Photo Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90
Next to each other but not equals

The news about the death of the Oslo Accords turned out to be premature – after all, Israel is investing in multiple resuscitation efforts to keep the Palestinian Authority alive. But it is symbolic that even as it continues to collapse beneath our feet, we are informed of the death of Abu Alaa (Ahmed Qurei), one of its architects, in Ramallah.

For the past two decades, Qurei served as the chairman of the Legislative Council and prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. He was involved in all the Palestinian-Israeli contact over the years and participated in the agreements signed by both sides – the Oslo Accords.


Qurei – born in Abu Dis, in 1937 – joined the ranks of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1968 when the organization moved to Lebanon and established there a “state within a state”, which served as a base for terrorist activity against Israel. He was the financial planner of the organization, and over time, became Chairman Yasser Arafat’s confidant. Later, he was elected to the leadership of the PLO.

In the early 1990s, he was sent by Arafat to participate in the secret talks with Israel that led to the Oslo Accords. He was described by his Israeli interlocutors as pragmatic and flexible, but according to his own testimony, the apparent moderation he displayed was intended to ensure the full realization of the Palestinian national goals. After all, he believed in the Phased Plan – or the “Salami method” – according to which each stage in the struggle with Israel has its own uniqueness and characteristics, and therefore it is possible at one stage or another to agree to compromises and concessions, provided that this does not mean giving up on the final goal of the Palestinians, even if this goal has to be obscured at times.

But the Oslo agreement collapsed and with it the Palestinian hopes for achieving their national goals. Qurei blamed Israel for the failure and avoided any responsibility for its demise. In his opinion, it was the Six-Day War that created the predicament in which the Palestinians find themselves today.

Now there is no one left of the historical leadership of the Palestinians, except for the 88-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. A look at the group that surrounds Abbas today reveals that it has no cohesion, no vision, no courage, and no charisma.

The death of Qurei marks the drawing of the curtain behind the founding generation of the PLO and the approaching end of the Oslo era. It also seems to signal the end of the Palestinians’ pipe dreams and the bookend for the Palestinian movement, which initially took the form of a violent struggle that lacked any chance, with terror squads devoid of leadership and organization. Looking at the daily reality in Gaza and Judah and Sumaria – it seems that the Palestinians are returning to their starting point.


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Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.