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Ten ways the Palestinians failed to move toward a state during Oslo: Yair Hirschfeld’s critique of Seth Anziska’s Preventing Palestine (Fathom Journal)

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June, 2019

Yair Hirschfeld was one of the two original architects of the Oslo accords. In this extended critical review of Seth Anziska’s Preventing Palestine. A Political History From Camp David to Oslo (Princeton University Press, 2018), he argues that the book justifies Palestinian negativism, distorts history, and perpetuates a narrative that can only lead to more disappointment and suffering for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

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Daily Alert (Jun. 5, 2019) summary of article:

  • When I started to work together with Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin on ways to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in the early 1980s, the first thing we did was to speak to Palestinian leaders, businessmen, and journalists. One of our first questions was whether Israel should simply withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. The answer we got was devastating. “We Palestinians will first kill each other, and then we will start to kill you.”
  • Israel has repeatedly offered ways and means to establish a prosperous State of Palestine, living in good neighborly relations beside Israel. Alas, internal Palestinian divisions, conflicting external influences, and the conviction that Israel is not here to stay have prevented the establishment of a state of their own.
  • In Shimon Peres’ memoir, Battling for Peace, he expressed Israeli fears, writing: “In our view, a Palestinian state, though demilitarized at first, would over time inevitably strive to build up a military strength of its own, and the international community, depending upon massive Second and Third World support at the United Nations, would do nothing to stop it. That army, eventually, would be deployed at the very gates of Jerusalem and down the entire, narrow length of Israel. It would pose a constant threat to our security and to the peace and stability of the region.”
  • In October 1993, Yassir Arafat’s brother, Dr. Fathi Arafat, suggested the building of working committees for “people-to-people” activities, aiming to lay the foundations of good neighborly relations. Joint teams worked for 14 months on a wide range of programs. Then the PLO decided on an “anti-normalization” strategy that meant that any Palestinian who cooperated with Israelis would be castigated. The major message understood by Israeli society was that good neighborly relations were not part of the deal, even if this would undermine Palestinian well-being and prosperity.
  • In October 1995, a small group of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators prepared what is known as the Beilin-Abu Mazen Understanding, which was a blueprint for a Permanent Status Agreement. In the summer of 2000, Abu Mazen (Mohammad Abbas) publicly withdrew his consent. When we phoned him, he answered in his own voice, telling us that he was not at home.

    The writer was one of the two original architects of the Oslo accords.

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