‘Oslo accords are over,’ top Palestinian official says
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‘Oslo accords are over,’ top Palestinian official says

Mustafa Barghouti takes Abbas’s UN speech a step further, asserting PA will cease to abide by agreements with Israel

Mustafa Barghouti speaks the Palestine Center of the Jerusalem Fund, 10 September, 2013 (screen capture: YouTube)
Mustafa Barghouti speaks the Palestine Center of the Jerusalem Fund, 10 September, 2013 (screen capture: YouTube)

A top Palestinian official sharpened Thursday a declaration by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that the PA is no longer bound by accords signed with Israel, including the 1993 Oslo accords.

“Oslo accords are over. So are the rest of the agreements with Israel,” Mustafa Barghouti told AFP.

Abbas on Wednesday had blamed Israeli settlement policies and failure to release Palestinian prisoners for his decision to stop adhering to agreements with the Jewish state.

“So long as Israel refuses to commit to the agreements signed with us, cease settlement construction and release prisoners, Israel has left us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to these agreements,” Abbas said in a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Israel, he said, must now “fully assume all its responsibilities as an occupying power… our patience for a long time has come to an end.”

Palestinian Authority official Ahmed Majdalani told Palestinian radio that “arrangements” will be made when Abbas returns from New York.

Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 30, 2015. (AFP/Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 30, 2015. (AFP/Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Abbas’s declaration has the potential to upturn what remains of the peace process, but there are doubts whether concrete actions will follow.

His speech at the General Assembly was seen as both an attempt to draw renewed focus to the Palestinian cause as well as a bid for leverage at a time when the world’s attention is focused elsewhere.

Pulling out of previous agreements, including the landmark Oslo accords of the 1990s, could mean drastic moves such as dismantling the Palestinian Authority or ending security coordination with Israel.

Abbas, who reportedly vowed ahead of his speech that he would drop a “bombshell” at the UN, mentioned none of those details, however.

‘Sending a signal’

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said she understood Abbas’s declaration to be a conditional statement depending on Israel’s actions.

“There is an if, and on that if we are going to have to work,” she told reporters, while also saying the speech underscored the “urgency” to act now.

While laying out his argument at the UN, Abbas presented a bleak picture, pointing to the continued Israeli presence in the West Bank, settlement expansion and Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

He also spoke of the July 31 firebombing of a Palestinian home by suspected Jewish extremists that killed an 18-month-old boy and his parents.

Meanwhile, peace talks remain moribund and Palestinian statehood is a long way from being realized.

The Palestinian Authority was created by the Oslo accords as a temporary governing administration designed to be in place for five years, when a final agreement would be negotiated. Instead, two decades have now passed.

Still, while Abbas’s speech reflected Palestinian frustration, it contained few details.

“It’s very hard to know what it would mean in practice, and the reason for that is because I don’t think that’s what it is about,” said Jonathan Rynhold of the Israeli-based Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies. “It’s about sending a signal.”

According to Rynhold, “the reason he keeps making these threats is to get the attention of the world because at the moment the world is more interested in ISIS and in Iran. The Palestinians have gone way down the ladder of priorities.”

‘Waste time in negotiations’

Taking a step such as ending security cooperation with Israel could lead to chaos in the West Bank, Rynhold said, while pointing to the Gaza Strip, where the Islamist movement Hamas is now in power.

There is also the risk that it could provoke Israel to increase its presence throughout the West Bank, although some question whether it would be willing to commit the necessary money and manpower to do so.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini speaks to journalists at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 20, 2015. (AFP/John Thys)
EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini speaks to journalists at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 20, 2015. (AFP/John Thys)

The so-called Middle East Quartet, including the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN and intended to act as a mediator in the conflict, met on Wednesday and “decided to revitalise” its activities, Mogherini said.

She pointed to the clashes in recent weeks at the sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and the danger of a “dramatic inflammation”.

Mogherini called on Israel to implement existing agreements and for the Palestinians to engage in direct negotiations.

For Abbas, who has pushed for a multilateral process and saw the Palestinian flag raised for the first time at the UN on Wednesday, “it is no longer useful to waste time in negotiations for the sake of negotiations.”

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