Enduring peace must be built from the bottom up.
On Sept. 13, 1993, the world witnessed Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin stand together on the White House lawn and agree on a framework for future relations between Israel and Palestine. The atmosphere at the signing of the Oslo Accords was charged with hope. For the first time in decades, peace seemed possible.
Fifteen years on, that possibility remains unfulfilled. Despite cooperative ventures and concerted efforts to move toward mutual acceptance and security, both Israel and the Palestinian Territories are still afflicted by violence, terrorism, and economic hardship.
As I was Israel's chief negotiator during the Oslo negotiations, I have felt both personal and national highs and lows at the accords' unraveling and the region's continued conflict.
But instead of dismissing Oslo as yet another failed attempt at reconciliation, we can and must derive lessons from that agreement if we are to move toward real, sustainable peace.
Let us not forget that the Oslo Accords were rightly heralded as a milestone in peacemaking efforts between the two parties. It was the first time Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization engaged in direct, face to face negotiations, and the first time some Palestinian groups acknowledged Israel's right to exist. In return, Oslo provided for the establishment of an independently administered Palestinian Authority.
Oslo was the beginning of the process to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It was also paramount to the genesis of cooperation and joint socioeconomic ventures between the two national entities. Collectively, these accomplishments provided a critical foundation on which to build future negotiations and agreements.