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Nine Years Later: The Oslo Accords – A Jordanian Perspective

13 September 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Nine years ago today Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords with the PLO leader Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn with President Clinton looking on.  Several academics worked on the Accords along with Yossi Beilin and Foreign Minister (then and now) Shimon Peres.  According to the time table established then the Palestinian – Israeli conflict was to be terminated five years after the implementation of the ‘interim accords’ built into the peace process.  As it turned out that was to be in May 1999 since the ‘Gaza-Jericho First’ agreement was only signed in Cairo in May 1994.

On balance the Accords were a failure, but few could have known so then.  Many have a tendency to see the entire operation as a failure, especially those to the far right you glorify themselves with “I told you so” and a good portion of those who placed great stock in the Accords.  The Jordanian – Israeli peace agreement of October 1994 was a direct result of Oslo as King Hussein was able to end his conflict with Israel without being accused of betraying the Palestinians.  If Arafat could ‘make peace’, so could he.

The major outstanding issues between Israel and Jordan were minor:

-  An exact marking of the border and land leasing agreements by Israel for agricultural             
   purposes.

-  A sharing of waters, where Israel generously allocated tens of millions of cubic meters of Sea of 
   Galilee water for usage by the Jordanians.  (Today’s PM Sharon, when foreign minister in Benyamin
   Netanyahu’s government signed the final accords on this subject.

-  Joint development of natural resources around the Dead Sea.)

-  Development of tourism in Jordan, especially in the Petra area not far from Eilat.

Having supported Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War of 1990 – 91, Jordan’s King Hussein found himself in a difficult situation with the Americans.  The peace agreement with Israel led him on the road to Washington.  Although very much tied into the Iraqi economy as his father was, today’s King Abdullah is in the western camp.  Outwardly he does not side with the Americans, but one can be assured he will not side with Iraq.

The first American operation in Iraq, in the overall failed, but King Hussein took note and changed his policies, understanding an alliance with Iraq was to his detriment.  The Palestinians on the other hand continue to be Iraq’s most staunch supporters. 

In the aftermath of what appears to be shaping up as Round Two in the Iraqi – US face off it will be interesting to see if the Palestinians will follow in Jordan’s footsteps.  But this has much more to do with American resolve than any other factor.