The issue of trust between Israel and the P.L.O. shows the failure of the parties to reach a permanent settlement 25 years after the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles which started the Oslo Accords The loss of trust is the product of the two sides’ serious violations of the agreement. It is reflected in the increase in the number of pages added to each treaty in order to prevent activity based on an interpretation that deviates from the spirit of the agreement; In the addition of agreements (such as the Hebron Agreement and the Wye Memorandum) in order to rephrase in more detail issues already agreed upon; And with an expansion in the timetable set for the implementation of each of the milestones in the process.
At the same time, in articles and interviews to mark a quarter of a century for the agreement, those who oppose any diplomatic process with the Palestinians attempt to describe the Oslo Accords as a deliberate plot of Arafat from the outset, and in so, are committing a political rewrite of history. The claim that this conspiracy was intended to buy the trust of Rabin and Peres, and that the Palestinians’ negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state were intended only to bring Israel back to “the narrow borders that preceded the Six-Day War and then to renew from these borders the attack of destruction on the Jewish state”, as Netanyahu has written, is nothing but the inversion of history.

The central problem of the Oslo agreements is that it is a gradual and multi-stage framework, lacking the parameters for the definition of a permanent status, apart from UN Security Council Resolution 242 (“land for peace”). In other words, the parties signed a “perforated Swiss cheese” agreement, which took them on a journey without defining their final destination. The different interpretation that each party gave to the agreement and the permanent status that they envisioned gave rise to the violations of the parties and undermined the trust between them. Violations that were mainly the attempts of the parties to shape a reality that would serve their perception.

The official representatives — the Israeli government and the P.L.O. — took part in this struggle, but they allowed the opponents of the arrangement to take part in it under the false assumption that they would be able to control them and the “height of the flames” that they would awaken. Thus, in a circular process, the violations strengthened the power of the opponents to the agreement (Hamas’ victory to the Palestinian Authority elections and the establishment of Messianic-nationalist governments in Israel), who further worsened the violations until the loss of confidence and the cessation of the political process.

Contrary to the arguments of the opponents of the agreement, that the gradual nature of the process and the absence of a final outline for the permanent status served the Palestinians to revive their “phases doctrine” — the historical truth is to the contrary. The choice of a gradual process was Rabin’s doctrine since his first term, about two decades before Oslo. In 1977, he declared: “I prefer interim arrangements, with a test period between stages, rather than the attempt to move forward at once into a comprehensive settlement,” and that “a transition to real peace is a process rather than a one-time act.” This approach was adopted by his successor, Menachem Begin, who signed the Framework Agreement for Palestinian Autonomy in 1978 at Camp David with Sadat, remarkably similar in detail to the Oslo Accords. Rabin had chosen to examine the Palestinians, but was blind to the possibility that opponents of any compromise would exploit the gradualism to poke at the wheels of the process, and one of them even added three bullets to his back.

What is more important is the fact that the ambiguity and absence of the final objective imposed on the P.L.O., which was at a low point in its status and capabilities, were intended to serve Israel’s perception of the final status agreement, which was opposite to the Palestinian one.
As far as the Palestinians were concerned, they have already given everything and made the main historic national compromise in 1993. They recognized Israel and gave up 100 percent of the homeland of Palestine in exchange for a 22 percent of that land in a Palestinian state. Similarly to the rest of the world, the P.L.O. interpreted Resolution 242 as a complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the Six-Day War. It therefore viewed Israel’s agreement to “lead to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338”, as set out in the Oslo Accords, as the ultimate goal that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. In other words, Israel’s part in the realization of the compromise begins only after the Palestinians have given everything they can, according to their position, and are left to only hope that Israel will maintain its share of the agreement.

On the other hand, the Israeli side, which advocated the establishment of a limited state authority, demanded that the basis for negotiations be the principle of fair compromise, which takes into account the reality that has emerged since 1967 and takes into account Israel’s security and settlement interests. Israel sought to disengage from the “international legitimacy” set by Resolution 242 in the form of “peace for all the territories.” It emphasized another section of the resolution, which deals with “secure and recognized borders,” in order to demand that large parts of the West Bank be left under its sovereignty.

In his October 1995 speech to the Knesset, Rabin said: “We want this entity to be less than a state … The borders of the State of Israel, at the time of the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines that existed before the Six-Day War”. Netanyahu, who was elected in 1996, wrote a year earlier that “the autonomy plan under Israeli control is the only alternative.” Barak, who ousted him in 1999, refused to use the term “Palestinian state” and considered the goal of the agreement “to reach a fair division of Judea and Samaria.”

The negotiations on the final status agreement, which began only at the end of 1999, sharpened the fundamental difference in the perception of the parties and confirmed the claim regarding the basic Israeli interest in ambiguity and refraining from establishing the permanent outline. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the negotiations were intended to lead to the realization of their rights according to “international legitimacy” and not as a result of the asymmetry that exists vis-a-vis Israel. Therefore, they demanded that the negotiations start by agreeing on the principles that were based on international resolutions, and to deal with the details only at the second stage. Israel, on the other hand, demanded to agree first on the details, even in a manner inconsistent with international resolutions, and in the second stage to determine that the agreements reached nevertheless reflect international resolutions.

This approach led to negotiations in which the Palestinians remained adherent to their principled position, while Israel changed its proposal in every round. This quickly led to a myth among the Israeli public that “every time the Palestinians were given more, they demanded more.”

The Palestinians did not demand more, but constantly the same thing until their position was accepted by Israel and the U.S. during the 2008 Annapolis process. In the second stage, they demonstrated flexibility in the details and accepted the idea of an exchange of territories that would enable the majority of Israelis living beyond the Green Line to remain under Israeli sovereignty. In addition, this pattern of negotiations wasted precious time and enabled opponents on both sides to erode the trust of the other by murderous terror and expansion of settlements.

The absence of the permanent plan in Oslo and the steps taken by the parties to shape the reality according to their outlook have exacted a costly and unnecessary price of blood. The current reality, even if it is not possible to know how long it will last, is more beneficial to the interests of the Israeli opponents of the agreement.

Israel disengaged from responsibility for managing the lives of the Palestinians and transferred it to the Palestinian Authority, where only 40 percent of the territory is under its responsibility and its budget is based on the generosity of donor countries. Israel has tripled the number of Israelis in the West Bank and controls its economy. Recently, it has enjoyed the unreserved support of the American administration and coalition members are pushing for the annexation of large parts of the West Bank and the destruction of the two-state solution.

Some believe President Trump’s “ultimate deal” will be able to settle the conflict. Among other lessons from the Oslo process, this lesson, in relation to the final goal and the building of trust between the sides, must also be a pillar of any future attempt.