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In August 1993, the world learned that secret negotiations had occurred in Oslo, Norway, between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Even more surprising was the news that the two parties had reached an agreement regarding the possibility of peace. The agreement, deemed “The Declaration of Principles” was signed in Washington in September 1993. The following article examines the Declaration. It is reprinted from A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Times published by Alfred A. Knopf.
The signing ceremony in Washington was designated for September 13, 1993. Like the long, feckless negotiations in the State Department, the event nominally took place under the joint American Russian aegis of the original Madrid conference [The Madrid Peace Conference took place in 1991. This conference, hosted by the government of Spain, and co-sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union, brought together Israel and her Arab neighbors, including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinians, for a series of preliminary peace talks]. Gathered in the White House Rose Garden, therefore, the participants included not only PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, PLO negotiator Abu Ala’a (Ahmed Qurei), Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, U.S. President Bill Clinton, and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, but also Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev. Indeed, once Peres and Abu Ala’a performed the act of signature, both Christopher and Kozyrev added their own signatures as “witnesses.”
The twenty three page “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self Government” consisted of a basic text, four annexes and agreed minutes, and the September 9 10 exchange of letters between Arafat and Rabin. Less than a comprehensive treaty, the document in effect was an agreement to reach agreement, leaving the details to be negotiated between the parties. Nevertheless, under the declaration’s collective guidelines, Israel would begin its military withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho as early as December 1993, and by April 1994 leave to a Palestinian authority virtually full self government in these enclaves.
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