The 1991 Madrid Conference
and the 1993 Oslo Agreement
marked the beginning of the direct Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has continued, off and on, until today. The Madrid Conference marked the first time that Israelis had sat down at a conference table with Arabs since the Geneva Conference
in December 1973, and the first time in which all four of the frontline Arab states sat down with Israelis since the 1949 Lausanne Conference
. It also was the first-ever conference in which Palestinians formally attended as participants alongside Israelis. The Oslo Agreement was the first bilateral Israeli-Palestinian document that laid out a process by which Israel and the
With the defeat of
Two major sticking points in preconference preparations were the nature of Palestinian representation and the terms of reference for Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. Both Israel and the United States opposed PLO participation, and the latter, weakened and lacking Arab support because of what was perceived as its support for Iraq's invasion of
The conference took place in Madrid on 30 October, under a formal US-Soviet sponsorship. The head of the Palestinian side in the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation
During the following twenty months, Palestinians and Israeli held nine additional rounds in Washington
. At the third round in January 1992, the Palestinian delegates practically split away from the Jordanian delegation and began separate bilateral talks with the Israelis. The independent Palestinian role was confirmed in multilateral talks that commenced in Moscow
on 28 January 1992 to discuss regional issues such as refugees, economic cooperation, water, and security. However, apart from providing high and positive visibility to the Palestinians, neither the bilateral nor the multilateral talks produced real substantive progress, especially on the questions of Palestinian jurisdiction over land,
As the formal Israeli-Palestinian bilateral talks were practically stuck, with the US administration effectively supporting Israeli positions and urging the Palestinians to take whatever the Israelis offered, Israel and the PLO began secret, back-channel talks in January 1993 in Norway
. The talks, which became serious and practical in May 1993, involved PLO negotiator
On 13 September, the official signing of the DOP took place in Washington at the White House. The DOP provided for an Israeli redeployment from most of Gaza and the area around
The world generally hailed the accord as the beginning of a negotiated end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, a coalition of ten Palestinian groups opposed to the negotiations was created in
The two decades since the signing of the Oslo Agreement have witnessed the passing of the five-year deadline without any final peace treaty, the eruption of the second intifada in 2000, the general cessation of meaningful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and, perhaps most importantly, the continued expansion and entrenchment of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank coupled with a crippling siege of the Gaza Strip. The results of the Oslo Agreement might thus be viewed as a reconfiguring of the framework for occupation rather than a step toward statehood or liberation.
Abbas, Mahmoud. Through Secret Channels: The Road to Oslo. Reading, UK: Garnet, 1995 (translation of Tariq Uslu: mawaqqi’ al-ittifaq yarwi al-asrar al-haqiqiyya li-l-mufawadat).
Ashrawi, Hanan. This Side of Peace: A Personal Account. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
Mansour, Camille. The Palestinian-Israeli Peace Negotiations: An Overview and Assessment: October 1991-January 1993. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1993.
Said, Edward. The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.
Savir, Uri. The Process: 1,100 Days That Changed the Middle East. New York: Vintage, 1999.
Tamari, Salim. Palestinian Refugee Negotiations: From Madrid to Oslo II. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1996.
Waage, Hilde Henriksen. “Norway’s Role in the Middle East Peace Talks: Between a Strong State and a Weak Belligerent.” Journal of Palestine Studies 34, no.4 (2005): 6–24.