Palestinian protesters break up Jerusalem conference on Oslo Accords

Demonstrators invade conference room, scatter papers, break glasses, seize microphone, speak against normalization of ties with Israel

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The American Colony Hotel (photo credit: Magister/Wikipedia Commons)
The American Colony Hotel (photo credit: Magister/Wikipedia Commons)

Palestinian activists on Wednesday forcibly broke up a meeting of Palestinians and Israelis who had come together in East Jerusalem to mark the 25th anniversary of the Oslo peace accords.

Ten to 12 men stormed the room at the American Colony Hotel where the conference was being held, according to participants.

They seized the microphone, swept papers, name cards and glasses off the speakers’ table, shattering the glasses, and chanted in Arabic, “No normalization,” “Jerusalem is Arab and free” and “No security cooperation.”

Then, in English, they told everyone to leave the room.

“It was verbally very intimidating, but it didn’t feel they were there to hurt anybody,” one participant told The Times of Israel.

The men, described as aged around 18 to 28, started shouting before they burst into the room.

Gilad Sher, former prime minister Ehud Barak’s chief of staff and a senior negotiator in several rounds of Israeli-Palestinian talks, had just finished speaking and Ziad Abu Ziad, a former minister in the Palestinian Authority, had just begun.

Police arrived after the group had left and the 50 or so conference participants — among them diplomats and foreign journalists — were leaving.

In his address, Sher lamented what he called an absence of American leadership and said that with a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians not in the cards at this time, a gradual approach was needed to rebuild confidence.

If the mantra in the 1990s was “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” today’s guiding principle should be “whatever is agreed is agreed,” he said.

Abu Ziad, who advised the Palestinian negotiating team in Washington in 1992 and was part of the team that negotiated the 1994 Cairo Agreement that paved the way for the creation of the Palestinian Authority, blamed Israel for the failure of Oslo, saying Israeli leaders never intended to create a Palestinian state.

Abu Ziad co-founded the Palestine-Israel Journal in 1994 with Victor Cygielman, an Israeli. The latest issue of the magazine carries a series of essays about the Olso Accords.

Bill Clinton looks on as Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shake hands during the historic signing of the Oslo Accords, September 13, 1993. On the far right, current Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (GPO)

On September 13, 1993, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, foreign minister Shimon Peres and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat — all of whom have since died — met at the White House in Washington under the auspices of President Bill Clinton to sign the first of a series of agreements aimed at creating a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict within five years.

Wednesday’s conference was sponsored by the Palestine-Israel Journal and the Freidrich Ebert Foundation.

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