President Bill Clinton presiding over the handshake of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat during the Middle East Peace Agreement signing ceremony (National Archives and Records Administration)
The historic handshake on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, between longtime enemies Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat was an astounding moment of hope. Facilitated by President Bill Clinton, this gesture led to the signing of the Declaration of Principles which marked the first time Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) formally recognized one another. The resulting peace process was aptly named after the secret negotiations held in Oslo, Norway, which were so clandestine that even Prime Minister Rabin was initially unaware of them.
However, the Declaration of Principles, or the Oslo Accords, was not a peace treaty; rather, the aim was to establish interim arrangements, including a framework to facilitate further negotiations for a final agreement. This included the transferred control over major Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the newly created Palestinian Authority (PA) which was designed as an interim structure to oversee administration and internal security, and to negotiate a lasting resolution to the conflict. The Oslo Accords were intended to last five years, but grim conflicts have persisted for more than three decades, with genuine peace remaining elusive to this day.
In a presentation that helps frame aspects of current events, historian Ralph Nurnberger unravels the intricate web of secret diplomacy, alternating periods of hope and despair, and the conflicting goals and objectives of several supporters and opponents of the Oslo Peace Process. Nurnberger is the former director of Builders for Peace, established to assist the peace process through economic and social programs.