Oslo accords expire without Palestinian state
May 4, 1999
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Chanting "Statehood is our right," Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers Tuesday as the expiration of the Oslo peace accords passed without the declaration of a Palestinian state.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat had pledged for months that May 4 would be a "sacred date" for Palestinians, but, under heavy international pressure, he decided to postpone a declaration until after next month's Israeli elections.
Arafat defended the move, arguing that much of the world now accepts that the Palestinians have the right to a state.
"Whether they (Israel) like it or not, our state is already established," Arafat said Tuesday after returning from a trip to North Africa and Europe.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fighting for re-election on May 17, took credit for the decision.
"Arafat for a full year has been promising to declare such a state, threatening to do so ... We have been telling him not to do so, and he wisely backed off," Netanyahu said.
Some Palestinians were clearly disappointed in the delay. Hundreds of protesters gathered in the West Bank town of Hebron, including dozens of masked men firing rifles in the air.
Some marchers in Hebron broke away and hurled rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli soldiers, who fired with rubber-coated steel bullets. At least 14 protesters were injured.
In East Jerusalem, hundreds of people gathered at Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters. Arafat has pledged to make Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state.
Just a few hundred yards away, dozens of hard-line Israelis celebrated the lack of a declaration.
"Oslo is dead," said Avraham Chaimson, one of the organizers.
Tuesday marked the end of the five-year period established under the 1993 accord in which Israel and the Palestinian were to reach a "final status" agreement.
Both sides are deadlocked over the implementation of last October's Wye River agreement in which Israel promised to cede 13.1 percent of the West Bank in exchange for heightened Palestinian efforts to control terrorism.
Each side accuses the other of failing to live up to its commitments under the U.S.-brokered agreement.
On Tuesday, the United States called on Israel and the Palestinians to rebuild a "a relationship of trust."
U.S. President Bill Clinton had urged Arafat to postpone statehood, but has expressed a U.S. commitment to work toward an agreement in one year.
"Good-faith negotiations are the only realistic path to peace," State Department spokesman James Rubin said Tuesday.
"Unilateral steps or declarations won't bring peace," he said.Correspondent Jerrold Kessel, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Arafat signals a delay in declaring Palestinian statehood
Palestinian National Authority Official Website
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