The Oslo Accords: History and Impact

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Policy Brief Program

September 2023

Fast Facts

The Oslo Accords (1993):

  • Then Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiator Mahmoud Abbas signed the Declaration of Principles, also known as the Oslo I Accord, that laid the foundation for future peace talks.
  • Secret negotiations for the Oslo I Accord began in Norway in January 1993. Neither the PLO nor Israel wanted to publicly acknowledge the engagements because it was illegal for any Israeli to speak with a member of the PLO until 1993. 
  • The Accord established the Palestinian Authority (PA) to govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip, recognized Israel’s right to exist peacefully, and renounced terrorism. It also laid out a five-year transitional period consisting of two phases: 
    • The first phase would see Israel withdraw forces from Gaza and Jericho and Palestinian elections be held in the West Bank and Gaza.
    • The second phase, a renewed round of negotiations, would begin no later than three years after the Israeli withdrawal. These “permanent status negotiations” would address the issues of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, and relations and cooperation with neighboring states.
  • The goal of the permanent status negotiations was to see the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).
    • UNSCR 242 and 338 called for a just and lasting peace through the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the areas occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War (the Sinai peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem), freedom of navigation in international waters, a resolution to the refugee problem, and the territorial and political independence of each state in the area (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine).
  • UNSCR 242 established the “land for peace” principle that was central to multiple future agreements, including the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979 and the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty in 1994.


Implementation of the Agreement (1995-2000):

  • In September 1995, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat signed Oslo II, which withdrew more Israeli troops from the West Bank and divided it into Area A, which fell under complete PA authority, Area B, governed under a shared security agreement, and Area C, administered under Israeli control.
    • Oslo II included measures to structure elections, redeploy Israeli security forces into the West Bank before elections, arrange for safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and set a deadline of May 1999 for a permanent resolution to be reached.
  • In 1996, the PA held elections and Arafat’s Fatah party won with 88% of the vote.
  • The Oslo Accords’ five-year transitional period passed without any final peace treaty and with the continued development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Second Intifada occurred in 2000.
    • According to the U.S. State Department, by 2000, “ the prospect of ending the Arab-Israeli conflict looked more distant than it had eight years earlier.”
    • Scholars cite the peace process as having been halted by forces on both sides.


The Impact of the Oslo Process:

  • In 1994, Arafat, Rabin, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their roles in the Oslo I Accord.
  • Individuals in both Israeli and Palestinian society have opposed the Accords. 
  • Prospects for peace in the Palestinian territories today are bleak, as 2023 is on track to become the deadliest year since 2005.
    • According to the UN, 204 Palestinian and 26 Israeli civilians were killed in the first eight months of 2023, surpassing the number of casualties in the entirety of 2022.
  • The Oslo Accords helped pave the way for the Abraham Accords, a process that established diplomatic ties between Israel and Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain in 2020.
  • On September 22, 2023, Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly that Israel is “at the cusp” of a historic breakthrough on a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia, but neither side has provided details about the U.S.-led negotiations.
    • Saudi Arabia demands progress towards a Palestinian state, though developments on this are anticipated to be challenged by Israel’s current government, the most conservative in the country’s history.
Images: Vince Musi/The White HouseAndrew Shiva
  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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