Twenty years ago this month, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed the historic Oslo Accords, raising hopes for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the concept of two lands for two peoples.
The accords were a paradigm shift, transforming the PLO from a terrorist organization into a provisional government, and quashing the dream of many Israelis of a “Greater Israel” encompassing biblical Judea and Samaria.
Perhaps no agreement could survive under the weight of such expectations and transformations. Ongoing violence, including the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and the Second Intifada, reversed very real gains in cooperation that were made during the 1990s. Today the two-state principle lives on, barely, in the form of renewed negotiations, even as many write the Oslo era’s obituary.
Among those are proponents of a so-called “one-state” solution. In one form — a sort of binational confederation of Israelis and Palestinians — the “one-state solution” negates Zionism, and declares that Jews are not entitled to self-determination. In another form, it imagines millions of Palestinians living in a Jewish state without the rights of full citizens. In either case, it is a formula for strife.
Despite the unfulfilled promise of Oslo, Israel has never been stronger, economically, militarily, and culturally. It has withstood physical attacks from Gaza and the West Bank, and economic and rhetorical attacks from its critics abroad.
And yet, the logic and justice of the two-state solution remains. For all their political divisions, most Israelis tell pollsters they are ready to revive the peace process, but only under the condition that the Palestinians prove a reliable partner, as committed to Israeli security and sovereignty as their own. Until that day comes, Oslo remains an essential idea, ahead of its time.