Signed 19 years ago on 13 September 1993, the Oslo Accord is increasingly viewed as a botched attempt at Palestinian independence and a perpetuation and intensification of Israel’s colonial project in Palestine.
Protest in the West Bank's Dheisheh refugee camp. The sign reads 'milk and eggs, gas and benzene; it's all expensive, how will our children eat?' (Photo: Thayer Hastings, AIC)
The Oslo agreement, or its official name the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, subcontracted some responsibility for the occupation to the Palestinian Authority while consolidating Israeli control over resources such as land, water and economic policy. Journalist Amira Hass reported that in 2010 Israeli domination cost the Palestinian economy about $6.8 billion.
In the 2000s, the temporary conditions established by Oslo became increasingly obvious as a perpetuation of the status quo, which furthered Palestinian isolation, dispossession and fragmentation while reinforcing Israeli land and resource appropriation. Furthermore, Oslo provided political cover for inhumane projects such as Israel’s ‘Security’ Wall, ruled illegal in a landmark 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion.
Evolving popular protests
While demonstrations against an Islamophobic US-made film spread around the world, in Palestine the focus of protest has remained on local economics.
Over the past two weeks residents of West Bank cities such as Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Jericho and Bethlehem continued demonstrating against high prices of petrol, bread and electricity; the Paris Protocol, the economic appendix to the Oslo Accord, has become a main target of blame for the high cost of living in the West Bank. Demonstrators also called for the resignation of autocratic Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Fatah-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, who facilitate Israel’s multi-faceted control of the West Bank.
In response to increased protests, Fayyad declared an emergency economic package including reduced taxes, prices and partial payment of civil servants’ salaries effective Wednesday. The economic easing was financed by a payment of $66 million from the Israeli government to the PA. However, Ma’an News Agency reported that Israel withheld $9 million of the payment.
The Paris Protocol ratified Israeli control of imports, exports, taxes and prices in the occupied Palestinian territory. Last week’s $66 million payment was half of the installment ‘returned’ to the PA each month from taxes Israel collects on the Authority’s behalf. $9 million was withheld because of an unpaid bill to the Israeli electric company, a standard practice in Israeli-PA relations.
Even after Prime Minister Fayyad committed to steps for limited economic alleviation on Wednesday, protesters’ placards still read: “Down with the Paris Protocol and her mother…Oslo.”
Employees of the public sector in the West Bank will strike on Tuesday 18 September in protest of PA economic polices. Additionally, many West Bank schools will strike for half a day on Tuesday.