I am part of the Oslo Generation brought up on a lie about 'peace'
The entire world witnessed the historic handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn alongside Bill Clinton exactly 30 years ago, a moment considered one of the pivotal geopolitical events of the 20th century.
I was just five years old at the time, living in France, and primarily recall it through television and later in history schoolbooks.
Soon afterwards, my family moved to Gaza as my father, a Palestinian refugee, could finally enter the country for the first time alongside a few thousands Palestinians. Our homecoming coincided with the late Yasser Arafat's return.
Infamously labelled as the “Oslo Generation”, comprising Palestinians between the ages of 30 and 40, we are the children of negotiators or the leaders of the First Intifada. Our entire lives have been shaped by the decisions made in secret between the then PLO leadership and the Israeli government.
During those three decades, we were - and we still are - encouraged to participate in so-called “peace” choirs, summer camps or other “dialogue” platforms, in order to mingle with Israelis. These, in fact, only made Israelis feel good about themselves, the same Israelis who subsequently served in the army, failing to fight the racist and colonial system they were part of.
We have witnessed the building of a 700km apartheid wall, cutting off neighbours and friends from family members or their fruit trees. We have seen the fragmentation and lockdown of our cities, surrounded as they are by military checkpoints. And we have seen the exponential growth of Jewish settlements and segregated roads that make every car journey a dangerous undertaking.
This so-called "peace process" - with interim agreements that were only supposed to last five years - has effectively granted Israel carte blanche to further its colonial control and expansion while imposing a racist apartheid domination over Palestinians.
Such disillusion led to the Second Intifada, and the massive defiance we see today among the younger generation. The resentment stems largely with the Palestinian rulers, who continued to accept futile peace summits and rounds of negotiations, while enforcing their own subjugation.
The Oslo process was inherently doomed to fail from the start. It cemented the notion that bilateral negotiations under a liberal “peace-building” agenda were a viable political path, as opposed to pursuing peace through decolonisation, ending military occupation and upholding people's rights in accordance with international law.
Firstly, the negotiations were never conducted in good faith, and the power imbalance was always going to favour Israel.
Former Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin recently acknowledged that the biggest mistake made by Palestinians was believing in Israel's commitment to a settlement freeze.
Rabin, in his 1995 speech to the Knesset regarding the Oslo Accords, indicated that the "permanent solution" would involve “the establishment of settlements in Judea and Samaria”, and settlement construction continued during the negotiation periods.
Israeli negotiators also avoided referencing international law, except as the "basis for future negotiations", thereby evading any accountability or firm commitment to ending the occupation and upholding Palestinian rights. To this day, Israel has not acknowledged Palestinians as a national group or recognised our right to self-determination.
Secondly, the Palestinian people were excluded from the secretive negotiations, and Palestinian negotiators were ill-equipped to ensure their demands were met. The Palestinian Authority (PA), established under the accords, was indeed designed to play a counterinsurgency role in pacifying and controlling Palestinians, rather than acting as the sovereign entity leading us to freedom and independence.
The PLO thus traded the Palestinian liberation struggle for limited self-rule within our homeland, entirely dependent on Israel.
The PA now serves as the local enforcer of our own subjugation, with a ruling class intensifying repression against dissenting youth who have lost trust in the governing system's ability to free them from oppression.
Farce of bilateral negotiations
Thirdly, any process brokered by the United States, and supported by western allies, was doomed to favour Israeli interests.
As former Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy noted in 2019, Bill Clinton's administration “blurred the distinction between American and Israeli interests and priorities”. Today, the US continues to be the main sponsor of the Israeli army, providing $3.8bn annually.
Since 1972, the US has vetoed more than 44 UN Security Council resolutions condemning illegal Israeli actions, contributing to the culture of impunity Israel operates under today. Such harmful actions are continued by the promotion of normalisation with Israel through the Abraham Accords.
The few times the Palestinian authorities have attempted to move away from the farce of bilateral negotiations such as UN conventions or the International Criminal Court (ICC), Israel and its allies have decried these as "unilateral" measures that would "hurt peace", victim-blaming the Palestinians as perpetual rejectionists of peace offers.
I am often asked whether the two-state solution is dead or if we advocate for a one-state solution. This misses the crucial question needed to move forward. The fixation on statehood and paying lip service to the two-state solution has disempowered our nation, consolidated bureaucratic and security apparatuses and whitewashed Israeli crimes.
The fixation on statehood and paying lip service to the two-state solution have disempowered our nation and whitewashed Israeli crimes
The real question should be: how can we achieve a just peace and a liberated future throughout the entirety of the territory of historic Palestine. It is unreasonable to expect Palestinians to negotiate their freedom and fundamental rights.
We need to see the international community shift its approach and acknowledge the need for a radical change in power dynamics.
First, it must recognise the futility and inadequacy of the "peace process" framework and instead concentrate on a political process centred on the realisation of human rights.
It must support Palestinian efforts to reclaim their political system and representation, fostering consensus-building across all segments of society.
Most importantly, it must hold Israel accountable for its crimes and cease trade, cooperation and friendly alliances with one of the few remaining colonial regimes on Earth.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.