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the negotiations
The peace process began with the Oslo accord of 1993. It ended with the last negotiating sessions at Taba, Egypt, in 2001. Over seven years, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators struggled to reach an agreement that could end the 100-year Middle East conflict. In the many carefully negotiated agreements there were positive developments, but also severe setbacks.

Deeper and deeper mistrust grew on both sides. Palestinians accused Israel of failing to stop expanding Jewish settlements and stalling on agreed withdrawals from West Bank territory. Israel accused Arafat and the Palestinian security forces -- which were established by Oslo -- of not cracking down on militant groups that were trying to sabotage the peace process.

Here are summaries of the major steps taken in the search for peace, both sides' views of these steps, and video inside the Wye River and Camp David summits.

OSLO ACCORD September 13, 1993

This was an historic turning point in Arab-Israeli relations. Hammered out in complete secrecy in Oslo, Norway, by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators acting without intermediaries, the Oslo Accord forced both sides to come to terms with each other's existence. Israel agreed to recognize Yasser Arafat as its partner in peace talks, and agreed to recognize Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by beginning to withdraw from the cities of Gaza and Jericho -- essentially exchanging land for peace. The Palestinians in turn recognized Israel's right to exist while also renouncing the use of terrorism and its long-held call for Israel's destruction. (A year later, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and Yasser Arafat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their roles in the Oslo accord.)

Oslo sketched out a peace process with a two-phase timetable. During a five-year interim period, Oslo envisioned a series of step-by-step measures to build trust and partnership. Palestinians would police the territories they controlled, cooperate with Israel in the fight against terrorism, and amend those sections of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) charter that called for Israel's destruction. Israel would withdraw almost entirely from Gaza, and in stages from parts of the West Bank. An elected Palestinian Authority would take over governance of the territories from which Israel withdrew.

After this five-year interim period, negotiators then would determine a final peace agreement to resolve the thorniest issues: final borders (see map), security arrangements, Jerusalem, whether the Palestinians would have an independent state, Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian refugees' claims to land and property left behind when they fled Israel.


» "The Incidental Fruit of Oslo"
A member of the Palestinian National Council summarizes the many flaws in the Oslo peace process which preserved a status quo that denied Palestinians a national homeland.

» "The Inner Logic of Israel's Negotiations: Withdrawal Process, Not Peace Process"
Douglas Feith, a Middle East specialist in the Reagan administration, questions Oslo's logic. "Israel cannot compel good faith on the Arab side, nor can it ensure mature political leadership there. .... We know for sure that the 'peace process' means withdrawals by Israel; we do not know for sure whether it will produce peace, or even whether both sides actually intend that it do so."

» "The Oslo Peace Process Through Three Lenses"
An evaluation of how Oslo encountered severe setbacks within a few years of its signing. Drawing on his reviews of three books, the author outlines how "confidence building" measures were undermined by Israeli unilateral actions, such as the expansion of Israeli settlements (the number of Jewish settlers doubled since the peace process started in 1993) and by continuing Palestinian terrorist attacks.

» "Continue the Peace Process? No, It's Heading for Disaster"
"Abundant signs suggest [Oslo's] mixed success will metamorphose into unqualified disaster; continuing Palestinian violence could develop into a strategic threat to Israel's very existence," writes Steven Plaut, a professor at Israel's University of Haifa.


Israeli forces withdraw from Gaza and Jericho, the first step in the peace process. Israel remains responsible for Israelis and settlements in these areas; Palestinians are now responsible for public order and internal security for Palestinians, and will act to prevent terror against Israelis in the areas under their control. Some 5,000 Palestinian prisoners who have not participated in attacks against Israelis will be released.


Signed by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, this was the second major step in the Oslo process. Israeli forces would withdraw from the six largest cities in the West Bank. Three percent of the West Bank territory -- which contained approximately one-third of its Palestinian population -- now came under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. Under Oslo II, the West Bank was to be divided into three areas: one under exclusive Palestinian control; one where Palestinians had civilian control and Israelis controlled security; and one area that would be controlled exclusively by Israel.


» "A Different View of Oslo"
This Jerusalem Post report offers a snapshot of the tortuous, bitter disagreements over Oslo II's implementation, which fueled mistrust on both sides.

» "A Painful Peace"
Noam Chomsky's critique of the dynamics of power and propaganda underlying Oslo I and II. He outlines why Oslo represents "the rule of force in international affairs" and why the conventional reading of Oslo -- that Israel agreed to quit the West Bank -- is "patently false."

HEBRON ACCORD January 17, 1997

After four months of difficult negotiations, Israel agreed to transfer control of the West Bank city of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority. Unlike earlier withdrawals from the West Bank, 20 percent of the city -- the central area where more than 400 Jewish settlers lived among 130,000 Palestinians -- would remain under Israeli control. Palestinians cheered the withdrawal, but Jewish settlers felt betrayed by Prime Minister Netanyahu.


» An Interview with Benjamin Netanyahu
FRONTLINE's interview with Benjamin Netanyahu in which he discusses the Hebron agreement.

WYE RIVER ACCORD October 15-23, 1998 (The Agreement)

After 18 months of stalemate in the peace process and increasing violence, President Clinton pushed to get Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make good on the promises made five years earlier in Oslo. The U.S. convened a summit at Maryland's Wye River Plantation. After a rocky start, Clinton's marathon 21-hour session with Yasser Arafat, Benjamin Netanyahu, and senior negotiators produced the Wye River Memorandum.

The agreement allowed for the building of an international airport in the Gaza Strip. Israel agreed to pull back from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank and to release 750 Palestinian security prisoners. (Ultimately, only half of the pull-back is done and only 250 prisoners are released.) The Palestinian Authority agreed to combat terrorist organizations, arrest those involved in terrorism, and to collect all illegal weapons and explosives. (Little or none of this is ever done.)


» An Interview with Benjamin Netanyahu
FRONTLINE's interview with Benjamin Netanyahu in which he discusses the Wye River Memorandum.

» "Inside Wye Plantation"
Time magazine's detailed account of the negotiations' elements and high drama.

» "Wye River Memorandum: An Analysis"
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers this backgrounder and analysis of the Wye summit, with related letters and memoranda from officials involved.

» "Wye River Memorandum"
An overview of the Wye agreement from a Palestinian perspective, published on the Palestine Facts website.

» "The 'Camp Wye' Accords"
An analysis by the president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute of what transpired at Wye, the U.S.'s dominant role in the agreement, and the dangers this foretold.


Signed by Yasser Arafat and Israeli's new prime minister, Ehud Barak, this agreement outlined a bold framework and timetable for a "final status" peace agreement. It also listed further redeployments of Israel's forces in the territories: Within a few days, Israel was to transfer 7 percent of the West Bank from its total control to partial control by Palestinians; on Nov. 15, 5 percent more would be transferred; and on Jan. 20, 2000, a third transfer would take place. (By then 40 percent of the West Bank would be under partial or full Palestinian control.) Final-status negotiations would be due by mid-February 2000.

CAMP DAVID SUMMIT July 11-25, 2000

video excerpt

"Impasse at Camp David" (6:00)

A glimpse of the deadlock over the toughest, most sensitive issues. On final borders, Arafat failed to reply to Clinton's compromise proposal and Barak then refused to negotiate with Arafat. But their aides -- the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators -- didn't want to give up.

high (cable/dsl)low (modem)

Prime Minister Ehud Barak urged Clinton to convene this summit. Barak wanted to push for a permanent agreement -- skipping interim redeployments called for in the Wye agreement -- and envisioned a two-state solution that would end the conflict.

Issues never before discussed at senior levels between Israelis and Palestinians -- Jerusalem, statehood, boundaries, refugees -- were put on the table. Barak and Clinton suggested a path-breaking plan permitting a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem. But the Palestinians criticized Barak for coming to Camp David with a proposal for dividing the West Bank they had already rejected. And,in their eyes, the Clinton/Barak plan would have left the new Palestinian state with significant loss of water and good land, almost split by Israeli annexation running east from Jerusalem, and with Israel getting roughly 9 percent of the West Bank. However, U.S. and Israeli officials contend that throughout the summit, the Palestinians rejected Israeli proposals while offering no proposal of their own. Publicly, both Clinton and Barak blamed Arafat for the failure to reach an agreement on a two-state solution.

Despite the setback, however, Arafat and Barak approved a new series of secret meetings between the negotiators over the following months.


» An Interview with Ehud Barak
FRONTLINE's interview with Ehud Barak in which he discusses Camp David.

» An Interview with Yasser Arafat
FRONTLINE's interview with Yasser Arafat in which he discusses Camp David.

» An Interview with Saeb Erekat
FRONTLINE's interview with Saeb Erekat about Camp David

» "The Negotiation Strategies of Israel and the Palestinians"
Gilead Sher, one of Israel's chief negotiators from 1999-2001, summarizes each sides' dramatically different political strategies and tactical approaches to the negotiations, and how Arafat was a critical obstacle throughout the peace talks. (Note: Sher's article appears toward the end of this newsletter; his is the third out of four essays.)

» "The Compromise That Wasn't Found at Camp David"
An article in Ha'aretz summing up Palestinians' objections to Barak's proposals. It includes two maps showing the Palestinian version of Israel's proposal for the final-status arrangement for the West Bank and Jerusalem.

» An Interview with Shlomo Ben-Ami on Camp David
Drawing on the diary he kept, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Ehud Barak's representative at the peace talks, discusses in this Ha'aretz magazine interview the stormy details of Camp David's negotiations and the subsequent progress made at the Taba meeting. He analyzes the issues that ultimately derailed an agreement and offers a harsh appraisal of Yasser Arafat as a leader.

» "Camp David and After: An Exchange"
This June 2002 article in the New York Review of Books lays out Barak's view of Camp David's failure. It's followed by an opposing viewpoint from Robert Malley, Clinton's special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs who was at Camp David, and Hussein Agha of Oxford University.

» "A Different Take on Camp David Collapse"
A summary by The Washington Post of the Palestinian version of what happened at Camp David, a version diametrically opposed to the Israeli view.

THE TABA TALKS January 21-27, 2001

In a desperate attempt to salvage the peace effort before Israel's election (hard-liner Ariel Sharon was forecast to defeat Barak) negotiators met in the Egyptian resort of Taba, focusing on new parameters for an agreement which had been developed by Clinton the previous month. The new terms went further than what Israel and the U.S. had offered at Camp David.

In contrast to Camp David, the Palestinians this time made counter-offers. After a week of off-and-on negotiations, senior Palestinian and Israeli negotiators announced they had never been more close to reaching agreement on final-status issues. But they had run out of political time. They couldn't conclude an agreement with Clinton now out of office and Barak standing for reelection in two weeks. "We made progress, substantial progress. We are closer than ever to the possibility of stiriking a final deal," said Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel's negotiator. Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief negotiator, said, "My heart aches because I know we were so close. We need six more weeks to conclude the drafting of the agreement."


» "Deconstructing the Taba Talks"
The Foundation for Middle East Peace's analysis of how the Taba meeting constituted a breakthrough in the negotiations, with details on the final-status map presented by Israeli negotiator Gilead Sher.

» An Interview with Ehud Barak
FRONTLINE's interview with Ehud Barak in which he discusses the Taba talks.

» Clinton's Speech on Reaching a Final Agreement
Just 13 days before he was to leave office, Clinton presented this overview of the peace process, with details on the new "parameters" he had developed to bridge the impasse at Camp David -- parameters which became the foundation for the Taba negotiations.

» "The Peace that Nearly Was at Taba"
From Ha'aretz, a summary of the Taba talks, with a link to the report prepared by E.U. envoy Miguel Moratinos that highlights the progress made at Taba in addressing the greatest challenges to a final peace agreement. While Moratinos' summary has no official status, he interviewed negotiators after their sessions and this final version was agreed to by both sides.


Two weeks after the negotiations at Taba, hard-liner Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister, defeating Barak in a landslide. Sharon had consistently rejected the Oslo peace process and criticized Israel's positions at Camp David and Taba.

The Palestinian intifada's cycle of violence continued and escalated. On March 29, 2002, after a suicide bomber killed 30 people, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield. Israel's troops re-entered Palestinian cities and refugee camps, hunting down terrorists and often leaving massive destruction in their wake.

Three months later, in mid-June 2002, two more suicide bombings struck Israel. Sharon announced Israel would immediately begin a policy of taking back land in the West Bank, and holding it, until the terror attacks stopped.

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