The Oslo accords divided the West Bank into three sections: Area A, the major cities where Palestinians were to have full control; Area B, where Israel would be in charge of security while Palestinians handled civilian matters; and Area C, under full Israeli control.
When President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority told the United Nations on Wednesday that the Palestinian people “cannot continue to be bound by” agreements with Israel, what was he repudiating?
Mainly, he was talking about the Oslo peace accords, which Abbas’ predecessor, Yasser Arafat, signed in 1993 and 1995 with Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli leader who was later assassinated by an extremist Jew. Those accords created the Palestinian Authority as a provisional government and laid out a five-year timetable for resolving all areas of conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
The accords divided the West Bank into three sections: Area A, the major cities where Palestinians were to have full control; Area B, where Israel would be in charge of security while Palestinians handled civilian matters; and Area C, under full Israeli control. Those delineations remain in place today. Area C covers more than two-thirds of the West Bank — that is where the Israeli settlements are — and Palestinians complain of Israeli incursions into Area A.
The Oslo accords are the cornerstone of what is known as the peace process. They included the first formal mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and specified that bilateral negotiations were the only viable path to Palestinian statehood.
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The process has been essentially in stalemate for years. The most recent talks, brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry, lasted nine months and collapsed in April 2014.
Also included under the general umbrella of “Oslo” is the Paris Protocol, signed in 1994, which established a framework for economic relations. It created a customs union, under which Israel collects taxes and customs duties on the Palestinians’ behalf, and laid out detailed arrangements for imports and exports from the West Bank and Gaza.
As important as the Oslo accords have been, it was not clear whether Abbas’ declaration would have any tangible effect.
For one thing, he predicated his statements on assertions that Israel is violating the agreements, which Israel denies. Each side has frequently accused the other of violations over the years.
Notably, Abbas did not announce that he would undo any of what the accords have established. He did not say he would dissolve the Palestinian Authority, for example, or take any specific steps to curtail the authority’s security, economic or civil coordination with Israel.