On September 13 1993, representatives of the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed a “Declaration of Principles on Interim Arrangements for Palestinian Self-Government”, known as the “Oslo Agreement.” This agreement was a first step on a path which aimed to bring about a historic reconciliation between the two peoples and to end the long and painful conflict between them.
Following the signing and the handshakes between yesterday’s bitter enemies, Israeli and PLO representatives began talks designed to fill the Declaration with content and to make it a reality. After eight months of tough negotiations, marked by periodic crises, in May 1994 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat signed the “Cairo Agreement” for the establishment of Palestinian autonomy in Gaza and Jericho, to be run by the Palestinian Authority, as a first step in implementing the Oslo Agreement.
In this publication the Israel State Archives presents to the public for the first time a selection of documents on the Cairo Agreement on our Hebrew website, 29 of them in English. They are accompanied by historical introductions, maps and illustrations, bringing to life the story of the negotiations in the period between the signing of the “Oslo Agreement” in Washington and the ceremony in Cairo. The documents appearing here were selected from specially declassified files, released after 25 years. In addition to the selected documents, links to the files from which they were taken are given, enabling those who wish to do so to consult the broader documentation of the negotiation process. A small number of the documents were taken from files that could not be declassified, so the source is not indicated and the files are not displayed.
The documentation in the publication shows the great complexity and sensitivity of the contacts, as Israeli leaders led by Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, along with IDF leaders and senior officials, and PLO representatives led by Yasser Arafat, who had long been engaged in fighting one another, sat at the negotiating table side by side. Step by step, the efforts to dismantle the emotional charges and animosity between the parties, are revealed, together with points of contention, necessary compromises and the effort to build mutual trust that would allow the two peoples to live together in peace.
Naturally, the publication tells us more about the feelings and considerations of the negotiators on the Israeli side, but we can also learn to some extent about the Palestinian side.
Where the documents were not clear enough, we made use of books and memoirs published by some of the participants in the process: Jacques Neriah, Uri Savir, Dennis Ross and others. Neriah’s book, which is based on a diary which he kept documenting the events he was involved in and his own impressions, was a particularly important source.