Lexicon of Terms
The Handshake: Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat with US President Bill Clinton in between, Sept. 13, 1993.
The Oslo Accords were bilateral agreements signed in Washington
following negotiations, part of which were clandestine, between Israel and the
PLO. The signed agreement was entitled the ďDeclaration of Principles on
Interim Self-Government Arrangements.Ē Its main concern was on Israeli
withdrawal from the territories of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, in order
to allow the establishment of a Palestinian Authority for self-government for
an interim period until permanent arrangements would be established.
The process began in January 1993 in a meeting with two Israelis, Dr.
Yair Hirschfeld and Dr. Ron Pundak, and Palestinian representatives headed by
Ahmed Qurei, aka Abu Alaa. The contact between the groups was made through
Norwegian mediators, who contacted Dr. MK Yossi Beilin. A short time later,
Beilin was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and he officially
acknowledged these talks, while depicting them as unofficial. Minister of
Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres was updated by Beilin after the first meeting took
place in January, and Peres informed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in early
From its early stages, both parties spoke of an Israeli withdrawal from
Gaza and the transfer of economic responsibilities in Judea and Samaria to the
Palestinians. An initial draft of the declaration was made up in February and
March. In April, Abu Alaa informed Hirschfeld on the Palestinian consensus not
to include the subject of Jerusalem in the interim agreement, but he did ask
for an official recognition in the negotiations. Rabin and Peres conceded to
continue holding the talks by a representation of government officials, headed
by Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Uri Savir.
Yosel Singer, who served in the Military Advocate General Unit and later
appointed as the legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had joined
the talks in June. The talks in Oslo were conducted by Savir, Singer,
Hirschfeld and Pundak. They reported to and consulted with Deputy Foreign Minister
Beilin, Deputy Minister of Defense Mordechai Gur, and Assistant to the Foreign
Minister Avi Gil. With Rabinís consent, Singer began formulating a new draft of
the declaration, which was given to the Palestinians in June.
The following month, Rabin contacted PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat through
a telegraph forwarded by Minister of Health Haim Ramon and Arafatís Israeli
advisor, Dr. Ahmad Tibi. Arafatís response was given to Rabin on August 4th.
The mutual recognition between the parties was unofficially debated at the end
of July and officially during August, at the consent of Rabin and Peres.
Despite Rabinís lack of objection to the talks, it was only at this time that
he became convinced of their possible success. This was due to his
understanding that the Palestinians have agreed to several terms: Approval for
maintaining the present settlements; acknowledgement of Israelís responsibility
for the safety of its citizens within the territories; and that all options
will be open for negotiations towards a permanent solution.
On the night between August 18th and 19th,
Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Jorgen Holst served as a mediator between
Peres, who was located at the time in Stockholm, Sweden, and Arafat and Abu
Alaa from PLO headquarters in Tunisia. The Declaration of Principles was
initialed the following day. It was signed by Savir, Abu Alaa, Singer, and
Hassan Asfur, in the presence of Peres.
On August 27th, Peres and Holst reported to US President Bill
Clinton regarding the progress of the talks. The Americans, who knew of the
talks but remained doubtful, were awestruck. The Israeli government and public
were notified about the agreement on August 30th. It remained
unclear as to whom will sign the declaration in Washington: It was first
decided on Peres and Abu Mazen, but on September 13th the problems
regarding the mutual recognition were resolved, allowing Rabin and Arafat to
sign the Declaration of Principles at the White House in Washington.
The signing of the declaration had dramatic consequences for the policy
of Israel towards the PLO. Israel acknowledged the PLO as the representative of
the Palestinian people and announced on its intent to begin negotiations, as a
part of a comprehensive peace process in the Middle East. Arafat, in the name
of the PLO, acknowledged Israelís right for a safe and peaceful existence.
Arafat committed himself to the peace process and to work towards a peaceful
solution to the conflict; he obliged to abstain from the use of terror and
violent acts; he acknowledged the United Nationsí Security Council Resolutions
242 and 338 and had guaranteed to approve the necessary changes in the
Palestinian manifest in the Palestinian National Council Ė mainly concerning
chapters contradicting the declaration or disapproving of Israelís right for
The accords were controversial within the Israeli public and the
Knesset. The left-wing parties were supportive, but right-wing parties were
highly critical: Rabin was accused of legitimizing a leader and an organization
which he himself slandered in the past; other accusations concerned the
relinquishment of the historical homeland of the Jewish people while
undermining Israelís safety.
Following two days of debates in the Knesset on the Governmentís
announcement, a motion of no-confidence was raised on September 23rd
1993 in regard to the signing of the declaration. This motion was dismissed by
61 Knesset Members, while 50 voted in favor and 8 abstained.
The declaration of principles was instrumental for the future Cairo
Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area (signed in May 1994) and the
Taba Agreement (signed in July 1995).
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