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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .

After Oslo
Edited by George Giacaman and Dag Jørund Lønning

(London: Pluto Press, 1998)
241pp. Index. Bibl. Hb. ISBN 0-7453-1243-8. Pb.: £13.99; 0-7453-1238-1.

The book consists of ten articles and has two objectives: 1)to critically assess the Oslo peace process for the region in general and the Palestinian society in particular and 2) to understand the subsequent continuing crisis.

Giacaman points out two flaws in the Oslo agreements: 1) it ignores the national rights of Palestinians that satisfies their most recent, modest aspirations. 2) It forces the Palestinian Authority to ban the growth of a civil and democratic society under the guise of Israel's security.

Buttenschøn claims that the agreement establishes a hope for a peaceful just solution, discourages the development of Israel as an exclusive Zionist state, and gives some hope for Palestinians. Given the reality on the land, however, they will continue to suffer from the apartheid structure.

Moughrabi observes some benefits accrued especially by Israel as a result of the limited normalization between Arab countries and Israel. He too sees the peace process as stalled and the continued ethnic cleansing by Israel.

Raz-Krakotzkin sees a 'radical' change in Israeli politics resulting in the recognition of the PLO as the legitimate Palestinian representative. He points to the missing bi-national approach in the agreement, however. He opines that a real 'peace' is impossible without changing the historical and cultural perception of the Zionist-Israeli perspective.

Jan de Jong's article begins with a quote from what Simon Peres' characterization of the September 1995 agreement: "We srewed the Palestinians..."(p. 77). In all fairness, however, the statement attributed to Perez is subject to different interpretations. He could have made it to encourage his chauvinist compatriots to accept the agreement. Although the principle of 'Land for Peace' was adopted by the parties in conflict, Israeli's planning fir the land, if realized, virtually eliminate any hope for Palestinian national aspiration.

Hilal highlights the development of a personalized system of authority with little regard for the PNA, elected representatives in democratic elections.

Likewise, Usher characterizes the PA (Palestinian Authority) as a tool for Israel's territorial acquisition and security concerns in the Occupied Territories in the name of Palestinian national interest.

Lønning, weary of the absence of a 'final vision' in the Oslo and subsequent Washington agreements, warns that the lack of a political solution is likely to lead to the rise of Palestinians.

Jayyusi focuses on the media discourse. Jayyusi notes the shift from a discourse of recognition of human rights violations, embedded in the moral rubric that threatens national political aspirations to a 'discourse and politics of implementation compliance' within a legal framework.

Bishara sees two viable solutions, either a national or bi-national solution. He perceives the attempt by the Likud represented by Netanyahu is to be an effort to start a third alternative of perpetuating the existing order by giving 'cosmetic' modifications.

Ten authors, by focusing on various aspects of the peace agreements from geography to the media, compellingly conclude that while the agreements offer limited benefits and hope for peaceful solutions, the reality is far from it, as the Palestinians continue to suffer from not only economic deprivation but the loss of the opportunity for national liberation and the growth of a civil society and democracy.

Yasumasa Kuroda,
University of Hawai'i at Manoa

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