20 years of missed opportunity has undermined progress on Israel-Palestine peace and left millions trapped in poverty

Published: 13th September 2013

For new peace talks to succeed, past mistakes must be avoided

The new Israel-Palestine negotiations must make up for 20 years of missed opportunity since the Oslo Accords, international agency Oxfam said today. If the negotiations are to have a chance of success, all parties must halt actions on the ground which continue to undermine the chance of peace, Oxfam said.

On the 20th anniversary of the Oslo peace accords, Oxfam said life for millions of Palestinians is worse now than it was 20 years ago, as the government of Israel has expanded its settlements in occupied territory and increased its control over Palestinian land and lives. Since 1993, Israel has doubled the number of settlers from 260,000 to over 520,000 and expanded the area controlled by settlements to over 42 percent of Palestinian land. A system of checkpoints and other restrictions on Palestinian movement and trade has divided families and decimated the economy.

The agency warned a similar pattern is already emerging during the current peace talks. In the past six weeks, Israel has approved the construction of at least 3,600 more settlement homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and demolished at least 36 Palestinian homes. In the past 20 years, Israel has demolished 15,000 Palestinian buildings, including homes, water systems and agricultural facilities.

“The hope that the Oslo process brought has come crashing down with two decades of obstruction and broken promises. While parties are negotiating peace, actions on the ground are making the lives of Palestinian civilians in particular ever more difficult, and jeopardizing the chance of reaching a solution. A peace process naturally calls for give and take from all parties, but it is Palestinian civilians who have overwhelmingly paid the cost,” said Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.

Actions over past 20 years have impeded the Palestinian economy to a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The Gaza economy alone has lost around $76 million annually as up to 35 percent of its agricultural land is prevented from being cultivated, and the government of Israel has reduced the waters available to Palestinian fishermen from the 20 nautical miles agreed at Oslo to just six nautical miles today. Exports from Gaza have dropped by 97 percent since the economic blockade was put in place in 2007.

The breakdown of the Oslo Accords created the ground for the Second Intifada, which killed thousands of people, the majority Palestinians. Clashes between Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israeli forces continue to kill and threaten civilians on both sides.

The Oslo process divided Palestinian territory into Areas A, B and C for a period of five years. 20 years later, Israel retains complete control over Area C, which makes up 61 percent of the West Bank. Less than one percent of this area is available for Palestinian development and more than 94 percent of Palestinian construction permit applications have been rejected in recent years.

“It’s good news that negotiations have resumed, and every effort should be made for them to succeed, but the world must be careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past 20 years. Israeli and Palestinian citizens alike deserve a chance to live in peace. The only way to provide security and prosperity for everyone is a just and lasting peace agreement that upholds human rights for all,” said Pandey.

Israeli and Palestinian citizens alike deserve a chance to live in peace.
Nishant Pandey
Head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

Notes to editors

Figures are taken from a new Oxfam fact sheet, "20 facts: 20 years since the Oslo Accords" outlining how life has got worse for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since the Oslo peace process began.

The Oslo Peace Process was intended to lead to a final negotiated settlement between the parties within 5 years. Permanent issues such as the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, security arrangements, international borders, and the rights of Palestinian refugees were left to be resolved during this period.

It also led to the creation of a Palestinian Authority (PA) with responsibility for the administration of territory under its control. In 1995, the West Bank was divided into Areas A, B, and C, fragmenting the West Bank and limiting Palestinian sovereignty:

  • in Area A, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has full civilian and security control; 
  • in Area B, the PA has civilian control, but security is maintained by the Government of Israel (GoI); 
  • in Area C, over 60 percent of the territory of the West Bank and the only contiguous Area, the GoI maintains full civilian and security control.

Contact information

Alun McDonald, Media and Communications Lead, Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel:

  • +972546395002 (Jerusalem)
  • +972592992208 (West Bank and Gaza)
  • Alun.McDonald@oxfamnovib.nl
  • Twitter: @alunmcdonald

Related links

Photo gallery: Fishing under fire in Gaza

Oxfam's work in the Occupied Palestinian Territory & Israel