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September 11, 2018

‘Oslo accords dead’


September 11, 2018

AMICHAI, Palestinian Territories: A panoramic view of mountains and neighbouring Palestinian villages before him, Avichai Boaran thinks back on the Oslo accords first signed off on 25 years ago and happily declares them dead.

"Oslo is buried deep in its grave," says the 45-year-old resident of Amichai, a new Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, referring to the first of the two accords signed on September 13, 1993.

"And Israelis are jumping on the earth to pack it down hard." Twenty-five years after the first Oslo accord offered the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian peace, Israel is governed by what is seen as its most right-wing government ever, Jewish settler numbers have soared and an end to the conflict looks remote.

When Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sealed the first Oslo agreement with a handshake on the White House lawn, there were 110,066 settlers in the West Bank and another 6,234 in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now.

Today the Gaza settlers are gone, pulled out in a 2005 move by prime minister Ariel Sharon that fiercely divided Israeli opinion. But there are some 600,000 settlers living among nearly three million Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Occupied al-Quds.

Key members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current coalition openly oppose a Palestinian state and have harshly criticised the Oslo accords.

In June last year, work started on Amichai in the northern West Bank, the first new government-sanctioned Jewish settlement since 1991, though existing settlements and rogue outposts have expanded greatly during that time.

Amichai is being built for about 40 families that were evicted from Amona, a community built without Israeli permits that was demolished in February 2017.

One of them is Boaran, a former Amona resident who fought against its closure then became a leader of the campaign to rehouse those evicted. In March he and his family moved into their new home, a modest prefabricated building but with modern amenities such as a dishwasher and air conditioning.

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