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The product of intensive diplomatic efforts pursued in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War, the so-called Madrid Framework laid a structural foundation for future Mideast peace negotiations in the fall of 1991. Beginning on October 30 of that year, the governments of Spain, the United States, and the Soviet Union convened a three-day Conference in Madrid to inaugurate two separate yet parallel negotiating tracks -- one bilateral, the other multilateral.

The bilateral negotiations, which were meant to help resolve Israel’s past conflicts with its Arab neighbors, opened in Madrid on November 3, 1991. They featured separate rounds of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, respectively.

Two months later, in January 1992, the multilateral negotiations got underway in Moscow; their purpose was to build confidence in the potential for future cooperation among the regional parties -- vis à vis such issues as arms control, refugees, and economic development.

But the Madrid and Moscow negotiations failed to bring about any significant agreements between Israel and its aforementioned adversaries. More than a dozen formal rounds of bilateral talks were subsequently hosted by the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC, again with few substantive results.

Those talks, however, led eventually to a series of clandestine meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, hosted by Norway. In turn, those meetings culminated in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. Officially titled the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (DOP), the Oslo agreements were founded on a renunciation of violence by both parties. Moreover, they called for a five-year interim period of Palestinian self-rule, which eventually would give way to the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

In a September 13, 1993 ceremony on the White House lawn, the Oslo Accords were signed in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and U.S. President Bill Clinton. (The actual signatories were Mahmoud Abbas for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for Israel, Secretary of State Warren Christopher for the United States, and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev for Russia.) Four days earlier, Arafat had also signed a letter, addressed to Prime Minister Rabin, stating specifically that:

  • "The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security."
  • "The PLO accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338."
  • "The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process ... [and] all outstanding issues ... will be resolved through negotiation."
  • "The PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators."
  • "Those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter, are now inoperative and no longer valid."

But the Palestinians never followed through on their pledge to renounce violence. In fact, during the height of the so-called "peace process" -- from 1993 to 1999 -- there were over 4,000 terrorist incidents committed by Palestinians against Israelis, and more than 1,000 Israelis killed as a result of Palestinian attacks; this was more than the total number of Israelis who had been slain by Arab terrorists in the previous 25 years, combined.

Nonetheless, the Israeli government subsequently made major concessions for peace in the Camp David Summit. Convened by U.S. President Bill Clinton, this summit took place at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, from July 11-24, 2000. Its purpose was to provide a forum where Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak could hammer out a final settlement of their differences, in accordance with the 1993 Oslo agreement.

The Barak government offered to meet 95 percent of Arafat’s demands, including turning over parts of Jerusalem to Palestinian control -- a possibility once considered unthinkable. These concessions confronted Arafat with the one outcome he did not want: peace without the destruction of the "Jewish Entity." Thus he turned down the Israeli proposals, accompanying his rejection with a new explosion of anti-Jewish violence known as the Al-Aqsa Inifada, or the Second Intifada.

Another round of peace talks was subsequently held at the White House from December 19-23, 2000, and ended in failure.

In July 2002 the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia outlined the principles of a new "Road Map" for peace. Allowing for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, the Road Map was made public in April 2003, after the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) as the first-ever PA Prime Minister. (The U.S. and Israel had called for the creation of this new position, as both nations refused to work with Arafat any longer.)

Among other things, the Road Map called for:

  • the Palestinian Authority to "undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere";
  • a "rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus" to "begin sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure";
  • Palestinian leadership to issue an “unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere”;
  • “all official Palestinian institutions [to] end incitement against Israel”;
  • Israel to "dismantle settlements established after March 2001, freeze all settlement activity, remove its army from Palestinian areas occupied after 28 September 2000, end curfews, and ease restrictions on movement of persons and goods”;
  • Israeli leadership to issue an “unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel”;
  • Arab states to “cut off public and private funding and all other forms of support for groups supporting and engaging in violence and terror”;
  • the drafting of a “constitution for Palestinian statehood”; and
  • the implementation of a “transparent candidate selection/electoral campaign based on a free, multi-party process” wherein Palestinians could “hold free, open, and fair elections.”

Although the Israelis made a major concession in withdrawing from Gaza in 2005, this Road Map went nowhere because of the weakness of a Palestinian leadership unable to convince its people that peace was in their interests. After Barack Obama was elected President in November 2008, the United States, which had been a defender of Israel’s interests in all previous Mideast peace talks, now contended that tranquility could come to the region only if the Jewish state were willing to make some major unilateral concessions to its sworn enemies. Early in his presidency, for example, Obama called on Israel to drop its “preconceptions” and negotiate with Hamas, the terrorist organization whose founding charter remains irrevocably committed to the permanent destruction of Israel and the mass murder of Jews.

In a September 23, 2009 speech to the UN General Assembly, Obama stated that “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” and he referred to Israel as an “occup[ier]” of Palestinian territory. Moreover, he again took up the theme that peace in the Middle East was contingent upon Israel's willingness to make unilateral concessions to entities that were openly dedicated to its demise. Said Obama:

"The time has come to re-launch negotiations without preconditions that address the permanent status issues, security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. The goal is clear: Two states living side by side in peace and security; a Jewish state of Israel with true security for all Israelis and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people…. The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians."

Adapted from "The Madrid Framework" by the Jewish Virtual Library; "What Were the Details of the Oslo Accords?" by PalestineFacts.org; and "Camp David 2000" by David Shyovitz (published by the Jewish Virtual Library).


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