RAMALLAH // Two decades after Israeli and Palestinian leaders met on a sun-soaked White House lawn, hopes that their historic encounter would lead to peace have faded along with photographs of their hesitant handshake.
The Oslo Accords, forged by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, were meant to result in a permanent deal within five years, providing two states for two peoples.
Instead, the diplomatic milestone, signed in Washington on September 13, 1993, led only to more violence and destruction, with each side blaming the other for the failures.
To a chorus of scepticism and disbelief, the Israelis and Palestinians have just resumed United States-brokered direct negotiations once more.
“I don’t see where one can develop optimism about these negotiations,” Nabil Shaath, a veteran Palestinian diplomat, said this week. “Look at us today – we are far worse than we were in terms of our relationship with Israel.”
Whoever is responsible for Oslo’s shortcomings, the results are clear to see. Israeli settlements are strung out across the occupied territories. Palestinians remain largely restricted to limited areas of self-rule.
The fragmentation of the West Bank, the isolation of the Gaza Strip and Israel’s absorption of East Jerusalem mean that many people on both sides of the divide believe the so-called two-state solution is dead.