30 years after Oslo, FM Cohen rejects international dictates on Palestinian issue

Foreign minister meets with Norwegian counterpart on anniversary of landmark accords, says normalization is the path forward in the region

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen seen during an interview at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, June 12, 2023. (Yossi Aloni/ Flash90)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen seen during an interview at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, June 12, 2023. (Yossi Aloni/ Flash90)

AP — Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Wednesday said that Israel would not cave in to foreign dictates on its treatment of the Palestinians — in comments that came in a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Oslo peace accords.

The remarks by Cohen underscored the deterioration of Mideast peace efforts since the historic interim peace deal. Substantive negotiations have not taken place in years.

“Israel will not submit to external dictates on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Cohen said in the meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister, Anniken Huitfeldt, according to a statement from his office.

Cohen told Huitfeldt that Israel will continue to work toward normalizing relations with other countries in the Middle East. Israel reached diplomatic accords with four Arab countries under the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020 and is now hoping to establish official ties with Saudi Arabia.

But in an apparent reference to the Palestinians, who have criticized the Abraham Accords, Cohen said “states and actors that don’t participate in expanding and deepening the circle of peace and normalization will simply be left behind and become irrelevant.”

Huitfeldt described her meeting with Cohen as “interesting.”

According to her office, she expressed her concern to Cohen over Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The two also discussed the possibility of renewing Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, she said.

Cohen’s rejection of international input on the conflict came exactly three decades after Israel and the Palestinians signed an interim peace deal on the White House lawn.

The Oslo Accords, negotiated secretly in Norway, were meant to pave the way to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Former US president Bill Clinton looks on as then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO head Yasser Arafat shake hands during the signing of the Oslo Accords, September 13, 1993. (Courtesy/GPO)

“The notion that Israel is not going to accept any externally imposed settlement on the Palestinian issue was essentially the opposite of what the Oslo process reflected,” said Aaron David Miller, an American diplomat who helped negotiate the agreement. Miller is now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

A handshake between then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, conducted under the beaming gaze of then US president Bill Clinton, marked the signing of the agreement, which created the Palestinian Authority and set up self-rule areas in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for a future state.

Several rounds of peace talks over the years all ended in failure, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejecting an offer for statehood in 2008, and 30 years later, a final peace settlement seems a dim possibility.

Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Israel has stepped up settlement activities in the West Bank.

The West Bank is in the midst of the most violent stretch of Israel-Palestinian violence in nearly 20 years, while the Palestinian Authority is weak and unpopular. Meanwhile, the Hamas terrorist group, which opposes Israel’s existence, has controlled Gaza since seizing the area from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Given the current conflict, any peacemaking efforts by the two sides aren’t “anywhere near being ready for prime time,” Miller said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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