Trump and the Repackaged Oslo Accord

by James M. Wall

We live in a world saturated by the manifestation of evil. Genesis tells the origin story. The story starts with Adam succumbing to the temptation of desire for the forbidden. The Creator surely knew the decision to allow freedom of will would produce evil. Every succeeding generation has had to live with the consequences of that decision.

Within each generation Adam and Eve’s descendants have succumbed to the grip of evil.  Wise men and women have warned us to beware of the destructiveness of choosing that path. Still, humankind bites that apple.

The Catholic News Service’s Courtney Grogan reported the latest bite:

The U.S. State Department announced Monday it will close the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington because it says Palestine has failed to take “steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel”.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization, or PLO, is recognized by the United Nations as “the representative of the Palestinian people” and has diplomatic relationship with over 100 states, including the Holy See.

Closing the Washington PLO office was petty, mean-spirited and pointless. It is also just the latest evil step by the Trump administration to join with Israel to destroy the Palestinian peoples’ essential humanity. It won’t work.

Tyrants and nations have the ability to destroy an immediate target but they cannot eradicate the will of a people to survive as a people.

The Jewish people know this. They lost six million Jews in Europe. In time, their oppressors lost a war, and now the Jews have their own nation. It is a nation built on a desire for a homeland.  

That is an understandable desire, but when it is built on land that belongs to others, it arrives saturated with evil. 

There is no other way to describe the results of that journey from the Garden to Palestine. It was a power grab of land which parallels a much earlier power grab of land of what became America, when ships brought white colonialists, dreaming of freedom, to a land already inhabited by others.

Descendants of those white colonialists compounded that evil by using other boats to kidnap Africans, remove them from their homelands, and degrade them into slavery.

Fast forward to the presidency of Donald Trump in which the farce called the “peace process” enters a new phase. Under Trump there is no pretense that process is neutral after he named three radical Zionists to manage the U.S. role in continuing the “peace process”.

The three Orthodox American Jews are David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, and Jared Kushner.

Friedman is the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Greenblatt was the executive vice president and chief legal officer to Trump and the Trump organization and his advisor on Israel. He is  an Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations.

Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law.

This trio’s most recent attack was the aforementioned closure of the PLO office in Washington. This petty action was more symbolic than damaging. Washington is filled with foreign embassies willing to offer a computer and a desk to the PLO.

This latest action comes after a series of far more damaging attacks affecting Palestine: Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, defunding UNRWA, the UN agency for the care of Palestinian refugees, and defunding hospitals in East Jerusalem of $25 million.

This peace process began 25 years ago this week, Thursday, September 13, 1993.

Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University, wrote in the Guardian this week:

Twenty five years ago today [9/13/93], the Oslo accord was signed by Israel’s prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in the Rose Garden of the White House, with Bill Clinton acting as an enthusiastic master of ceremonies .

The PLO saw the Oslo accord as a vehicle to national self-determination in the territories occupied by Israel in the June 1967 war. But it was not to be. Israel used the accord not to end but to repackage the occupation.

The repackage at Oslo was always designed to fool the world into hopeful optimism, when from  the outset, it was a shrewd act of evil that allowed Israel to move into the 21st century as a righteous partner for peace.

Schlaim asks: why did the Oslo peace process fail?

There are two radically different explanations. Netanyahu maintains that the Oslo accord was doomed to failure from the start because it was incompatible with Israeli security and with the historic right of the Jewish people to the whole land of Israel, which includes Judea and Samaria, the biblical names of the West Bank. My view is that the Oslo accord was a modest step in the right direction, but it was killed when the rightwing Likud party returned to power under Netanyahu.

As leader of the opposition, Netanyahu spearheaded the attack on the Oslo accord when it was first presented for a vote in the Knesset. He accused Rabin of being a worse leader than Neville Chamberlain, because Chamberlain put another nation in danger, whereas Rabin did it to his own nation.

Another major landmark on the road to peace was the Oslo II accord of September 1995. Netanyahu denounced it as a surrender to terrorists and a national humiliation, and he vowed to bring down the government. He gave an inflammatory speech from the grandstand of a mass rally in Jerusalem in which demonstrators displayed an effigy of Rabin in SS uniform. And he continued to play an active part in a campaign of incitement against the Labour government.Rabin was assassinated in November 1995.

One incident had a parallel in the recent U.S. funeral of Senator John McCain in Washington. After her husband was assassinated in 1995, Leah, Rabin’s widow, refused to shake Netanyahu’s hand when he came to console her at her husband’s funeral.

Hand-shaking was not an issue at McCain’s 2018 funeral. A welcome was not extended. McCain had left word that President Trump was not to be invited to his service.

I was fortunate in those pre-Oslo days to have made friends with two of the Norwegians involved in the Oslo Accord peace team, Marianne Heiberg and Johan Jørgen Holst, a husband and wife diplomatic team.  My wife and I had met them at a conference in Aspen, Colorado.

I realized something was developing when I encountered Marianne Heiberg at breakfast at the American Colony in Jerusalem.  She was tight-lipped, of course.

After the Oslo Accord was signed and her husband died at an early age, Marianne moved to Jerusalem with her young son, where she worked as a United Nations representative. We met for dinner on several occasions and recalled again how she and her late husband had been cautiously hopeful that the Oslo Accord would work.

It did not work to Palestine’s best interests, because one party to the Accord, Israel, had a different goal from the outset.  

Nor could anyone have predicted that the U.S. President who would learn of a repackaged Oslo Peace Accord 25 years later, would be Donald Trump. Which is precisely why it cannot be said too often: Elections have consequences.

In the picture at top, Palestinian schoolgirls wait for buses in the shadow of the Israeli wall, inside the East Jerusalem Shua’fat refugee camp. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
This entry was posted in Donald Trump, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Trump and the Repackaged Oslo Accord

  1. Robert or Nancy Assaly says:

    Living in the West Bank during and after the Oslo Accords watching the sudden sprouting of new massive settlements, the prospects for peace seemed dubious at the time. After meeting with Rabin and Peres (separately) in 1995, it was obvious to me that Oslo was untenable, if not a sham. That after the Wye River Accord in ’98 legitimizing settlements and settlement roads it could have led to any other outcome than what we now have was merely wishful thinking.

    Trump was right that moving the US embassy merely recognizes the reality on the ground: East Jerusalem had become de facto Israeli Jewish. Only scarce political will, and not all the head in the sand wishful thinking in the world, can change that ever-deepening reality.

  2. Thank you for highlighting the unjustified moves by the Trump administration insofar as Palestinians are concerned. In a way the deception and duplicity of the successive US administrations against the Palestinians have been laid bare and confirms that Palestine, apart from being subjected to the ugliest form of savage inhuman brutality, is NOT the only Zionist occupied country. As an example of what the Palestinians presently face, here is an excerpt from the transcript of “This is Palestine” video:


    “Voice of Yehuda Shaul (Co-founder of Breaking the Silence)
    The IDF is supposed to protect the people who live here. Our orders as soldiers on the ground are very different. We are told – we are here to protect the settlers. If we see a settler attacking a Palestinian on our job, that’s the job of the Israeli police, so I stand in a post, and I was standing in a post, and dozens of times, right in front of my eyes, settlers are beating up or throwing stones or breaking windows, are cutting electricity lines to a Palestinian house and my orders are not to interfere.
    The concept in the IDF is that if Palestinians will get the feeling that the Israeli army is everywhere, they will be afraid to attack. So what do you do to make them feel this way? You make your presence felt. In Hebron, you have three patrols. That’s their job – to make your presence felt. You start your nightshift patrol, ten o’clock to six o’clock in the morning. You choose a random house. The sergeant leads the patrol. I was the sergeant leading the patrol for a while yeah? Bump into the house, wake up the family, men one side, women the other, search the place, you can yourself imagine the dynamics, what happens when a military units bumps into your house at two o’clock at night. Finish searching the place, you go out to the streets, throw some shot grenades, knock on some doors, make some noise, run to the other corner of the street, invade another house, wake up the next family. And that’s basically how you pass your eight hour shift.
    My deputy company officer, threw a teargas canister on a Palestinian kid, three, four years old, in a balcony, eating watermelon, because he was collecting intelligence against us. Yeah? The guy was this size. He was having a competition with his radio guy whether, who can fire a teargas canister into a Palestinian home, while the family is inside, under curfew, could not leave.
    A sergeant in my company killed a Palestinian young man with a rubber coated bullet to his chin from around 10 meters away.

    End of quote

  3. Rev. Bob Hannum says:

    Trump has opened the windows and invited the demons in. Closing the PLO office is another victory for those demons, who are now running amuck.

  4. Samia Khoury says:

    Thank you Jim for this article and for exposing evil. We must learn from history that evil will eventually destroy iself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s