Posted on 23rd July 2012, by & filed under Hamas victory, ICAHD Staff, Intifada, Oslo, Peace process.

The Oslo Accords generated much excitement among both our peoples. At long last an opening was found to solve our conflict. It did not take long for ominous clouds to show up after the signing of the accords. The settlement project did not cease, but rather accelerated. Bypass roads were being paved, while grabbing more and more Palestinian land, evidence of the intention to perpetuate settlements in the Occupied Territories. The ongoing construction work within the settlements was further proof of the same. Following the Goldstein massacre in Hebron’s Machpela Cave, a new type of Palestinian terrorism came into play: suicide bombers, starting out as avengers of the Hebron massacre, carried on as a new type of terrorist act after Israel had always found answers to the former kinds.

Most Israelis were aware of the process of negotiations, ongoing despite the accelerated settlement process in the Occupied Territories (of which they were less aware), and despite the ongoing Palestinian terrorist acts. The Oslo Accords brought Israel rapid economic growth and definitely signaled hope of an irreversible process towards peace between our two nations.

Just as within Israeli society the peace process was accompanied by sharp discord, thus in Palestinian society as well. Unlike in Israel, Palestinian society suffered an economic decline during the Oslo years. At the same time, Israel nearly doubled the number of its settlers in the Occupied Territories. Widespread land-grab, home demolitions, expulsions, and the myriad nightmares of Occupation that saw no end, turned the great hope for solving the conflict, into a trauma that brought on the Intifada. One of the strongest accusations hurled at Arafat was: they continue to settle, rob land, demolish homes, and you are promising them security. Have you turned into Israeli collaborators? Still, after Arafat’s demise, when the Palestinians proceeded to elect their president, they chose the more moderate representative (who opposed the armed Intifada), Abu Mazen. Violence levels decreased as well. And still Israeli Prime Minister Sharon refused to go back to the negotiating table. Not a single significant step was taken that could have reinforced Abu Mazen’s status and his attitude. On the contrary, again Palestinians see their lands incessantly robbed, their homes demolished, and settlements constructed and expanded. Even the ‘dis-engagement’, that for numerous Israelis looked like a turn towards peace, was made while refusing to talk to the moderate leader the Palestinians had elected. This brought about the feeling that armed force alone achieved Israeli retreat. Again Israel proved to them that it only understands the language of force, just as the uni-lateral retreat from Lebanon was understood. When the moderate leader faltered, tables are turned as another option is sought. In the last elections, the other option turned out to be Hamas. Again the Palestinian uprising – Intifada – was on, this time an ‘election Intifada’. Not only had a corrupt regime generated great support for Hamas, but also the failure of compromise with Israel.

It is interesting to note that surveys consistently show both in Israel and in Palestine, a majority in favor of peace between the two nations. In Israel this has not kept the Right from winning the previous elections, even gaining an absolute majority in the Knesset for the first time. And it did not prevent the Hamas victory in the recent elections at the Palestinian National Authority. Now the hope remains that just as in our camp, some of the Right has been coming to and turning to the Center and the Left, so will things turn in the Hamas as it is forced to cope with the constraints set by reality in our region and internationally. In the past, Hamas boycotted elections as it refused to accept the Oslo accords. Now its mere participation for the first time in the elections based upon the self-same accords proves that Hamas is ready to change its positions and consider moderation.