This omission has severely eroded the PLO’s credibility over the last seventeen years, as well as that of the peace process itself. In particular, Oslo’s failure to bring about a genuine settlement freeze led to unprecedented settlement growth and severely undermined prospects for a negotiated two-state solution. During the seven years of the Oslo process (1993-2000), Israel’s settler population increased by an unprecedented 111,000 settlers (42 percent), more than either of the seven-year periods immediately before or after Oslo.
In terms of the substance (i.e., text) of the agreements, we can identify at least three fundamental flaws in Oslo’s handling of Israeli settlements, which have had far-reaching implications:
- Failure to secure an explicit cessation of Israeli settlement expansion
Jimmy Carter's "Settlement Freeze" Lie
Prime Minister Begin pledged that there would be no establishment of new settlements until after the final peace negotiations were completed. But later, under Likud pressure, he declined to honor this commitment, explaining that his presumption had been that all peace talks would be concluded within three months. (Washington Post, Nov. 26, 2000)
Sadat always insisted that the first priority must be adherence to U.N. Resolution 242 and self-determination for the Palestinians, and everyone (perhaps excepting Begin) was convinced that these rights had been protected in the final document. All of us (including the prime minister) were also confident that the final terms of the treaty would be concluded within the three-month target time. Everyone knew that if Israel began building new settlements, the promise to grant the Palestinians "full autonomy," with an equal or final voice in determining the ultimate status of the occupied territories, would be violated. Perhaps the most serious omission of the Camp David talks was the failure to clarify in writing Begin's verbal promise concerning the settlement freeze during subsequent peace talks. (p. 50; emphasis added)
To see the narrowness of Carter's perspective, it is worth returning to 1979, the year of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty that resulted from Carter's Camp David mediation as president, a hugely significant accomplishment. Carter rightly accuses Menachem Begin, then Israel's prime minister, of deception regarding the expansion of West Bank settlements. Begin promised to freeze the settlements. Not only did he not do so; he had no intention of doing so. (New York Times, Jan. 7, 2007)