. Hvalstrand bath (1934)  is one of several public seaside bath facilities in Norway, by André Peters. A year before, Ingierstrand Bad was designed by Ole Lind Schistad (1891–1979) and Eivind Moestue(1893–1977). Other great names of Norwegian functionalist architecture are Ove Bang, Fridtjof Reppen, Nicolai Beer (1885–1950) and Per Grieg (1897–1962).
Reconstruction architecture Edit
Following the scorched earth tactics of retreating Wehrmacht troops, large areas in Northern Norway needed to be rebuilt. In 1945, there was an overwhelming need for housing. An architectural competition produced several designs for simple, cost-effective, and rapidly assembled housing. The resulting houses were Spartan and broke with building standards, but met an immediate need for shelter.  
The Museum of Reconstruction in Hammerfest is dedicated to the reconstruction.
Government-sponsored architecture Edit
As Norway gained full independence in 1905, the national government determined to establish institutions consistent with the newly formed state's ambitions as a modern society. The first prime minister made it a priority to modernize the Royal Palace in Oslo, building among other things, some of the country's first water toilets, providing hot and cold water, and granting the Royal Family's wish of providing a common apartment for the king, queen, and their son.
In the early years, such public works were limited to structures needed for the national government's own administrative needs, but an increasing number of large-scale projects were conceived, designed, and completed since 1905 to meet various needs, such as:
- Public health and welfare, including:
- Hospital complexes and polyclinical facilities, e.g., Rikshospitalet, Haukeland University Hospital, Gaustad Hospital,  etc.
- Orphanages, later vacated in favor of other solutions that in turn required their own architecture. , also vacated as the public health problem of tuberculosis was solved 
- Temporary and provisional housing for the indigent, asylum seekers, and homeless.
The architectural designs of these projects have reflected not only the style currents of their time, but the societal debate over the purpose they were intended to serve. Nationalistic ambitions early on gave way to austere designs based on functionalism, and then to designs that emphasized human and ecological needs. To a great extent, Norwegian architects have found the opportunity to develop their signature styles through these projects, and thereby also a Norwegian architectural dialect.
Many of the projects have been controversial, and the resulting creative tension has probably served to advance the state of architectural arts in Norway. National and local governments and governmental institutions will continue to be among the largest customers of architects in coming years.
A number of trends influence contemporary architecture in Norway, among them: 
- Growing public and private affluence. Buildings have a wider range of purpose, and are expected to meet increasingly complex demands. For example, the new opera building (designed by Snøhetta) in Oslo reflects an ambition not just to build a vibrant cultural center, but also to create a new architectural icon in the Oslofjord.
- Aesthetics as a factor of well-being. From the early austere principle that form should strictly follow function, there is a growing sensibility that aesthetics affect the physical and emotional health of those who use a building or structure. Norwegian laws concerning occupational health have for several decades emphasized access to daylight and fresh air, and it may also be that harsh climatic conditions create an added imperative for uplifting aesthetics.
- Environmental concerns. In addition to concerns about air and water pollution, Norwegian architectural design has also emphasized integration with the natural landscape. More recently, architects have also worked with engineers to make the most out of scarce resources, e.g., energy, water, etc.
- Demographic diversity. Norwegian demographics have undergone significant changes the last few decades, resulting in new religious buildings
- Norwegian building traditions. While it may be too much to speak of a renaissance in traditional Norwegian architecture, more and more urban planning is affected by the need to preserve or restore these traditions. Examples include plans to renew the center of Oppdal and recent work at the Oslo neighborhood of Grünerløkka.
A number of architectural prizes are awarded in Norway, including the Houen Foundation Award, Treprisen, Statens byggeskikkpris, Sundts premie, Betongelementprisen, Betongtavlen, Glassprisen, Murverksprisen, Stenprisen, and Stålkonstruksjonsprisen.
Abbas Succeeds Arafat
On January 9 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of the Palestine National Authority, receiving about 61 percent of the vote. Mustafa Barghouthi, his closest rival, received about 20% of the vote. Over 60% of eligible voters participated, despite difficulties owing to the Israeli occupation and a boycott of the elections by the Islamist groups (See commentary here). US President George Bush invited Abbas to Washington, after several years during which Palestinian leaders had not been welcome in the White House, and Israeli PM Ariel Sharon announced that he would call Abbas and plan a meeting.
Unity government in Israel - Owing to disaffection of the Israeli right with the disengagement plan of PM Ariel Sharon, the National Religious Party left the government, and dissenting members of Sharon's Likud party tried to block formation of a unity government with the Labor party. The center Shinui party was forced out of the government, and instead a coalition was formed with the Israel Labor party and the small United Torah Judaism party. This government was approved by a narrow margin (58 to 56) with several Likud members abstaining.
Sharm El Sheikh Conference - Following his election, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Palestinian factions to end the violence and negotiated a truce agreement. Palestinian police were deployed throughout Gaza with explicit orders to prevent terror attacks. The sides agreed to meet at a summit conference hosted by Egypt in Sharm El Sheikh on February 8, 2005. At the conference, attended by Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Mubarak as well as the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, both sides announced an end to the violence. Israel would be releasing over 900 Palestinian prisoners and gradually withdrawing from Palestinian cities according to newspaper reports. Egypt and Jordan announced that they were returning their ambassadors to Israel. The Intifadah was deemed to be officially over. (see commentary.) However, following the pattern of previous conferences of this type, the peace was soon shattered by a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on February 25, apparently perpetrated by an Islamic Jihad group controlled from Damascus. Israel announced it was freezing the planned handover of Palestinian towns to PNA security. Mahmud Abbas condemned the bombing and the PNA made some arrests. (see commentary )
Disengagement Decision - Shortly after the Sharm El Sheikh conference, the Israeli Knesset, followed by the Israeli cabinet on February 20, approved the disengagement plan , which called for unilateral evacuation of 21 settlements in Gaza and 4 in the West Bank by the summer of 2005. The disengagement was to be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Prime Minister, promised to help ensure quiet during the evacuation. Click for Map
London Conference - on March 1, 2005, a conference hosted by Great Britain was held in London. The purpose of the conference was to organize financial support for the Palestinian government and to assist in organization of Palestinian security. Israel did not attend the conference, and bilateral issues were not touched upon directly. However, Palestinian President Abbas said that ending the occupation and achieving peace was a priority goal for the Palestinians.
Cairo Conference and Tahidiyeh - In mid March, Palestinian militant groups met in Cairo and agreed to a tahidiyeh (lull in the fighting) - less than a full truce or hudna . The Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups began moving to rejoin the PLO and the Hamas announced its intention to participate in the May elections of the Palestine Legislative Council. Israel withdrew from Jericho, and a week later, from Tulqarm. Israel held up withdrawal from a third Palestinian city later in the month, because it claimed the Palestinian Authority was not disarming terrorists as it should have been under the roadmap. Israel continued to catch militants planning attacks or smuggling arms during this period, but Palestinian Authority forces also spotted and stopped terrorist activities. At the end of March, rebellious militants of the Al-Aqsa brigades, discontent with changes in the Palestinian Authority, fired on Abbas's headquarters in Ramallah. Though at first authorities announced a hard line against the extremists, Abbas later reconsidered and decided to try and smooth over the differences. Tawfik Tirawi, head of Palestinian Intelligence in the West Bank, resigned because, he wrote, little was being done to implement the rule of law.
Arab Summit and Peace Proposal - An Arab summit in Algiers ignored most of the pressing issues in the Arab world, and turned down a fresh peace initiative by King Abdullah of Jordan. Instead, it reiterated its support for the version of the Saudi Peace Plan passed in 2002 in Beirut that had been rejected by Israel. Israel indicated that the proposals are now outdated due to changes in the reality of the Middle East.
Illegal Outposts - In March 2005, the Israeli government accepted a report on Illegal outposts prepared at the request of the government by Talia Sasson. The report investigated the status of a large number of illegal outposts, built without proper permits and government authorization in the West Bank since March of 2001. It described systematic lawlessness and diversion of funds used to finance the outposts. There are about 20 or 30 such outposts that were supposed to have been evacuated under the roadmap peace plan . Repeated government decisions and attempts to evacuate these outposts have not availed. The government appointed a committee to study the report, but no action was taken.
Settlement Controversy - Palestinians were upset by the advancing Israeli security barrier, which isolates Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and by announced Israeli plans to build several thousand new housing units in the E1 area, near the settlement of Ma'aleh Edumim, east of Jerusalem. Under the Geneva Accord, Ma'aleh Edumim would be included in Israel, but the roadmap peace plan forbids construction in settlements. In his letter to Ariel Sharon in reply to Sharon's formal statement of the disengagement plan, President Bush had stated that the borders of the final settlement would take into account changes due to large Israeli population concentration in the occupied territories. The Israeli announcement may have been designed to test this statement, and to bolster Sharon's flagging popularity among right-wing supporters. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador Dan Kurtzer first condemned the Israeli announcement. This reaction elicited a hail of ridicule from right-wing critics of Sharon and from former PM Ehud Barak, who claimed it was proof that the U.S. promise was worthless. Rice and Kurtzer then reversed themselves and denied that there were any differences of opinion with Israel over the settlement plans.
Motion in no direction - During April and May, both Ariel Sharon and Mahmud Abbas visited with the President of the United States. Symbolically, this visit was very important, because it signaled that the US was ending the isolation of the Palestinian Authority that it had begun when Arafat failed to take action against terrorists. President Bush promised the Palestinians $50 million in direct aid in addition to larger sums already allocated for aid through NGOs, and stated that the borders of the 1949 armistice were the basis for any agreement. This last statement caused some controversy in Israel for some reason, but turned out to consistent with the wording of the letter Bush had given Ariel Sharon in April, 2004. Despite the fanfare, neither the meeting with Sharon nor the meeting with Abbas produced any visible change in Israeli unwillingness to make concessions to the Palestinians or in Palestinian unwillingness to take decisive steps to end terror by outlawing terrorist groups, disarming the terrorists, actively combating attacks, arresting wanted men and collecting illegal arms. The Israelis released about 400 prisoners as a good will gesture to Abbas. This number included, for the first time, prisoners "with blood on their hands," who had been involved in attacks that resulted in bloodshed. However, the Palestinians belittled this gesture as meaningless, since most of the prisoners were near the end of their sentence, and a large number of prisoners remain in Israeli jails. The Palestinians pointed out that none of the prisoners held from before 1994 had been released, so the prisoner release did not fulfill the conditions agreed upon in Sharm El Sheikh.
Attempted and successful Palestinian attacks, and particularly mortar and missile attacks on Gaza settlements and Negev towns continued. Palestinian President Abbas traveled to Gaza and secured a half-hearted commitment from extremist factions to honor the "Tahidiyeh" as long as Israel did, but repeated Palestinian attacks and Israeli reprisals and arrests of wanted men continued. Israeli forces caught a 15 year old boy suicide bomber at a checkpoint in the West Bank and later caught a young woman en route to carry out a suicide bombing attack on an Israeli hospital, sent by the Fatah El-Aqsa brigades. According to Palestinian statistics, Israel killed about 40 Palestinians in the period, wounded 411 and arrested nearly a thousand civilians, many for illegally staying in Israel. Most of the dead were wanted men or were in the course of carrying out an attack. In late June, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived, met with the sides and announced that the sides had agreed to destroy the houses of Gaza settlers after Israeli withdrawal.
On June 21, 2005, Sharon and Abbas met in a long-awaited summit, but nothing at all appeared to result from the meeting, other than an announcement by Ariel Sharon that he had attained Palestinian consent to coordination of the Gaza pullout. Israel would make no concessions on security unless the Palestinians acted against terrorists, and the Palestinians would not act decisively against terrorists. No communique was issued and the Palestinian leadership announced its profound disappointment. Palestinians announced that a large number of wanted terrorists had agreed to join the Palestinian police, while the Israelis announced they had convinced US AID to donate $500 million in medical equipment to Palestinian hospitals. For its part, the US ended its ban on diplomatic visits to Gaza that had begun 18 months previously, when AID officials were killed in a terrorist attack, resuming visits of US diplomatic personnel.
As violence flared following the summit, Israel launched air attacks against rocket launchers in Gaza, killed several Islamic Jihad terrorists and also announced it was resuming its policy of targeted killings of Islamic Jihad terrorists.
In Palestine, demonstrations and even armed attacks continued against the leadership. The popularity of the Hamas, now a contender in legislative elections, continued to rise, perhaps abetted by rumored and actual meetings between EU officials and Hamas representatives and repeated calls in the US for recognition of the Hamas. Both the British and PM President Abbas called on Hamas to end violence and join the political process, but Hamas initially refused, while accepting a short term truce. President Abbas announced that legislative elections would be delayed for several months in order to implement changes in the election law. At the beginning of July Abbas invited the Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join a unity government.
The impasse during this period is attributable to several factors. Neither side is politically strong enough to offer concessions on final status. Such negotiations are pointless as long as Ariel Sharon insists that Jerusalem cannot be divided and Abbas insists that Jerusalem must be the Palestinian capital and that there will be no "compromise" on the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Abbas must produce a Fatah win in the legislative elections and cannot do anything that will antagonize extremist sympathizers. On the other hand, Sharon has staked everything on the disengagement process, leaving him with little support for any other concessions. If any concessions are followed by Palestinian violence, that may be used as a reason to stop the disengagement. As Palestinian attacks against Israeli settlements continued, and as right-wing agitation against the disengagement escalated, Israel support for the withdrawal move dwindled from over 65% to about 50%.However, the new IDF chief of staff, Dan Halutz, indicated that no military exigency would stop the disengagement. It could only be stopped by a political decision. Israel also warned that if necessary it would take drastic steps to ensure that settlements and soldiers were not attacked during the evacuation.
Disengagement Protests - Settlers protesting the disengagement carried out increasingly aggressive protests, which including blocking roads in Israel, violence against Palestinians, police and IDF soldiers, and calls for soldiers to refuse to participate in evacuating settlers. At the end of June, settler-supporters who took up residence in Maoz Yam, an abandoned Gaza hotel, attempted to take over Palestinian houses and attacked an 18 year old Palestinian youth. Israeli police raided the hotel and removed the settlers by force. On July 13, the Israeli government closed the Gaza strip to Israeli citizens who were not residents of the settlements, to foil a planned march organized by the Yesha (settlers') council.
The truce is broken - On July 13 a terrorist of the Islamic Jihad originating in Tul Karm carried out a suicide bombing in Netanya, resulting in the deaths of five people. The IDF reoccupied to Tul Karm, arrested several Islamic Jihad members and killed a Palestinian policeman who opened fire on them. The Hamas in Gaza retaliated with a rain of rocket fire on Gaza settlements and Israeli towns, killing one. The IDF in return launched rocket attacks in Gaza and a manhunt for Hamas military leaders in the Hebron area, resulting in the deaths of 8 or more Hamas members, some of them killed while on their way to launch fresh rocket attacks. On July 15, a violent battle broke out between Palestine National Authority forces trying to restore order and Hamas members in Gaza. Two Palestinian civilian bystanders were killed in the attack.
Implementation of Disengagement - Israeli evacuation of Gaza settlements and four West Bank settlements began on August 15 and was completed August 24. Despite threats of civil war and demonstrations by right-wing Zionist groups, the evacuation was completed without major violence. One woman set herself on fire in protest and died of her wounds. Some protestors threw unidentified substances that may have included paint, turpentine and caustic soda at police. After completing the evacuation, IDF killed 5 wanted Islamic Jihad men in Tul Karm. The disengagement was completed ahead of schedule. As Israel withdrew there were increasing omens of impending chaos. Former PNA official Moussa Arafat, a relative of Yasser Arafat, was murdered by Palestinians angry about corruption. On September 11, the last Israeli soldiers left Gaza. On September 12, the settlements were officially handed over to the Palestinians.
Subsequently a passage was opened between Gaza and Rafah in Egypt to ensure that Palestinians are not cut off from the world. Egyptians, Palestinians and EU representatives monitor the passage to prevent smuggling of arms, but Israelis claim that Palestinians are smuggling in substantial qualities of arms. Under pressure from the United States, Israel agreed to implement safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank using busses, but did not implement it. Qassam rockets continued to be fired on Sderot and were now also fired on Ashqelon just north of Gaza. Israel responded with air strikes to create a buffer zone
On January 4, 2006, Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke, leaving the leadership of Israel and the new Kadima party in the hands of Ehud Olmert Olmert appeared to take some vigorous action against settler lawlessness, denouncing the destruction of olive trees, calling for evacuation of illegal outposts, and at the end of January, IDF and police forces staged a confrontation with settlers who had infiltrated part of the Arab Suq in Hebron and destroyed property there. The settlers evicted the Arabs, claiming that the land was owned by a Jewish Yeshiva and that they were the lawful inheritors. However, the IDF had not given them permission to occupy the properties. After a dramatic confrontation however, the government appeared to back down, compromising on peaceable removal of the settlers in return for a promise that they could soon return to the properties "lawfully."
Hamas Victory - In elections held January, 26, 2006, the radical Hamas movement won an upset victory over the Fateh. Hamas won about 74 of the 133 seats in the Palestine Legislative Assembly. The movements that had led the Palestinians for about 40 years, the Fateh and the PLO seemed to be on their way to the opposition. Under the Palestinian constitution, Mahmoud Abbas remains President with broad powers. European and American leaders pledged not to negotiate with Hamas and not to provide aid to the Palestinians until Hamas agreed to disarm and recognize Israel. Hamas spokesmen sent mixed signals, but vowed never to recognize Israel and never to give up their claim to all of Palestine, though a majority of Palestinians apparently want them to follow the path of peace. The Hamas-led government was sworn in on March 29, 2006. The Fatah refused to join the coalition because Hamas would not recognize the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinian people, and would not agree to honor past agreements of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, including the Oslo agreements that recognize the existence of Israel and which form the basis of legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli Elections - In elections held March 28, 2006, the Kadima party led by Ehud Olmert gained 29 seats, more than any other party, while the right-wing Likud, formerly the governing party, got only 12 seats, signaling the end of the domination of Israeli politics by settler ideology
Hamas in power - The international community suspended aid to the Hamas-led PNA government, causing an acute financial crisis. Iran and Russia freed funds for use of the Hamas, and Hamas politicians smuggled cash into Gaza under the eyes of European monitors in Rafah, in order to pay salaries of Palestinian security forces and workers. International donors eventually agreed on a mechanism for disbursing funds through Palestinian NGOs and for paying salaries directly to employees, and on June 24, EU donors announced a 105 million Euro aid package that would be distributed by this method. By the end of June however, Palestinians had apparently received only some partial salary payments from the cash smuggled by the Hamas.
Hamas formed a new security militia headed by Jamil Abu Samhadana, leader of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees. This security force was declared illegal by President Mahmoud Abbas, who organized yet another Fatah-based militia. Fighting between Hamas and Fatah broke out, including killings and kidnappings of officials on both sides. Life in Gaza became increasingly chaotic, as Palestinian rights organizations documented a steady stream of internecine political violence, criminal violence and random killings. Samhadana was killed in an Israeli air-raid in early June, apparently as he was reviewing a rehearsal for a terrorist attack.
Palestinians continued an almost daily rain of Qassam rockets on Israeli towns within the green line, in particular, the little town of Sderot. At the same time, Israel continued arrests and targeted killings of terrorist leaders whom it claimed were planning attacks, and in return the Islamic Jihad and Hamas vowed revenge.
Capture of Gilad Shalit - About 1000 Qassam rockets fell up to June 2006. The Qassam rockets grew in size and range, and the attacks had killed at least 9 to 11 people in all, including 5 residents of Sderot. Israel responded with artillery fire into empty fields and other psychological warfare, and then took to attacking the launching sites. At approximately the time of one such attack, several members of a Palestinian family were killed on a beach in Gaza, though Israel denied that their attack was responsible. Subsequent Israeli attacks missed their targets and killed civilians. On June 25th, just as PNA announced the conclusion of an agreement on a truce with Israel, Hamas attacked an Israeli army border outpost at Kerem Shalom, killing two soldiers and capturing a third, Gilad Shalit. Hamas offered to trade the soldier for Palestinian prisoners. Israel refused to negotiate and began a siege of Gaza and later invaded in operation "Summer Rains" in an attempt to force Palestinians to return the soldier alive and stop the rain of Qassam rockets.
Palestinian Prisoners' Document - Palestinians of various factions approved a document May 11 calling for national unity. The document called for right of return of the refugees and continued violent resistance against Israel, the latter in violation of provisions of the Roadmap for Middle East Peace. It also called for establishment of a Palestinian state in the boundaries of the West Bank and Gaza Strip prior to the 1967 war, and for negotiations with Israel to be conducted by PNA President and PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Many believed that the document implied recognition of Israel. A crisis was precipitated when Abbas demanded that Hamas accede to the document or accede to results of a referendum to approve the document. Hamas and Fatah gunmen carried out various acts of violence. A revised version of the Palestinian Prisoners Document was approved Hamas made it clear that it would not recognize Israel. The revised document also limited the historic PLO acceptance of UN Resolution 242 (guaranteeing the right of all states to exist in peace) by excluding any provisions that might violate Palestinian "rights."
Hezbollah attack and Israeli response - Operation Just Reward (Second Lebanon War) - On the morning of July 12, Hezbollah terrorists crossed the blue line border from Lebanon to Israel and attacked an Israeli army patrol, killing 3 and capturing 2 soldiers. An additional soldier died the following day and several were killed when a tank hit a mine, while pursuing the captors. At the same time, Hezbollah began a series of rocket and mortar attacks on northern Israel. This incident may have been timed to coincide with the meeting of the G-8, which was to examine the issue of the Iranian nuclear development program. It also occurred against the background of the earlier fighting in Gaza.
Subsequently, Israel carried out massive but selective bombing and artillery shelling of Lebanon, hitting rocket stores, Hezbollah headquarters in the Dahya quarter of Beirut (see Beirut Map ) and al-Manara television in Beirut, and killing an estimated 900 persons in total, many of them civilians. Hezbollah responded by launching thousands of rockets on Haifa, Tiberias, Safed and other towns deep in northern Israel, killing about 40 civilians (See Map of Hezbollah Rocket Attacks ). About 120 soldiers were killed in the fighting. A Hezbollah Iranian supplied C-802 missile hit an Israeli missile cruiser off the coast of Beirut, killing 4. Hezbollah rockets also sank a Cambodian ship and damaged an Egyptian one. The G-8 democratic industrial powers, meeting in St Petersburg, issued a statement calling for an end to violence, return of the soldiers and compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559 UN Security Council Resolution 1680, which call for disarming militias. (See statement of the G-8 on the Lebanon-Israel Crisis).
A fter Israeli air-attacks proved ineffective at stopping Hezbollah rocket attacks or producing a satisfactory cease-fire resolution, Israel launched a limited ground invasion of Lebanon, making halting and indecisive moved coupled with aggressive rhetoric by Israeli public figures. Efforts continued to broker a cease fire that would be satisfactory to both sides. Key Israeli demands were implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and 1680 - that is, disarming the Hezbollah, and moving the Lebanese army up to border, to take control of south Lebanon from the Hezbollah, as well as return of the kidnapped soldiers. Israel and the US also wanted a strong international force that would oversee disarmament of the Hezbollah. Key Lebanese demands were embodied in a seven point plan that included deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon, but did not include disarmament of Hezbollah. Lebanese also insisted on return of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel, and immediate Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory. Lebanon also demanded the Sheba farms territory from Israel. In 2000, the UN had ruled that Sheba farms, in the Golan Heights, is part of Syria. Syria, for its part, had refused to demarcate its border with Lebanon formally but said it supported the Lebanese demand.
The desultory Israeli offensive was stepped up on August 11 when efforts to broker a cease-fire appeared to be at an impasse, and Israeli troops began advancing in force toward the Litani river, 30 KM north of the Israel-Lebanon border. At the same time however, the UN Security Council met and approved Resolution 1701, calling for cessation of hostilities, and deployment of the Lebanese army in Southern Lebanon, but with ambiguous wording about the various issues. Both sides stopped the fighting on August 14, 2006. The poor conduct of the war raised a storm of criticism in Israel, and the Israeli attack roused widespread resentment in the Arab world.
International human rights groups and the UN condemned Israel for the alleged war crime of using cluster bombs in Southern Lebanon. Cluster bombs have not been outlawed by international conventions and have been used in previous conflicts. They also alleged that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians. However, an Israeli NGO report issued in December found that Hezbollah had hidden among civilian population and that nearly 700 of the casualties were Hezbollah fighters. Some human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, also later condemned the Hezbollah for indiscriminate rocket fire. However, the UN Human Rights Council, which issued a total of eight condemnations of Israel in 2006, failed to condemn the Hezbollah or Hamas for egregious violations.
The two Israeli soldiers captured by the Hezbollah. remained in captivity and in December it was revealed that they had been wounded when captured and that their medical condition was uncertain. The border remained quiet, though Hezbollah was being rearmed by Syria at a heavy pace. On November 21, assassins gunned down anti-Syrian politician Pierre Gemayel. On the first of December, after the Seniora government approved a motion calling for an international tribunal to try the murderers of Rafiq Hariri, Hezbollah ministers walked out of the Lebanese government, and large crowds of Hezbollah supporters were organized to besiege the Prime Minister's office and bring down the Lebanese government. The demonstrators were said variously to demand one third representation for pro-Hezbollah ministers, or reform of the constitution in order to provide equitable representation for Shi'ites or a unity government.
Gaza Violence - During and after the Israeli offensive in Lebanon, IDF operations continued unabated in Gaza as Palestinians continued to rain down Qassam rockets on the Western Negev and the Hamas insisted solemnly that it was keeping a truce. The Hamas government continued to be supplied with money from Iran and Arab states, brought into Gaza under the not too watchful eyes of European monitors in Rafah (Rafiah), while some 30 tons of arms were estimated to have been smuggled into Gaza through tunnels built from the Egyptian side of the border. Egypt did little to stop these activities.
During October and November, Palestinians shot a relentless rain of Qassam missiles on the Western Negev and in particular the town of Sderot, killing three Israelis. IDF operations in Rafah uncovered extensive tunnels used for smuggling, but IDF operations in the north of Gaza, intended to stop the firing of Qassam missiles, were terminated under increasing international pressure, as Israelis had killed over 50 Palestinians, including several civilians. The operations in the north were intended to stop the firing of Qassam missiles, but had no effect. During one raid, terrorists had hidden in a mosque, and escaped with the help of women who volunteered to be used as human shields. IDF killed several of these women. On November 8, following the Israeli withdrawal, an especially heavy barrage of Qassam fire prompted an Israeli shelling response. The shells missed their target, hitting a residential neighborhood and killing about 20 Palestinian civilians. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit remained stalled as Palestinians demanded the release of over a thousand prisoners.
Truce - On November 26, the Palestinians and Israelis announced a surprise truce that was to apply only to the Gaza strip. Despite continuation of Qassam fire by the Palestinians for several days thereafter, Israel held to the truce. On the day following the truce announcement, November 27, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert announced a new Israeli diplomatic initiative offering peace to the Palestinians and other other neighbors along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative . This was the first time that an Israeli leader had referred to the initiative in a positive way. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the speech, while Hamas leaders and Israeli extremists condemned it. From the United States, the Iraq Study Group report , which recommended active US involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, also gave rise to talk of peace negotiations.
The truce was violated repeatedly in Gaza by barrages of Qassam rockets fired at Israeli towns. The dissident Islamic Jihad claimed that it would not adhere to the truce unless it was extended to the West Bank. However, it was revealed that the Hezbolla were paying thousands of dollars for each Qassam rocket fired.
The Syrian government, attempting to recover the Golan and to break out of the isolation imposed on it because of its role in violence in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian conflict, offered to negotiate peace with Israel "without conditions." However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, citing continuing Syrian support for terror groups, rejected the offer.
Abbas - Olmert Summit - On December 23, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert finally met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and announced some concessions to make life easier for the Palestinians including release of tax funds frozen by Israel and removal of a number of checkpoints. A plan to release prisoners for the Eid al Adha holiday was abandoned however. Following the meeting, Israel agreed to a large transfer of weapons to the Fatah group loyal to President Abbas from Egypt. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni hinted at a new peace initiative in press interviews. These moves were seen as attempts to support President Abbas in his rivalry with the Hamas-led government of Ismail Hanniyeh.
Palestinian Unity Government and Anarchy - Following the release of the Palestinian Prisoners letter, negotiations continued to form a Palestinian unity government that could, it was hoped, recognize the existence of Israel, cease violent activity, get recognition from the West and allow Western governments to resume funding of the Palestinian authority. President Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly set two week "deadlines" that were postponed and forgotten, but the negotiations failed. On December 16, Mahmoud Abbas announced that he was dissolving the government and calling for new elections, unless Hamas agreed to a unity government. but he did not set a date for the elections. This proposal led to renewed violence between Palestinian factions, with Hamas charging that Fatah had tried to assassinate Palestinian PM Hanniyeh. An attempted truce failed, and Gaza schools were closed in the rising anarchy. However, on February 8, 2007, under the aegis of the Saudi monarchy, the sides concluded an agreement to form a unity government. The agreement did not explicitly declare Palestinian recognition of Israel or meet demands of the quartet to disarm militant groups. A trilateral summit between President Mahmud Abbas, Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on February 19 failed to produce any change in Abbas's stance or any concessions to the Palestinians.
Temple Mount/Al Aqsa Construction sparks riots - Israel began rebuilding a fallen rampway to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem along a new route. The ramp had collapsed in 2004. The new route would run about 80 meters from the mosque. Though the Muslim Waqf agreed to the construction originally, Sheikh Raed Salah of the Israeli Islamist movement claimed that the construction was damaging the mosque and threatened to begin another Intifadah. Israel denied that the construction was harming the mosques. Following protests from the Arab and Muslim world, Israel suspended work on the bridge, but continued archeological salvage operations. It installed Web cams to show the operations and invited the Turkish government to inspect the site. Both the Turks and a UNESCO team declared that the Israeli had done work had done no damage, but the UNESCO team requested that Israel stop the work until it could be under international supervision. In July, the Israeli authorities announced that the project was being abandoned.
Disintegration of the Palestinian authority . Isolated incidents of mayhem against civilians and fights between Hamas and Fatah supporters continued and escalated in Gaza in 2006 and the first part of 2007, accompanied by daily firing of Qassam rockets on Sderot. The anarchy included murder of Palestinians and kidnapping of Palestinians and foreigners. BBC reporter Alan Johnston was kidnapped by a group making various demands, and the Palestinian government claimed it was powerless to free him, but on July 4 Hamas did free him, in an operation that was called "stage-managed" by Fatah spokesman Yasser Abed-Rabo.
In June of 2007, serious fighting erupted after a Fatah activist supposedly launched a rocket-propelled grenade into the house of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Hamas in Gaza. Hamas forces retaliated by attacking the much more numerous Fatah activists and Fatah-affiliated Palestinian police and auxiliary forces in Gaza. Though Hamas forces were estimated at less than 3,000, and the Fatah forces supposedly numbered about 40,000, Hamas systematically pushed Fatah from virtually every one of their strongholds. Hamas fighters were brutal and merciless. People were thrown from the roofs of buildings. Hamas invaded hospitals and murdered patients and doctors. They executed Fatah people in front of their families. In the fighting, Hamas captured large quantities of arms that had been given to the Fatah forces by the Egyptians, on behalf of the Egyptians. Mahmoud Dahlan and other senior Fatah commanders were not in Gaza when the fighting started. Fatah fighters complained that that nobody had given the order to fight back. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, headquartered in the West Bank, hesitated, but faced with a revolt by Fatah personnel in the West Bank, he gave the order to counter attack. Nonetheless the collapse of the Fatah in Gaza continued. On June 14, Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the Gaza-based unity government and announced that would be forming a new government of independent technocrats. The Hamas officials in Gaza continued to claim that they are the legitimate government. Fatah fighters fled to Egypt and to Israel by land and by sea. Fatah fighters who are wanted by Israeli authorities surrendered to the Israelis rather than face the Hamas. Israeli newspapers received a flood of faxes from Gaza, begging Israel to re-take the Gaza strip and stop the carnage. In the West Bank, Fatah militants and police began arresting Hamas officials and Hamas militants and terrorists. The United States and the European Union expressed support for Mahmoud Abbas. The foreign ministers of the Arab states expressed support for Abbas, but at the same time called for reconstitution of the unity government. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, headquartered in Damascus, stated that the Hamas had no intention of threatening the Palestinian presidency, but that the actions of the Hamas were necessary to restore order and remove bad elements. Hamas propaganda insisted that the Fatah leaders, especially Mahmoud Dahlan, were traitors in league with the Americans and the Israelis. A Hamas spokesperson cited the violence as imposition of "Islamic justice." It is probable that the violence could not have been initiated without the approval of Khaled Meshal, and is likely that he gave the orders. Meshal in turn is under the control of the Syrians who host him, and of the Iranians, who subsidize the Hamas very heavily and are allies of Syria. (see Gaza Implodes: The anti-Altalena of the Hamas and Gaza: What is happening, why it is important).
Hamas' popularity in Gaza declined sharply as living conditions worsened due to the Israeli and international blockade and extremists began suppressing marks of Western culture. The owner of a Christian bookshop was murdered. In November, a Fatah-organized demonstration on the occasion of the commemoration of the anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death was suppressed violently by Hamas security forces, killing 7 and wounding 55. Hamas blamed the violence on Fatah. Hamas continued importing large quantities of explosives and arms smuggled in from Gaza through tunnels. Egyptian security forces uncovered 60 tunnels in a day after Israel protested at Egyptian laxity in monitoring the border. Hamas and other militants fired an average of one Qassam rocket every three hours on the Western Negev, while Israel conducted small scale retaliatory raids and missile strikes on rocket launching teams in Gaza, as well as night time raids to find wanted terrorists in the West Bank.
Annapolis Conference - Building on the Arab summit renewal of the Arab Peace Initiative and the situation created by the Hamas takeover in Gaza, and motivated by the call of the Iraq Study Group Report for progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the United States organized a peace summit in Annapolis Md. November 26-28, which many forecast would be a failure. Nonetheless, Arab states including Syria attended as well as UN, GCC and EU representatives, Russians, South Africans and others. Israel released over 400 prisoners, and provided the Palestinian authority with half-tracks and rifles. Palestinian Authority police were allowed to deploy in Nablus to halt crime there. Israel PM Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas met several times but could not agree on a joint statement that would be read at the conference. A statement was agreed upon at the last moment, with heavy pressure applied by the Americans.
The conference provided recognition of Mahmoud Abbas as acknowledged leader of the Palestinians. Israel and the Palestinians agreed to renew negotiations for a permanent status agreement, with the hope of completing them before the end of 2008, and both sides vowed to implement the roadmap in parallel, with the US to monitor progress. No mention was made of the problem posed by Hamas control of Gaza. See Annapolis Summit: History or bluff?.
A tour of the Middle East by US President George Bush in January of 2008 apparently failed to achieve support for US Middle East policy goals, which included support for Israeli-Palestinian peace based on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority controlled by the Fatah. Egypt and Saudi Arabia continued to push for Fatah-Hamas reunification, which would effectively end the peace negotiations. However, Israelis and Palestinians pledged to negotiate seriously regarding "core issues" such as Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees. The Israeli government issued contradictory declarations regarding status of a building freeze in West Bank settlements and areas of East Jerusalem annexed in the Six Day war.
The most obvious obstacle to peace continued to be the Hamas controlled regime in Gaza. Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committee terrorists continued to launch Qassam rockets and mortar fire at the Israeli town of Sderot and other western Negev targets, and also launched at least one Grad rocket on Ashdod. Israel continued to shoot at rocket launching teams and leaders of the various groups in Gaza responsible for rocket fire, killing some civilians when Israeli missile fire went awry. Hamas eventually joined in the rocket fire as the situation escalated. Palestinian snipers shot and killed an Ecuadorian volunteer, Carlos Chavez, in Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. Israel curtailed travel from Gaza and entry of goods, and decided to cut fuel supplies to Gaza. These steps brought charges that Israel was inflicting collective punishment. On January 20, 2008 following the Israeli fuel cuts, the Gaza power plant, supplying abut 20% of Gaza's electricity, was shut down by Hamas, precipitating condemnation of Israel and and international outcry. It is not clear whether the plant actually ran out of fuel. Three days later, after months of preparation during which the steel reinforcement of the border barrier was destroyed, Hamas blasted holes in the Gaza/Rafah barrier, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to enter Egypt freely. Along with people who came to buy goods, apparently a certain number of armed Hamas operatives managed to infiltrate Sinai. After some hesitation, the Egyptians closed the border breach partially by January 28. In the coming days, it developed that the border was not closed however, and Hamas activists reopened parts of the barrier sealed by the Egyptians. Egyptian security forces arrested over a dozen Palestinians who had infiltrated to Sinai in order to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets in Sinai.
The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas proposed that it would take over the border crossings, that had been abandoned by the European Union when Hamas came to power. The Hamas insisted on their right to patrol the border crossing, and declared that there would be no return to the former situation, which allowed Europeans and Israelis to control the import of arms, money and militants trained in Iran and elsewhere through the Rafah border. Initially, they opposed a return of the EU monitors, but they softened their stand after several days.
The border was resealed by Egyptians and negotiations continued regarding a solution that would allow passage through Rafah, but no solution was found.
Moughnieh Killing - On February 13, senior Hezbollah terror mastermind Imad Moughnieh was killed by a bomb in his car in Damascus. Israel and other states had long cited Moughnieh as responsible for planning and coordinating Hezbollah terror operations, beginning with attacks on the US marines and US embassy in Beirut in the 80s, and the attack on the Jewish center and Israel embassy in Buenos Aires, and repeated kidnappings of Israeli soldiers, including the operation that triggered the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Syria arrested several Palestinians. The Hezbollah blamed Israel for the attack. Iran, which had long denied any complicity on Moughnieh's terror operations, now mourned him openly and blamed Israel. Israel anticipated reprisal operations.
Israeli Strike in Gaza - On February 27, 2008, an Israeli missile strike killed 5 Hamas terrorists who it later claimed were plotting to carry out a large scale terror attack. On the following day, Hamas responded with a barrage of 30 rockets, some of which landed as far as Ashqelon, and one of which killed a student at Sapir college in the Western Negev. The rockets included Iranian manufactured Grad rockets, which are a version of the Katyusha. A large scale Israeli raid began February 29 and continued for several days, killing over 100 Palestinians. Israel claimed that only ten Gaza civilians were killed, while the Hamas claimed that the raid killed mostly civilians. Ahead of a visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the United States called for an end to the violence. The Israeli attack was ended March 3, though the IDF had planned to continue it. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended direct negotiations with Israel, but these were resumed on March 5. The Hamas declared victory. Though rumors of a "truce" and truce negotiations were floated persistently in March, Palestinian rockets continued to fall on the Western Negev, and Israel continued to kill Palestinians. Israeli raids in the West Bank almost stopped, despite a terror attack March 6 on Yeshivat Merkaz Harav in Jerusalem, in which a Palestinian gunman from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber killed eight religious seminary students. Hamas claimed the attack but later denied it was involved.
Following urgings by Secretary of State Rice, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations resumed. According to Abbas, the sides were discussing core issues such as the future of Jerusalem, but no details were made public. Israel announced contracts to build housing for settlers in the Har Choma neighborhood of East Jerusalem and other areas in the West Bank, angering Palestinians. This announcement was followed by several contradictory announcements by Israeli government officials regarding settlement expansion policies. In April, Israel removed a number of checkpoints in the West Bank and allowed Palestinian forces to enter Jenin.
Truce - Extensive indirect negotiations brokered by Egypt led to a a truce ("lull") between Israel and the Hamas went into effect June 19. The lull applies only to Gaza and not to the West Bank. Israel is is forbidden to attack within Gaza, Hamas and others are to refrain from rocket and terror attacks on Israel. Israel claimed the truce covers arms smuggling, but this was denied by the Hamas. Despite several instances of rocket and mortar fire by the Palestinians, the truce appears held at least initially. Hamas arrested an Al Aqsa brigades spokesman after that group claimed "credit" for an attack. Israel discreetly toned down its incursions and arrests in the West Bank after Israeli attacks there provoked retaliation in Gaza. Negotiations for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit continued after the truce went into effect. Despite occasional Qassam rocket fire and mortars, the truce held, but Israeli hopes for release of kidnapped Gilad Shalit did not materialize.
On June 29, the Israel cabinet approved a deal to swap convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar and numerous Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners for what are apparently the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whose kidnapping sparked the Second Lebanon War.
In Israel, Israel Labor party chair Ehud Barak announced that his party would leave the Israeli coalition government unless Kadima Party party chairman Ehud Olmert was replaced, following persistent allegations of corruption. On September 17, 2008, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni won the Kadima primaries. As she announced on October 26 that she was unable to form a coalition, new elections were set for February 10, 2009.
On the evening of November 4, IDF launched a major incursion into Gaza to destroy a tunnel that it said Palestinians were digging from Gaza into Israel. Six Hamas gunmen were killed. In the following days, the Hamas and others responded by launching about 35 larger (grad) rockets into Sderot and Ashqelon, and IDF responded with an incursion in Khan Yunis.
On November 9, a meeting of the quartet was held in Sharm el Sheikh to reaffirm support for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the framework of the Annapolis process and the roadmap. Both sides expressed support for the process. Hamas cancelled its attendance at a Palestinian reconciliation meeting that was to have been held in Egypt this week.
Operation Cast Lead - Hamas and affiliated organizations continued to launch rockets into Israel and announced that they would not be renewing the "lull" (tahidia) agreement on December 19. The lull had been negotiated June 19, 2008. Hamas unilaterally announced that it would run for six months only. Reports claimed that while Hamas leadership in Gaza wanted to renew the truce, Khaled Mashaal, the exiled Hamas leader controlled by Syria and Iran, refused to assent. Israel appealed to the Egyptians and to the UN asking for an end to the rocket fire. On December 24 Hamas bombarded Israel with some 60 rockets and mortar shells. On December 27, Israel began Operation Oferet Yetzuka. (Operation Cast Lead) (named for the Hanukka driedl [top] of cast lead in a Hebrew children's song by Haim Nachman Bialik). In a single Saturday morning, in the space of a few hours, IAF flew about 100 sorties, destroying arms caches, arms factories, smuggling tunnels, missile launching sites, and Hamas command and control centers in Gaza. About 225 Palestinians were killed. This toll grew to about 300 in a few days. UN estimates claimed that about 51 of the dead were civilians. Hamas sources claimed that 155 of the dead in the original attack were civilians. Many of the casualties were cadets in a graduation ceremony of the Hamas "police." Israel claimed that Hamas deliberately used human shields, and Hamas television programs indicated that they were proud to use civilians as shields. Hamas responded to continuing air attacks with Grad rocket attacks that reached as far as Beersheba and Yavneh - about 45 km. Hamas attacks had killed 3 Israelis by the end of the year, and the Palestinian death toll had risen to about 400. Hamas refused to stop firing the rockets and Israel prepared for a ground operation in Gaza. The UN Security council issued a statement December 28 calling for both sides to stop the violence, but US objections prevented a binding cease fire resolution. The major fighting ended on January 18, when Israel declared a unilateral cease fire. Hamas likewise declared a cease fire. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israeli citizens. Israel claimed most of the Palestinian casualties were combatants, while the Palestinians claimed they were mostly civilians. Human rights groups cited a large number of fatalities among children, but Israel claimed that many of the "children" in these reports were actually adult Hamas fighters. However, Israel did not release any public casualty lists. The results of the operation were not decisive. Israel achieved a military victory at relatively little cost to itself, but the problems of Hamas rule in Gaza, the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and the constant flow of weapons smuggled in via tunnels were not solved, at least initially. Rocket launchings and retaliations continued until after Israeli elections on February 10, 2009.
Israeli voters gave a majority to right wing parties. Benjamin Netanyahu formed a government that included his own Likud party, the Israel Labor party , the right wing Yisrael Beiteynu Party and religious parties. The Kadima Party refused to join, evidently because the Likud would not agree to back a two state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. In the ensuing months, US pressure on Israel to accept such a solution increased. On June 4, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a historic speech to the Muslim and Arab world, calling on Palestinians to renounce violence, calling on Arabs to recognize Israel's right to exist, reiterating US support for a two state solution and calling for an end to settlement construction (see Address by President Obama in Cairo, June 4, 2009 ). Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu responded on June 14, giving Israeli support for a two state solution, and pledging that Israel would not build new settlements or confiscate land for settlements, but would continue to build housing units for what he termed, "natural growth." (see Address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Begin-Sadat Center, June 14, 2009 )
In August of 2009, the Fatah movement held their first congress in twenty years, issuing the Fatah Foreign Policy Program that calls for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but insists on right of return for Palestinian refugees and endorses "resistance," but only "i n accordance with the legitimate norms and laws," apparently ruling out violence . This is a departure from previous Fatah positions which called for destruction of Israel. The Palestinian Authority issued a plan for establishing a state unilaterally by 2011, endorsed by the European Union and claiming all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem (see Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State).
The Goldstone Report - Following allegations that Israel had committed war crimes and violated human rights during operation Cast Lead, Judge Richard Goldstone was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to head an investigatory committee. The committee's report stated that both sides may have committed war crimes in the conflict. It recommended that both sides launch independent investigations into the allegations. Though admitted that none of the materials in the report, based primarily on allegations of NGOs, constituted evidence of Israeli war crimes, the report nonetheless made the far-reaching allegation that officials of the Israeli government had intentionally pursued a policy of needless harm to civilians. Despite video evidence that the Hamas had used human shields, the Goldstone report dismissed the possibility that civilian deaths were due to use of human shields. The Hamas conducted no investigation at all. Israel conducted a military investigation rather than the independent investigation called for in the report. The investigation cleared the IDF of most of the charges, but did not provide detailed transcripts or accounts of the proceedings in its reports. A few soldiers are being prosecuted for suspected crimes.
Settlement Freeze and indirect negotiations - As part of the the U.S. Obama administration's peace initiative, U.S. officials attempted to get the promise of modest confidence building measures from Arab countries in return for Israeli concessions. But no Arab country was willing to allow concessions such as overflight rights for Israeli aircraft as long as the occupation continued. The issue of constructing new housing units in settlements remained contentious.
The Palestinian Authority and the Americans rejected the Netanyahu offer to build only for "natural growth." Former U.S. official Elliot Abrams revealed that natural growth had been allowed under an informal verbal agreement, as the Israeli government claimed. However, the United States took up the Palestinian demand, and for the first time in many years, U.S. officials were quoted as saying that settlements are "illegal." This was a departure from the longstanding policy of characterizing the settlements as "obstacles to peace." The Netanyahu government then agreed to a ten month freeze on settlement construction, from November 24, 2009 to end in September of 2010. This freeze tacitly did not include construction in Jerusalem, since Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital. It initially, at least did not include ongoing construction Though the official United States position is that the future of Jerusalem will be decided by negotiations, Israel began implementing the freeze in the rest of the West Bank with some rigor, including http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/news.aspx/138148 destruction of structures constructed after the start of the settlement freeze. U.S. officials now characterized Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, including areas built on no-man's land such as Ramat Eshkol, as "settlements" and "illegal." However, it was evidently agreed to bury the issue if Israel would not announce new construction in Jerusalem. In return, the Palestinian government agreed to indirect talks via shuttle diplomacy.
When Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel early in March 2010 to inaugurate the indirect talks however, Israeli Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai announced plans for construction of 1600 additional units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. Biden and other officials condemned the move vigorously. The diplomatic row that ensued was eventually resolved, evidently by a tacit agreement that Israel would not make any such announcements during the period of the settlement freeze, and would not, in fact, start any new projects. The actual status of the freeze is unclear. Settlers complain that all construction has halted, while Peace Now and others insist that there is still a great deal of construction. Likewise, there is no settled agreement on the future of construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem following the send of the temporary settlement freeze. Settlement advocates are pressing for a renewal of construction, whereas Peace Now has called for an extension of the freeze, and the United States is likely to ask for one as well.
The Gaza Blockade and "Flotillas" - After Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it maintained control of the Erez land crossing, and insisted on closure of the Gaza port to international traffic. At the Egypt-Gaza border, European Union monitors controlled the flow of goods and persons. Initially, the closure was limited to preventing transfer of arms, money and strategic materials. After the capture of Gilad Shalit, Israel intensified the blockade, and the Hamas coup caused the closing of the Rafah border crossing, as the EU monitors manning it fled and refused to return. Egypt now controlled the Rafah crossing and cooperated in the Israeli blockade. In addition to strategic materials, Israel apparently prevented the entry of a great many types of civilian goods such as spices and writing paper. Palestinians and aid groups claimed that there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, UN envoy Robert Serry conceded to Israeli President Peres that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Photos show full shops and market stalls. Health and nutritional statistics for Gaza are better than those in many countries in the region. Nonetheless, the blockade has caused 40% unemployment, and many items must be smuggled into Gaza through the network of smuggling tunnels beneath the Rafah crossing.
Humanitarian activists and anti-Israel groups have sent a number of small "flotillas" to break the Israeli blockade and bring aid and medicine to Gaza. In every case but one, the ships were intercepted without incident. Their cargo was offloaded in Ashdod and permitted items were sent overland by truck into Gaza. However, a joint flotilla initiated by "Free Gaza" activists and the Turkish IHH group was the occasion for violence IHH has known connections with Al Qaeda. They chartered a Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara, which was the largest vessel in the flotilla. Activists on the ship stated that they wanted to be Shahid martyrs. Al-Jazeera video footage shows activists chanting "Khaybar Khaybar ya Yahud, Jaysh Muhammad sa-ya'ud" (Khaybar Khaybar O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return). Israeli Shayetet 13 commandos landed on the ship from helicopters and were beaten and attacked with pipes, knives and other instruments. The commandos then opened fire with pistols, killing 9 on the ship. After the raid, it was established , according to Israeli sources, that there was no humanitarian aid on the ship. The captain and crew members of the ship stated that the IHH activists had taken control of the ship and kept passengers below deck, preparing weapons with which to confront the Israeli boarding party. The bloody incident triggered a wave of protest against Israel. Israel announced that it was liberalizing the Gaza blockade policy on June 20, so that only military and strategic items would be forbidden.
Proximity talks - Proximity talks began in May of 2010, but there have been no reports concerning progress, if any.
WHAT THE PROSECUTOR GETS WRONG
The OTP asserts that Oslo’s goal was “to give effect to the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.” In the prosecutor’s view, this right—and Israel’s wrongdoing in preventing its full realization—outweigh the fact that the Palestinians do not meet the established criteria for statehood under international law, namely, effective control over well-defined territory. According to this argument, the Palestinians should be treated as a state that has the right to give the ICC jurisdiction on its behalf.
This argument rests on the premise that self-determination, in the OTP’s words, was Oslo’s “object and purpose.” But that is inaccurate the accords had several equally important goals, including Israeli security, peaceful coexistence, education for peace, and the development of effective Palestinian governance. Self-determination could not be fully advanced beyond Oslo’s interim self-governance arrangements unless these other goals were fulfilled. The OTP ignores these prerequisites, however, treating Palestinian self-determination as an end in itself and one that necessarily affords it the right of statehood.
Ironically, the OTP concedes that these two concepts—self-determination and the right to statehood—are legally distinct, even as it ignores how the accords explicitly leave this matter to be negotiated by the parties. And when it mentions a key provision regarding Oslo’s legal significance—namely, that neither side would be “deemed, by virtue of having entered into [the accords], to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights, claims, or positions”—the OTP strikingly interprets this as applying only to Palestinian positions and not to Israel’s longstanding claims.
What’s worse is that the OTP does not even mention the role that Palestinian terrorism and rejection have played in preventing the emergence of a state, giving legal relevance only to Israeli wrongdoing. I have been a vocal critic of Israeli actions that are inconsistent with the spirit of the accords, particularly the country’s settlement policy. But any analysis that gives weight to only one side’s wrongdoing comes across as politically motivated rather than legally credible. Nowhere does the OTP mention that the PA leadership either rejected or ignored various offers that would have provided for a credible Palestinian state, from the Clinton Parameters of December 2000 to the Olmert proposal of August 2008 and the Obama principles of March 2014. In each case, the Palestinians did not even offer counterproposals.
The OTP skips this part of the historical record, including the terrible toll wrought by the second intifada. Instead, it writes that “the process halted after March 2000”—news to all us who took part in negotiations after this date, from Camp David to the Annapolis process to Secretary John Kerry’s efforts. The OTP then goes on to assert, “Notwithstanding any incomplete and ongoing political process, it is apparent from the Accords that the PA was to assume territorial control over most of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, and Gaza, with modifications to accommodate for the settlements and borders.” Again, this is both inaccurate and in keeping with the prosecutor’s imbalanced argument that Oslo binds only one side, Israel. The Palestinian obligations detailed in the accords were intended as critical benchmarks to prove the PA was willing and able to take on additional rights and responsibilities. The agreements explicitly made any Israeli transfers of additional territory and authority contingent on Palestinian progress toward ensuring security, combating terrorism, and preventing incitement. These and numerous other obligations were never sufficiently fulfilled.
Even if the OTP’s assumptions about Oslo’s goals were well-founded, there is no ambiguity in what the agreements say about the prosecutor’s most fundamental premise—that criminal jurisdiction can be delegated to the ICC. The accords state unmistakably that Palestinian criminal jurisdiction is circumscribed, that it does not include jurisdiction over Israelis, and that any jurisdiction not explicitly transferred to the Palestinians rests with Israel. Nowhere in the accords or the negotiating history that led to them is there any suggestion to support the OTP’s convoluted distinction between “plenary” and “enforcement” jurisdiction. Nor have the Palestinians ever sought to claim or exercise this type of jurisdiction over Israelis in the decades since Oslo.
The pre-Oslo historical record is equally clear on this matter. Contrary to what the OTP seems to conclude, between the years of Jordanian rule in the West Bank and the Israeli control established after the 1967 war, there was no intervening moment in which “plenary jurisdiction” rested with the Palestinian people. The parties themselves never expressed such an understanding of the situation, and the agreements they signed unambiguously reflect that fact. It was clear at the time that any powers the Palestinians held were the result of, and drew their authority from, the agreements themselves.
The OTP is also at pains to suggest that the territorial conflict is a mere “border dispute,” so as to sustain the argument that undisputed borders are not needed for ICC jurisdiction. As the accords make clear, however, resolving the status of the territory as a whole was one of the core issues to be addressed in permanent-status negotiations, in which the parties would attempt to resolve their deeply held, competing claims to sovereignty. Settlements, security, and military locations were on the list of issues to be negotiated at this final stage, and the parties specifically reserved their rival territorial claims in the meantime. This sequencing demonstrates their understanding that negotiations were not about border minutiae, but about how sovereignty would be allocated over the territory that was understood to be held in abeyance pending a negotiated settlement.
In broader terms, the continuing relevance of the Oslo Accords has both factual and legal implications for the ICC dispute. Over the years, the Palestinian leadership has periodically threatened to terminate its agreements with Israel, yet the international community has continued to view these agreements as binding despite violations by both sides. Even the threats themselves—including the most recent one by President Abbas—indicate Oslo’s continuing validity in Palestinian eyes. Likewise, the PA’s actions on the ground over the years show that the accords have remained in force, with the structures and arrangements they established continuing almost without interruption.
The Palestinians’ June 4 response to the ICC chamber reiterated this position, noting that the accords will stay in force unless Israel proceeds with annexations in the West Bank. While the Palestinian submission states that they are “absolved” of their obligations under past agreements, it does not terminate the division of responsibilities created by Oslo. In fact, no formal termination with legal effect has ever been made, and no party has suggested that Abbas’s statement extends Palestinian criminal jurisdiction beyond the terms of the accords.
Perhaps most important, if the Oslo Accords were actually terminated, the legal result would not be more expansive Palestinian authority. Rather, authority would revert back to Israel, as stated explicitly in the accords and acknowledged by the Palestinian leadership. In his May 19 statement, for example, Abbas noted that Israel must “shoulder all responsibilities and obligations” as “an occupying power.”
To be sure, Abbas has offered these reminders as a way of pressuring Israel not to go ahead with annexation of territories prematurely allotted to it in the Trump peace plan. Ironically, such annexations would directly contravene the Oslo mandate that neither side alter the status of the territory, which could wind up giving the Palestinians or other actors future grounds to argue that the accords have lapsed. For that reason alone, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should carefully weigh the consequences of annexation, including the risk that Israel will have to resume all obligations and costs in the West Bank.
Timeline: Twenty years of failed US-led peace talks
The Institute for Middle East Understanding published the following resources to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Oslo Accords on September 13, 2013.
A TIMELINE: 20 YEARS OF FAILED US-LED PEACE TALKS
December 1987: The First Intifada
After 20 years of repressive Israeli military rule, Palestinians in the occupied territories launch a large-scale popular uprising, or Intifada. The mostly unarmed rebellion, and Israel’s attempts to crush it with brutal force, gains widespread international sympathy for the Palestinian cause. (See here for more on the First Intifada.)
December 1988: PLO Recognizes Israel
The PLO officially recognizes Israel and agrees to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in just 22% of historic Palestine. Israel dismisses this groundbreaking compromise and continues to refuse to negotiate with the PLO.
June 1990: Mounting US Pressure on Israel to Negotiate
Frustrated at Israel’s intransigence, US Secretary of State James Baker, who is trying to organize an international peace conference, reads the White House switchboard telephone number during congressional testimony, adding to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who isn’t present, “When you’re serious about peace, call us.”
October 1990: Haram al-Sharif Massacre
In October 1990, a group of Jewish extremists attempts to lay a cornerstone for a Jewish temple in the highly sensitive Haram al-Sharif mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. In the unrest that follows, Israeli forces kill at least 20 Palestinians using live ammunition. Israel’s use of lethal, disproportionate force against Palestinian protesters prompts international condemnation, including from the US government, and increases pressure on Israel to talk peace.
1991: The First Gulf War
An international coalition led by the US ejects occupying Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the First Gulf War, heralding a new post-Cold War era in the Middle East in which the US is the sole superpower. Following its victory, the US seeks to take advantage of the new geopolitical reality, increasing its efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
October 1991: Madrid Conference
Following threats by the administration of George H.W. Bush to withhold $10 billion in loan guarantees unless Israel ends settlement construction, Israeli Prime Minister Shamir agrees to meet with Palestinian representatives, but not PLO officials, despite the fact that the PLO is considered the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the UN and international community. Talks between Israeli officials and Palestinians based in the occupied territories, who are in close contact with PLO officials behind the scenes, begin in Madrid, Spain, in late October 1991.
October 18, 1991: US Letter of Assurance to the Palestinians
In a letter of assurance sent to the Palestinian delegation prior to the Madrid conference, US Secretary of State James Baker pledges that the US does “not recognize Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem or the extension of its municipal boundaries, and we encourage all sides to avoid unilateral acts that would exacerbate local tensions or make negotiations more difficult or preempt their final outcome… In this regard the United States has opposed and will continue to oppose settlement activity in the territories occupied in 1967, which remains an obstacle to peace.”
1992: Secret Talks Under Oslo
While the Madrid talks flounder due to continued Israeli intransigence, the Israeli government bypasses the Palestinian representatives sent to Madrid and begins secret negotiations, sponsored by the Norwegian government, with the PLO, weakened politically since the disaster of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the PLO’s support for Iraq during the First Gulf War, believing it will be more willing to compromise on issues such as settlement construction and fundamental Palestinian rights like the right of return for refugees expelled from their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-9.
August 1993: Oslo I Announced
The agreement resulting from the secret PLO-Israel negotiations, known as the Declaration of Principles (or Oslo I), is publicly announced. The Oslo process creates the Palestinian National Authority (PA) and is supposed to lead to a final peace agreement by 1999, however the ultimate goal of talks is vague, with Israel still refusing to formally accept the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel subsequently allows Yasser Arafat and other exiled PLO leaders to return to Gaza and the West Bank to head the PA and institute limited Palestinian self-rule in some areas, while the Israeli military continues to maintain overall control of the occupied territories.
September 9, 1993: Official Exchange of Letters Between the PLO and Israel
On September 9, 1993, the PLO and the government of Israel exchange official letters in which the Palestinians formally recognize “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” In return, Israel acknowledges the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people but does not endorse the creation of a Palestinian state.
September 13, 1993: Arafat-Rabin Handshake on White House Lawn
In what is widely hailed as an historic moment, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sign theDeclaration of Principles (also known as Oslo I) on the White House lawn with US President Bill Clinton overseeing the proceedings.
1994-2000: Increased Restrictions on Movement & Rapid Expansion of Settlements
As the terms of Oslo begin to be implemented, Israel imposes increased restrictions on Palestinian movement between Israel and the occupied territories, between the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and within the occupied territories themselves. This is part of an Israeli policy designed to separate Palestinians and Israelis, and to separate the West Bank from Gaza, which are supposed to be a single territorial unit under Oslo. Successive Israeli governments also rapidly accelerate the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law. Between 1993 and 2000, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), nearly doubles, from 110,900 to 190,206 according to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Accurate figures for settlements in occupied East Jerusalem are harder to obtain, but as of 2000 the number of settlers in East Jerusalem stands at more than 167,000 according to B’Tselem.
February 25, 1994: Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre
Brooklyn-born settler Baruch Goldstein murders 29 Palestinians as they pray in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. In the ensuing unrest, 19 more Palestinians are killed by Israeli soldiers. Following the massacre, Israel fails to remove Hebron’s extremist settler enclave, instead increasing restrictions on Palestinian residents. Just over a month later, the Islamist militant group Hamas, which was formed a few years earlier during the First Intifada, launches its first suicide bombing against Israeli civilians.
May 1994: Gaza-Jericho Agreement Signed
On May 4, the Gaza-Jericho Agreement is signed. A much longer document than the Declaration of Principles, Gaza-Jericho spells out in greater detail the role of the Palestinian Authority and its relationship with Israel, and calls for a final peace agreement to be reached within five years.
September 1995: Oslo II Signed
On September 28, 1995, Israel and the PLO sign an agreement known as Oslo II, which provides for a redeployment of the Israeli military from some parts of the occupied territories and divides the West Bank into three separate administrative units, Areas A, B, and C. As a result, Israel maintains full control over most of the West Bank while turning over responsibility for Palestinian population centers to the PA. (For more on Areas A, B, and C, see section above on Oslo II.)
November 1995: Yitzhak Rabin Assassinated
On November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by Yigal Amir, a right-wing Jewish extremist opposed to the Oslo Accords.
May 1996: Benjamin Netanyahu Elected Prime Minister for First Term
Following Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, hardliner Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party, an outspoken opponent of the Oslo Accords, defeats Shimon Peres in elections and becomes prime minister of Israel. Apparently taking the advice of his predecessor as Likud leader, Yitzhak Shamir, who stated following his 1992 electoral defeat: “I would have conducted negotiations on autonomy for 10 years and in the meantime we would have reached half a million [settlers in the occupied West Bank],” Netanyahu drags out talks while simultaneously expanding Jewish settlements. Netanyahu later brags about sabotaging the Oslo process, telling a group of settlers in 2001: “I de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords.”
January 1997: Hebron Protocol Signed
In 1997, Netanyahu and Arafat sign the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, which delineates further phased withdrawals of Israeli soldiers from sections of Hebron and other parts of the West Bank. Netanyahu later boasts that with the Hebron Protocol he undermined Oslo by insisting that Israel wouldn’t withdraw soldiers from “specified military locations,” and that Israel would unilaterally decide what constituted a military location. Netanyahu later explains to a group of settlers: “Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo Accords.”
October 1998: Wye River Memorandum Signed
In October 1998, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators sign the Wye River Memorandum, which is intended to facilitate the implementation of parts of the Oslo II agreement which Israel failed to carry out previously, including further redeployments of Israeli forces.
May 1999: Deadline for Final Agreement Expires
Deadline for signing an agreement on final status issues as outlined in the Declaration of Principles and the Gaza-Jericho Agreement passes.
May 1999: Ehud Barak Elected Prime Minister
After defeating Netanyahu in elections in May, Labor party leader Ehud Barak becomes prime minister in July and declares his intention to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. However, at the same time, Barak further ramps up settlement growth, undermining Palestinian confidence in his intentions. By the end of his short term in office (July 1999-March 2001) Barak approves more settlements than his more right-wing predecessor, Netanyahu, did in his three years in power.
September 1999: Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum Signed
Similar to the Wye River Memorandum, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, signed by Arafat and Barak, was intended to implement sections of Oslo II that Israel failed to enact previously, in particular further redeployments of Israeli soldiers. It also called for a permanent agreement on final status issues to be reached by September 2000.
July 2000: Camp David Summit
In July 2000, at the invitation of President Clinton, then in the final months of his second term in office, Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet at Camp David to negotiate final status issues for a hoped-for permanent peace agreement. In secret talks preceding Camp David, Palestinian negotiators offer far-ranging concessions beyond the international consensus of what the outlines of a peace agreement should look like. In contrast to the widely circulated story of the “generous offer” allegedly made by Barak, in reality the Israelis never actually make a formal offer at Camp David, submitting no written proposals. The only proposals offered by the Israelis are conveyed orally, mostly through US officials, and lack detail. The Camp David summit ends without an agreement, after which President Clinton praises Prime Minister Barak’s “courage,” and, contrary to an earlier promise made to the Palestinians who came to Camp David reluctantly, blames the failure on Arafat and the Palestinian leadership. This distorted, one-sided narrative quickly takes hold in Israel and the US, allowing Israeli leaders to claim that they have “no Palestinian partner” for peace. (See here for more on the talks at Camp David.)
October 2000: Outbreak of the Second Intifada
Palestinian frustration at seven years of fruitless negotiations, during which time Israel massively expands settlements and entrenches its occupation rather than rolling it back, boils over into a second, more violent uprising, sparked by a provocative visit by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, who is reviled by Palestinians for his brutal recor d as an officer in the Israeli military and as defense minister, to the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem.
January 2001: Taba Summit
Following the failure at Camp David and the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators meet again in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001. Although both sides subsequently agree that progress is made at Taba, by this time Barak is a lame duck prime minister, with polls predicting a massive defeat for his Labor party in elections scheduled for February.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE OSLO ACCORDS
- After more than a half-century of bloody conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Zionist Jews, in 1993 Israeli and Palestinian leaders sat down face to face at the negotiating table for the first time in an attempt to forge peace.
- Oslo marked the beginning of a bilateral negotiations process, with international mediation monopolized by the US, Israel’s greatest patron, that would become the model for all subsequent negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
- Oslo created the Palestinian Authority (PA), a supposedly interim self-rule government that governs Palestinian population centers in the occupied West Bank and Gaza under overall Israeli military control.
WHY DID OSLO FAIL?
- Israeli leaders never accepted the creation of a genuinely independent Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution, continuing to colonize Palestinian land and deepen their control of Palestinians in the occupied territories while supposedly negotiating an end to the occupation.
- The hardline positions of successive Israeli governments were supported by the Clinton administration, and subsequently the administration of George W. Bush, which both failed to do anything to stop settlement construction or other Israeli violations of signed agreements and international law. Instead of serving as an honest broker, the US acted as “Israel’s attorney,” in the words of longtime senior US State Department official Aaron David Miller.
- The direct bilateral negotiations framework of Oslo accentuated the massive power imbalance between the two parties, which was further reinforced by the failure of the US to act as an even-handed mediator.
- While massively expanding settlements and attendant infrastructure such as Israeli-only roads on occupied Palestinian land, Israel began to place severe restrictions on Palestinian movement, both within the occupied territories themselves and between the territories and the outside world. Rather than gaining their freedom from decades of Israeli military rule, during the Oslo years most Palestinians instead witnessed a deepening of Israel’s control over their lives and their land, causing widespread frustration and disillusionment with the peace process.
- A close examination of the agreements comprising the Oslo Accords and Israeli actions on the ground, most notably rapidly expanding settlement construction, indicate that Oslo was intended by its Israeli and American architects to cement Israeli control over the occupied territories while shifting responsibility for policing the Palestinian population from the Israeli army to the security forces of the PA, thus “streamlining” the occupation for Israel.
RESULTS OF OSLO ON THE GROUND
- Between 1993 and 2000, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), nearly doubled, from 110,900 to 190,206 according to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Today, 20 years after the start of Oslo, there are more than 300,000 Israeli settlers living on Palestinian land in the West Bank, and another 200,000 in East Jerusalem.
- Between 1993 and 2000, almost 1700 Palestinian homes in the occupied territories were destroyed by Israel,according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
- Oslo fragmented the West Bank into three separate administrative districts, Areas A, B, C, and Gaza was separated from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (See below section on Oslo II for more on Areas A, B, and C.)
- Occupied East Jerusalem was virtually severed from the rest of the West Bank as a result of Israel’s construction of a ring of settlements around the city’s expanded municipal boundaries. (See here for map of settlements around East Jerusalem.)
- Oslo resulted in increased restrictions on Palestinian movement within the occupied territories and between the occupied territories and the outside world. Today, at any given time, there are approximately 500 barriers to Palestinian movement in the West Bank, an area smaller than Delaware.
- The restrictions on Palestinian movement and frequent curfews and closures imposed on the occupied territories during the Oslo years and subsequently devastated the Palestinian economy, which has become largely dependent on Israeli tax transfers and international aid.
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Current Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Death of Yasser Arafat - Following the death of Yasser Arafat a new era began in Palestinian history and in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was elected President ("Rais") of the Palestinian National Authority with a comfortable majority in free and democratic elections. Abbas vowed to put put an end to terror and to negotiate peace based on Israeli withdrawal from all the lands of the West Bank and Gaza, a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, and "return of the Palestinian refugees."
Hamas election victory - In elections held in January 2006, the Hamas movement won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council and formed a government. This was eventually expanded into a unity government that included the Fatah, until June of 2007. The Hamas refuse to recognize the right of Israel to exist or to make peace with Israel.
Recognizing Israel - A majority of Palestinians want the radical Hamas movement which won an upset victory over the Fateh in PLC elections in January, 2006 to recognize Israel and negotiate peace. Hamas officials say they "recognize that Israel exists" but also state that they will never recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, and will never make peace with Israel. European and American leaders pledged not to negotiate with Hamas and not to provide aid to the Palestinians until Hamas agreed to disarm and recognize Israel. Hamas spokesmen sent mixed signals, but vowed never to recognize Israel and never to give up their claim to all of Palestine, though a majority of Palestinians apparently want them to follow the path of peace.
Palestinian Unity and Quartet boycott - The Quartet countries have officially boycotted the Hamas led government until they agree to recognize Israel and end violence. The boycott has been circumvented to allow provision of funds for salaries directly to Palestinian employees. In March of 2007, Hamas and Fateh concluded a unity agreement in Mecca, allowing for formation of a unity government with a vague platform. Palestinians called on Western governments to recognize the new government and end the boycott. Quartet members will talk to non-Hamas members of the new government. Israel insisted it would maintain relations only with Mr. Abbas, who is President and not part of the government.
Collapse of the Palestinian authority - In June of 2007, following growing anarchy in Gaza, Hamas militants attacked Fatah/Palestinian authority positions in Gaza, including military posts, government buildings, and hospitals, and drove the Fatah out of the Gaza strip. Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the unity government and announced he would form a different government based in the West Bank. In the West Bank, Fatah militants arrested Hamas officials and Hamas fighters. At present (June 16) there are two separate governments in the Web Bank and Gaza. This makes the future of any peace process very uncertain.
Truce and violence - Mahmoud Abbas tried to convince Palestinian militant groups to declare a truce and refrain from attacking Israel, while Israel declared that it would refrain from assassinations and hunting down wanted terrorists except in emergencies. The truce was kept imperfectly (June 2007) and flickered on and off. Israel continued to arrest wanted Palestinians and people on their way to terror attacks in the West Bank, while Palestinians continued to fire Qassam rockets (see below) from Gaza. Israeli reprisals in Gaza killed civilians as well as armed terrorists.
Security - Abbas has declared again and again that he will not use force against armed groups. At the same time, he has insisted that "the law will be enforced" and that the PNA would not permit chaos and independent actions by armed groups. The year 2005 however, was plagued by attacks of Fatah and Hamas factions against Palestinian institutions, as well as a suicide attack apparently instigated by the Syrian branch of Islamic Jihad.
Provisional State versus Final Status - The quartet roadmap calls for considering a Palestinian state within provisional borders as an option, which is favored by Israelis and the United States, while Abbas is insisting on final status status negotiations and claims he does not want a state with provisional borders.
Qassam Rockets - Beginning in 2001, Palestinian groups in the Gaza strip have been firing Qassam rockets, initially at Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip and later at civilian targets inside Israel. The firing escalated after the Hamas took power. The rockets have claimed about a dozen lives and done extensive property damage. The town of Sderot has been subject to a daily barrage of Qassam rockets in 2007.
Kidnapped Soldier - In June of 2006, groups affiliated with the Hamas, including those who later kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston, crossed the border into Israel and kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit. He is being held for ransom against freeing of an unspecified large number of Palestinian prisoners. Israel insists that serious negotiations about final status issues cannot be restarted until Shalit is returned. Palestinian negotiators were apparently offered release of over 1,000 prisoners in return for Shalit, but turned the offer down.
Israeli Security Handover - Israel is supposed to hand over security responsibilities in West Bank cities, gradually lifting the siege and returning conditions to what they were before the start of the violence in 2000.
The "security barrier" (Apartheid Wall) - A "security barrier" being built inside the West Bank cuts off Palestinians from their lands and from other towns, and destroys olive groves and other property according to Palestinians. The route of the fence has been changed several times under international pressure. Today (October 2005) it includes about 7% of West Bank territory on the Israeli side of the barrier. An International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory ruling declares the barrier to be in violation of international law . Since the barrier was built, Israeli casualties decreased dramatically, and the IDF claims that it is vital to preventing terror attacks. An Israeli Supreme Court ruling declared that the fence is not illegal in principle, but that the route must be changed to optimize the balance between security and humanitarian concerns. More about the Security Barrier ("Apartheid Wall")
Prisoners - Israel holds thousands of Palestinian prisoners, of whom about 500 were released in February of 2005, and an additional group of over 450 are to be released soon. Palestinians want release of all prisoners, especially women and minors. Israel is unwilling to release prisoners who have served less than two-thirds of their sentence and those who were directly involved in attacks ("blood on their hands").
Disengagement - The Israeli Government decided to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and from 4 settlements in the West Bank, evacuating about 8,000 settlers. After the death of Yasser Arafat, it partially coordinated the move with the Palestinians. Disengagement was completed without major incidents by September of 2005, but was followed by considerable chaos within Gaza. (Click for Israel Disengagement Map) (Click for more about disengagement ).
Safe Passage and open borders - Palestinians living in Gaza have very restricted access to the outside world. A safe passage for Gazans to the West Bank was supposed to have been implemented under the Oslo accords but never came into being. Israel favors a rail link, while Palestinians want a motor road. Most border crossings between Gaza and Israel have been closed since disengagement. The Rafah border crossing with Egypt was supposed to be closed at one point, but Palestinians overwhelmed the guards and Hamas exploded a portion of the barrier, allowing Palestinians to cross freely for a brief time before the crossing was closed again. Israel wanted the crossing to remain closed for several months, and wanted to open a crossing at Kerem Shalom in Israeli territory, which unlike Rafah, would be partly under Israeli control. In the fall of 2005, however, the Rafah Crossing was opened under European Union, Egyptian and Palestinian supervision, with Israeli remote monitoring via TV cameras. Israel promised to implement safe passage but did not do so. Even so, the crossing is open only intermittently. In the West Bank, numerous checkpoints restrict the movement of Palestinians.
Israeli Outposts - Under the roadmap, Israel had undertaken to evacuate illegal "outposts" set up by settlers with government knowledge, but without formal approval, after March 2001. There are estimated to be about 28 such outposts by the government. Peace Now estimates there are 53 such outposts. In all, there are over 100 outposts, including those erected before the cutoff date. The Sasson report released March 9, 2005 catalogued extensive misuse of government funds for building settlements, though most of the information had been known beforehand. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon promised once again to evacuate the outposts. No substantial progress was made, however, as late as June 2007.
A new wave of violent protests erupted between the Palestinians and Israelis following Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount/Al-Haram-al-Sharif – Sharon then went on to become Prime Minister of Israel in January 2001, and refused to continue peace talks.
Between March and May in 2002, the Israeli army launched Operation Defensive Shield on the West Bank after a significant number of Palestinian suicide bombings – the largest military operation on the West Bank since 1967.
In June 2002 the Israelis started to build a barrier around the West Bank it frequently deviated from the agreed pre-1967 ceasefire line into the West Bank. The 2003 Road Map – as proposed by the EU, the USA, Russia and the UN – attempted to resolve the conflict and both Palestinians and Israelis supported the plan.
Israeli soldiers in Nablus during Operation Defensive Shield. CC / Israel Defence Force
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Thousands Of Israeli youths dance through the streets of Arab East Jerusalem. Brian Hendler/Getty Images
Sometimes called “Oslo” after the 1993 Oslo Accords that kicked it off, the peace process is an ongoing American-mediated effort to broker a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians. The goal is a “final status agreement,” which would establish a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in exchange for Palestinians agreeing to permanently end attacks on Israeli targets — a formula often called “land for peace.”
Many people believed the peace process to be over in January 2001. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had just rejected his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak’s peace offer (there’s huge disagreement as to just what that offer entailed). Moreover, renewed talks failed to generate an agreement, and worsening violence during the second intifada violence made another round of talks seem impossible.
Despite the 2001 failure, the general Oslo “land for peace” framework remains the dominant American and international approach to resolving the conflict. The Bush administration pushed its own update on Oslo, called the ”road map,” and the Obama administration made the peace process a significant foreign policy priority. The Trump administration has not formally abandoned this formula, but has yet to take any significant actions to advance it.
Any successful peace initiative would need to resolve the four core issues that have plagued the peace process: West Bank borders/settlements, Israeli security, Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem. So far there’s been little success, and there are three major hurdles to any agreement.
First, Israel continues to expand West Bank settlements, which Palestinians see as a de facto campaign to erase the Palestinian state outright. Second, the Palestinians remain politically divided between Fatah and Hamas, and thus are unable to negotiate jointly. And even if it worked, Israel still has shown zero indication that it would negotiate with a government that includes Hamas.
Third, and finally, it’s not actually clear how to get talks started. The current right-wing Israeli government is skeptical of concessions to the Palestinians. The Palestinians, having essentially decided that Israel isn’t serious about peace, have launched a campaign for statehood in international institutions aimed at pressuring Israel into peace — which might well backfire by convincing Israelis the Palestinians are done with the US-led peace process.
To restart talks, the US needs to somehow get the two sides to start taking each other’s commitment to peace a little more seriously. It’s not at all clear how it could do that, or even if the Trump administration wants to.
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