Palestinians accuse Israel of sabotage and threaten to cancel Oslo Accords

By Ben Hartman, September 20, 2012
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The Palestinian Authority is considering cancelling the 1993 Oslo Accords because Israel is sabotaging the peace process, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said this week.

Mr Erekat’s statement came days after it was reported that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had proposed cancelling the Oslo agreement during a meeting held in Ramallah over the weekend, and that the Palestinian leadership will make a decision on the matter after Mr Abbas returns from the UN General Assembly later in September.

Signed by Israel and the PLO in 1993, the Oslo Accords created an interim Palestinian government and were meant to last for five years until a final status deal and peace agreement could be reached.

Numan Kanafani, research director at the Palestinian Economic Policy Research Institute in Ramallah, said that Mr Erekat’s statement was partly a reaction to the recent cost-of-living protests in the West Bank, and partly a response to anger over the Paris Protocol signed between Israel and the PA in 1994.

PA is being pushed to a wall over the economic situation

The Paris agreement required the PA to import petrol from Israel at prices comparable to those in the Jewish state, set up a joint customs system controlled by Israel and established trade restrictions on the Palestinians.

Mr Kanafani added: “We have a feeling that something is simmering and people are very upset with the economic and political performance of the PA. The PA is being pushed to the wall and they feel that they have to react, they have to do something.”

Mr Kanafani said the protocol’s guarantee setting VAT at 15 per cent has squeezed Palestinians but also provided a large portion of the PA’s revenue.

“The Paris Protocol ties the hands of the Palestinian government in regulating prices, but the PA is in a dilemma because on one hand the high VAT is hurting the buying power of the people, it is also securing the revenue of the government,” said Mr Kanafani.

The Israeli government had not made any official statement in response to Mr Erekat as of Wednesday, but an official who spoke off the record said Israel and the international community “are not getting excited about this”. He added that the statement was the sort of “hold me back, hold me back” brinkmanship routine often seen from the Palestinians.

The Israeli official said that the Palestinians “say they may make this decision because there has been no progress in the peace process, but they have made the decision from the beginning not to negotiate with the Netanyahu government”.

Last updated: 11:20pm, September 20 2012