Last week was the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with a fanfare launch by President Bill Clinton from the White House lawn. It was to be a tragic example of how delicate peace settlements can be, and how easily they can unravel as the constituents ‘back home’ look to implement the detail, and new personnel and opponents of the deal engage with the detail of implementation.
What was not known by many at the time, was the delicacy of the behind the scenes negotiations/mediation that had taken place over many months in a Norwegian forest retreat and where the rewards of tough interaction building towards close human relationship and understanding culminated in the Accords. This was a brilliant testimony to the power of engagement and patient step-by-step working through multiple issues and complex layers of decision-makers to produce a profound result, albeit temporary one as it turned out.
Despite their failure, the Oslo Peace Accords at least signalled a possibility of breakthrough at the time in what seemed impossible circumstances and where the public formal negotiations were going nowhere.
The story is captured well in the play ‘Oslo’ now running on the London stage, but at the time it was brilliantly tracked by a BBC documentary journalist, Jane Corbin who came to a CEDR conference to describe it and to show extracts of her BBC Panorama documentary. CEDR had just announced that it was making one of its annual awards for outstanding contributions to mediation, to Mona Juul and Terje Larsen, the two modest individuals who had worked tirelessly over two years as conciliators with the opposing factions of Israel and the PLO in their Norwegian meetings. The Norwegian ambassador of the time accepted on their behalf a glass sculpture designed for the award on behalf of CEDR – a picture of it still hangs in CEDR’s offices. By a final coincidence, Mona Juul is back in London this year, as Norwegian ambassador.
For those wishing to know the detail further, we can highly recommend Jane Corbin’s book, Gaza First, written in 1994.
Dr Karl Mackie CBE is CEDR's Founder President and one of the most experienced mediators globally. To learn more about Karl's mediation practice visit his website and to book him as a mediator contact the CEDR Commercial Team on 0207 536 6060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The signing of the first Oslo Accords on Sept. 13, 1993, was seen as a major step toward peace in the Middle East. Two 25-year-olds, a Palestinian in the West Bank and an Israeli in Jerusalem respectively, explore its legacy.