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US, Norwegian Diplomacy in Arab-Israeli Peace Process

By Srimal Fernando, Global Editor and Prateek Joshi

Serious conflicts involving Israel with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours had spanned for more than six decades. Since its establishment in 1948, the State of Israel has fought the Six Days War of 1967, the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the two conflicts with Lebanon against its Arab neighbours. These conflicts were followed by a series of Palestinian uprisings. Negotiated Peace between Israel and its neighbors had taken shape over the years to bring stability to the Middle East. Some of these have been successful, including those between Egypt and Israel and the other between Israel and Jordan, but a settlement is awaited in the case of core conflict, that is, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The 1967 war is of importance due to another fact that a UN resolution was passed to provide a roadmap for peaceful negotiations. The Resolution 242 was passed on 22 November 1967 and embodies the principle that has guided most of the subsequent peace plans - the exchange of land for peace. The resolution called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict, with the exception of acknowledgement of the sovereignty.

 

Photo: US President Bill Clinton with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (L) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat (R) after the signing of the Israeli-PLO peace accord at the White House on September 13, 1993

Camp David Accords, 1977

There were several peace plans following the 1967 war, but nothing happened till the 1973 Yom Kippur or October War. A historic visit to Jerusalem by the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1977 saw a new need for cooperation.

US President Jimmy Carter capitalised on this new need and invited Egyptian President Sadat and the Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, for talks at the presidential retreat at Camp David near Washington. The talks lasted for 12 days and resulted in two agreements.

The first being that both parties agreed that there should be a treaty between Egypt and Israel and called for other treaties between Israel and its neighbours. The second accord was the Camp David accord the framework for the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. This followed in year 1979, after the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai region which it captured during the war. This was the first recognition of Israel as a state by a major Arab country. The talks probably stand as the most successful negotiations in the whole peace process. The treaty had lasted, and it substantially strengthened Israel's position.

Photo: Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, US President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a three way handshake during the White House lawn signing of the peace accord between former Mideast enemies hammered out at Camp David on 26 March 1979.

The Madrid Conference, 1991

This conference, co-sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union, was designed to follow up the Egypt-Israel treaty by encouraging other Arab countries to sign their own agreements with Israel. Jordan, Lebanon and Syria were invited as well as Israel and Egypt. The conference eventually led to a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994, which later led to both the nations opening their borders and economic cooperation.

This Conference was followed by two other tracks of negotiations. One was focused on negotiating peace treaties between Israel and its neighbouring states Lebanon, Jordan and Syria as well as with the Palestinians. The other track was about the regional issues such as environment, water and economic development.


Oslo Accords, 1993

The Oslo negotiations tried to address the missing link of all previous talks - an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, represented by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). Its importance was that there was a mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, which was a historic breakthrough, when seen in the context of the years of non-recognition which both sides accorded to each other.

The talks took place under Norwegian guidance and the agreement, known as the Oslo Accord was signed in Washington DC in September 1993, in the presence of then US President Bill Clinton. The PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, represented their respective States. The Oslo accord stipulated that Israeli troops would withdraw in stages from the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian Interim Self-Governing Authority" would be set up for a five-year transitional period, leading to a permanent settlement based on resolutions 242 and 338. Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Jordan’s King Hussein signed the Washington Declaration another peace treaty a year later  which ended official state of enmity and would start negotiations in order to achieve an "end to bloodshed and sorrow" .  Jordan was the second   Arab country, after Egypt, to sign a peace accord with Israel. Israelis, Palestinians and its Arab neighbors differ widely in their outlook for a peaceful resolution.  A lasting peace in the region can never be won by war. Despite their wide differences there is great willingness on all sides to seek peace. The US and Norway have thus far sought to play the role of mediator and must, in cooperation with other nations, continue to play an important role in ensuring a lasting peace and stability in the Middle East.

Prateek Joshi  is a International  student  from India  studying Master of Arts (MA) degree in International Relations at the South Asian University

 

 

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