These days, as we mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the P.L.O., it is worth telling the truth about this so-often vilified agreement and its results.

The Oslo Accords were an historic turning point. After a century of conflict, the leaders of both peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians, agreed to mutual recognition, a reality of two states living in peace, and abandonment of the pursuit of a violent resolution.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin promised in the election campaign to reach an agreement with the Palestinians within six-to-nine months. Yasser Arafat was the undisputed leader of the Palestinian people. It was not because of his qualities that Arafat was a partner, but because of his ability to bring home an agreement with Israel among his people. The Palestinians had no other leader.

In its operational essence, the Oslo Accords envisaged a five-year gradual construction in which a demilitarized Palestinian entity would be established in the territories, functioning in economic cooperation with Israel. In the wording of the agreement and in the discussions, it was clear that “if the Palestinians fight terror, they will have a state of their own with the assistance of Israel.” Because of this stipulation, before his death, Rabin did not deliver the 14 cities in the West Bank to Palestinian control — which, according to the timetable, had to happen by the summer of 1994. Rabin was dissatisfied with the PLO’s struggle against terror.

In the first two years after their signing, the Oslo Accords brought a political and economic blessing to Israel. In 1994, the peace treaty with Jordan was signed and Israel’s longest border became a border of peace. This would not have happened without the Oslo Accords. In the future, there will be no more agreements with Arab countries if there is no Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

In the two years following the agreements, foreign investment in Israel increased by 30 times after the Arab boycott ceased to affect large international companies. Israeli exports grew by hundreds of percentage points, and unemployment, which stood at 11.5 percent of Rabin’s share of power in the summer of 1992, fell dramatically.

The economic change was immediate and dramatic, but it must be remembered that the Oslo Accords were not supposed to be a magic wand that would change reality all at once. They were the beginning of a long process of creating a two-state solution that had important dimensions, such as the Paris Agreement of April 1994, which regulated trade and economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the Oslo II agreement signed in Washington in September 1995. The preparation of these agreements was assisted by dozens of experts from both sides, and a dynamic of dialogue between representatives of both peoples was created.

There are no “supporters of Oslo” and “opponents of Oslo.” Opponents of Oslo, who call the agreement a “crime,” “disaster,” and “stupidity,” are opposed to the two-state solution and advocate a single state with three types of citizens: the settlers, lords of the land, Jews with rights, and Arabs, second-class citizens.

The false claim made by opponents of Oslo is that the agreements led to attacks in which hundreds of Israelis were killed. Their focus is mainly the suicide bombings. When we come to do the Oslo account, we have to tell the truth about this painful issue as well. The Oslo Accords were not an operational plan to end Palestinian terror, which began in the 1920s. The agreements were an outline for ending the conflict, which would also lead to the decline of terror. The PLO’s commitment to the agreements was that its organizations, especially Fatah, would cease terror, and so it was.

The Oslo Accords aroused opposition from both sides to violent terrorist activity. In the first half of the year following the signing ceremony in the White House there were no suicide bombings. At the end of February 1994, Baruch Goldstein carried out the massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, according to his widow, “in order to stop the peace talks.” According to senior Shin Bet officials, the massacre in Hebron led Hamas to start the campaign of bus attacks as revenge and as a means of sabotaging the Oslo process. The first terrorist attack was carried out in Afula on April 6, 1994. In the first two years following the signing of the Oslo Accords, 164 Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks.

The wave of terror attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad was a brutal counter-attack against peace. But their greatest gift was not from the Israelis who signed the agreement, but rather from an Israeli who was influenced by incitement he heard from right-wing leaders: Yigal Amir. Rabin’s assassination interrupted the process that began in Oslo. That was the murderer’s intention, and that is the victory of the inciters. The Oslo Accords should not be considered a failure or a success, because after June 1996, when Benjamin Netanyahu came to power, there has been no leadership in Israel that feels obligated to continue the process that was previously cut off.

The Oslo process went on from September 1993 to May 1996. The question is not whether the agreements are a success or a failure, but rather in which country we want to live — bi-national or Jewish-democratic — and this is the real debate.

If the center-left camp in Israel is to blame for anything, it is that since Rabin’s murder, it has not built up a leader or leadership with the political courage, moral authority and ability to carry out the Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

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