INTERVIEW: The Oslo Accords are alive, but the Oslo Process has collapsed

Mohamed Al-Qazzaz , Friday 3 Nov 2023

Jorgen Jensehaugen, a Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, discusses the war on Gaza, the Oslo Accords, and the revival of the peace process in an interview with Ahram Online.

 Jorgen Jensehaugen
Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo Jorgen Jensehaugen


Jensehaugen specializes in research on the Arab-Israeli conflict, with a focus on diplomatic efforts from the late 1940s to the present day. He has conducted research and published on different phases of this history.

Ahram Online: When the violence in Gaza stops, do we expect a positive role from Europe and the United States to move the peace process and establish two states? Or is the two-state solution already dead?

Jensehaugen: Unfortunately, I do not predict a serious move in this regard. They will lift up the two-state solution as the only option, but I do not foresee diplomacy or other political initiatives really pushing in that direction.

AO: How do you see the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The First Intifada and the First Gulf War led to the Madrid Peace Conference and then the Oslo Accords; what of the present crisis?

J: It is far too difficult to say in the midst of this war because we don’t even know the short-term goals of the various actors.

AO: Despite the receding political horizon and the predominance of a military solution, do you think that reviving the Oslo Accords is still possible?

J: The Oslo Accords are alive, but the Oslo Process has collapsed. This has created a fundamental problem because it means that we are stuck in the early phases of that process in which only limited things were dealt with, but there is no movement towards an actual peace where the big questions such as final borders, Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees would be addressed.

AO: Europe and the United States claim to defend Israel's right to defend itself. Can self-defense justify the killing of women and children and the bombing of hospitals, as happened at the Baptist Hospital?

J: While Israel, like all states, has the right to defend itself, there are supposed to be clear limits on what is permissible in war. A problem regarding the EU and US policy in this regard is that their support for the Israeli right to defend itself is clear, but their phrasing on the limits of what is allowed is vaguely formulated.

AO: Do you see the systematic violence of Israeli forces over the years and the growth of settlements have caused Palestinian society to become completely frustrated with its failure to establish a state?

J: Of course – from a Palestinian perspective they are stuck in an ever-worsening situation with no political solution on the horizon.

AO: There is a lot of talk about an Israeli desire to displace the people of Gaza to Sinai. How do you view these conversations and scenarios?

J: While some sections of Israeli politics support such an idea, it is not at all viable since neither the Palestinians themselves nor the Egyptians would accept such a thing.

AO: Do you think that the repercussions of what is happening in Gaza will have an impact on the future of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank? What are the dimensions of that effect?

J: The Palestinian Authority is in a very difficult situation and the war in Gaza just increases the pressure on them. Questions are being asked about what they are doing to protect the Palestinian people which they formally represent. What this pressure will lead to is a very difficult question to answer.

AO: Since 1993 all Israeli governments have built new settlements, and the pressure has not been strong enough to stop them. How can peace be established between the two states under these conditions?

J: This is the reason we are stuck in a predicament I call the no-solution limbo. On the one hand, the name of the diplomatic game is the two-state solution, whilst on the other that option is being made more and more impossible every year.

AO: Has the Gaza crisis deepened the clash of civilizations and hatred between peoples?

J: I strongly dislike the term “clash of civilizations”, but there is no doubt that the brutality both of the Hamas attacks on Israel and the Israeli response has increased hatred amongst the affected people.

AO: With the attack, Hamas threw all its cards in the air and turned the situation upside down.  But what do you think will happen in the future?

J: I have no good answer to this. I fear that everything will become worse, but exactly how is not clear.

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