What did Yasser Arafat do to promote the peace process started in 1991?
It was a historic moment for PLO, the organization whose covenant was to destroy Israel, when it started accepting Israel’s supremacy over 78 percent of Palestine while only asking to lift the occupation from the remaining 22 percent of their country where they could enjoy freedom. Initiated from a speech by the U.S President George Bush, peace process began and turned out to be feasible because of the inclination showed by Palestinian leaders to commence peace negotiations, with a view to achieve independence ultimately.
It was also thought that the fall of Soviet Union and Iraq’s defeat in the Gulf War brought United States to a level where it could find an effective and long-lasting solution to practice a control upon Israelis, Palestinians and their Arab allies. All the moves from Madrid Conference in 1991 to Camp David in 2000 seemed steps towards progress. But this assessment turned out to be more than wrong. At the brink of exile, Yasser Arafat was chosen as an advocate for the peace talks between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis, mainly because he was the most popular Palestinian leader then. Arafat fastidiously played his role in the peace process, bringing PLO organization from rabbles to fully functioning state and gaining partial power over the territory released by Israel. Having achieved this breakthrough, Arafat began receiving support from the US, Arab countries and from other international parties, as well as from Israel itself. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) finally decided to take forward the perusal of an independent territory and to put the negotiations in black and white. As a result, between the period of 1993 and 1999, a good many agreements were signed by Israel and PLO and the agreements became known as the Oslo Agreements. The Oslo Agreements were centered on the idea that it will create a gradual atmosphere of trust between the signing parties and will allow them to decide upon the big issues of permanent status between themselves. Some of the core principles put under the agreements was to fix a limited duration of the interim period; to not oppose the outcome of final negotiations for the permanent status; and to reach for a settlement in accordance to certain United Nations Resolutions, which state the territory is not to be acquired by military. However, sadly, Israeli promises were largely not kept. As Israel failed to lift the occupation from the Palestinian lands, in fact, expanding the illegal colonies; denying Palestinian freedom movement and using lethal forces to oppress Palestinian people. Contrary to popular belief and the image of Yasser Arafat created by the opposing parties, this terrorist-turned global statesman played a massive role in peace process. He started with the belief that the Israeli oppression can be ended through armed efforts; however, he adopted peace talks to keep the identity of Palestine intact, using the instruments of diplomacy and dialogue. Maintaining an active relation with the US and Israel, he had to face objection from his own people as well but his supporters were in far greater number. Because of his admirable stance in the peace process, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 which extended his influence to Europe, Asia and Africa as well. Although Yasser did not live long enough to see the sun rise in an independent Palestinian land, His achievements are recognized not only by Arab leaders but also by the non-Muslim international authorities who saw in him a person who transformed his adamant views for the betterment of his people. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair remarked, “The Palestinian people, despite their deep pain, will know how to overcome its sorrow and pursue its efforts to recover the rights of the Palestinian people and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.” It is also noteworthy that despite extensive peace talks and involvement of international community, the Palestine-Israel conflict is far from over. If both the parties had followed the spirit of Oslo Agreements, the outcome would have been different.