What Were the Oslo Accords?

The Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and Palestine in 1993, were supposed to end the decades-old fight between them. Hesitation on both sides, however, derailed the process, leaving the United States and other entities once again trying to mediate an end to the Middle East conflict.


The Jewish state of Israel was founded in 1948 when the United Nations partitioned an area for Israel out of the former British holdings of the Trans-Jordan regions. Some 700,000 Palestinians found themselves displaced.

Palestinians and their Arab supporters in Egypt, Syria, and Jordan immediately went to war with the new state of Israel, which won the war and validated its right to exist.

In major wars in 1967 and 1973, Israel occupied more Palestinian areas including:

  • The Gaza Strip, near the Israeli border with Egypt
  • The West Bank (of the Jordan River), which Israel insists is necessary for its own security
  • The Golan Heights near Israel's border with Syria
  • The Sinai Peninsula, which Israel later returned to Egypt


The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) formed in 1964. In 1969, Yasser Arafat became the PLO leader. Arafat long denied Israel's right to exist. However, by the late 1980s he reluctantly accepted the fact of Israel's existence.


Several factors contributed to the new negotiations on an Israeli-Palestinian peace: Arafat's new position toward Israel; Egypt's peace treaty with Israel in 1979; Arab cooperation with the

United States in defeating Iraq in the Persian Gulf War of 1991; willingness of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin to explore new avenues of peace. Norway offered to provide a place where Israeli and Palestinian diplomats could hold secret meetings. In a secluded, wooded area near Oslo, diplomats gathered in 1992. President Bill Clinton presided over the negotiations.


The negotiators emerged from the Oslo woods with a "Declaration of Principles," or the Oslo Accords. They included:

  • Israel recognized the PLO as Palestine's official representative
  • The PLO renounced the use of violence
  • The PLO recognized Israel's right to exist
  • Both sides agreed to Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and the Jericho area by 2000
  • A five-year interim period would facilitate further Israeli withdrawals from other unspecified areas of the West Bank.

Rabin and Arafat signed the Accords at the White House in September 1993.


The PLO moved to validate its renunciation of violence by changing its name to the Palestinian Authority. Israel also began giving up territory in Gaza and the West Bank.

But in 1995, an Israeli radical, angry over the Oslo Accords, assassinated Rabin. Palestinian "rejectionists" began terrorist attacks on Israel. Hezbollah, operating out of southern Lebanon, began a series of attacks against Israel.

Those incidents scared Israelis, who then elected the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu to his first term as prime minister. Netanyahu did not like the Oslo Accords, and he put no effort into following up on their terms.

Source: What Were the Oslo Accords?
By Steve Jones © ThoughtCo.com

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