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How Norway and EU Are Undermining the Oslo Accords

 
Filed under: Europe and Israel, International Law
Publication: Jerusalem Issue Briefs

How Norway and EU Are Undermining the Oslo Accords
A sign reading “Stopp å kjøpe okkupasjonsvarer” or “Stop buying occupational goods” at a demonstration in Oslo, Norway, in 2017. (GGAADD/Flickr/cc-by-sa-2.0)

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Vol. 22, No. 16

  • Norway and EU member states have restored funding to six Palestinian civil society organizations designated by Israel as terror-supporting organizations, thereby rejecting evidence submitted by Israel that such organizations are linked to the universally outlawed terror organization: “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
  • Funding terror contravenes international counter-terrorism conventions and resolutions to which Norway and the EU are party that criminalize funding terror. It also undermines distinct counter-terror provisions in the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords between the Palestinians and Israel and is incompatible with their active involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
  • This decision to restore funding to terror-supporting NGOs is particularly serious in light of Norway’s and the EU’s special status both as witness to the Oslo Accords, but more so in light of Norway’s active involvement as the principal facilitator, mediator, host, and patron of the accords.
  • Contrary to its special status as witness, sponsor, and facilitator of the Oslo Accords, Norway has consistently conducted a one-sided, partisan policy aimed at prejudging the issues that are still to be negotiated between the parties, such as the issue of Jerusalem and the permanent status of the territories.
  • Facilitating international funding for supporting and encouraging Palestinian terror, including providing funds for salaries and benefits of terrorists serving prison sentences, is the antithesis of any genuine international action to promote human rights, peace, and stability in the Middle East.

On July 21, 2022, Norway announced its intention to restore funding to Palestinian civil society organizations that Israel considers terror supporters.

Norway and EU member states rejected Israel’s evidence for designating such groups as terror-supporting.1

Israel’s October 2021 designation of the six Palestinian NGOs as supporters of terror was based on the link between those NGOs and the Palestinian terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP is considered a terrorist organization by the EU, the United States, Israel, and other countries and is a principal partner in the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces (PNIF), the umbrella organization for Palestinian terror groups. This connection includes channeling funds received from European states and civil society groups.2

Norway and its European colleagues prefer to apply a double standard in this case by restoring funding for the six NGO groups on the strength of their putative activities in the field of human rights while overlooking and minimizing the ongoing support and financing of Palestinian terror groups by the six designated by Israel as supporters of terror.

They ignore internationally accepted norms and obligations to which they are party that distinctly criminalize the provision of funds intended, directly or indirectly, for any use connected with terrorism.

Support and financing of terror outweigh all other activities, including ostensible human rights activities carried out by such organizations as a cover for their support of terror.

For Norway and the EU to restore funding for those organizations, and minimize and ignore their connections to Palestinian terror, is tantamount to giving sanction and encouragement – a carte blanche – to Palestinian terror.

It is incompatible with international instruments, norms, and principles to which Norway and the EU are parties, as well as with specific provisions of the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords to which they are signatories as witnesses. These provisions commit the Palestinians to actively prevent terror rather than encouraging or financing it.

In reviewing Norway’s and the EU’s double standard regarding terror financing, other special factors render this issue particularly disturbing.

Norway’s Special Status

Norway’s decision to restore funding to terror-supporting NGOs is all the graver in light of Norway’s own unique and special status as witness to the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide meeting in Ramallah on February 20, 2020
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide meeting in Ramallah on February 20, 2020. (Wafa)

The Oslo Accords, as part of the Middle East peace process, are integrally and inherently identified with the Kingdom of Norway, not merely because Norway lent the name of its capital city to the accords but also because of Norway’s essential and active involvement as their primary facilitator, mediator, host, and patron.

This is even acknowledged by Norway’s official governmental website, which stresses Norway’s active engagement in promoting peace and reconciliation. In the Israeli-Palestinian context, the website presents Norway’s role as:

Facilitator of the negotiations in 1992-1993 that led to the Oslo Accords. In charge of the People-to-People Programme, established under the Oslo II agreement in 1995 to make the peace process more inclusive.3

Norwegian diplomats played an active and continuing role in advancing the negotiation process between Israel and the Palestinian leadership (PLO) from low-key facilitator to active mediator. They accompanied the upgrading of the negotiating process from an informal, exploratory bridge-building exercise to official negotiations at the highest level and hosted negotiation sessions in Norway.

Norway’s involvement in the negotiation process was so intense that the Kingdom of Norway was one of the only individual states that signed as witness to the “Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” commonly known as “Oslo II,” together with the United States, the Russian Federation, Egypt, and the EU.

As stated on its official government website, Norway’s own involvement in the implementation of the accords is specified in Annex VI attached to the Oslo II Agreement entitled “Protocol Concerning Israeli-Palestinian Cooperation Programs,” which states in paragraph 1 of article XVIII, under the title “People-to-People Program”:

The two sides shall cooperate in enhancing the dialogue and relations between their peoples in accordance with the concepts developed in cooperation with the Kingdom of Norway.4

Significance of Witnessing the Oslo Accords

While an international agreement may not impose substantive legal obligations on the witness to act as guarantor of the parties’ due observance of the accords, international practice views the signing as witness to agreements as a reflection of the involvement of such witness in the negotiation or promotion of the agreement, and as an indication of its concern that the treaty should succeed.5

By the same token, the signature as witness assumes that the witness will not act to undermine the agreement by encouraging and supporting a party to the agreement to violate its commitments.

Norway’s Double Standard

Regrettably, Norway’s recent decision to resume financing NGOs supporting Palestinian terror is a further example of a consistent Norwegian policy of undermining the Oslo Accords. This is despite Norway’s active role in negotiating and securing the accords and signing them as a witness.

This has occurred with regard to several central issues still on the negotiating table between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian Statehood

Even though Israel and the Palestinians agreed in the accords that the permanent status of the territories is an issue to be negotiated by them, Norway’s oft-repeated support for Palestinian statehood attempts to prejudge the outcome of the negotiating process and, as such, runs counter to the Oslo Accords.

Whether such permanent status will ultimately involve establishing a Palestinian state or any other sovereign or federative solution has yet to be determined by negotiation.

In attempting to prejudge the outcome of such negotiation, Norway, in effect, is encouraging Palestinian violation of the accords and their continuing rejection of further negotiations with Israel.

Conduct of Foreign Relations

Norway has encouraged and enabled Palestinian contravention of the agreed determination in the accords that the Palestinian Authority would not have the power and authority to conduct diplomatic relations. This includes “establishment abroad of embassies, consulates or other types of foreign missions and posts or permitting their establishment in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, the appointment of or admission of diplomatic and consular staff, and the exercise of diplomatic functions.”6

Nevertheless, and despite its status as a witness to the accords, the Norwegian government upgraded the Palestinian mission in Oslo to that of an embassy in December 2010 and also called for the creation of a Palestinian state in the following year, promising to recognize such a state within the United Nations framework should negotiations with Israel fail to make progress.7

Jerusalem

One of the central negotiating issues between Israel and the Palestinians yet to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations is “the issue of Jerusalem.”

This was agreed upon between the parties in the “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements,” September 13, 1993 (Oslo I),8 which was negotiated in Norway with the active involvement of Norwegian diplomats. The Oslo I declaration was subsequently reaffirmed in the 1995 Interim Agreement.9

However, in an official statement dated January 2010, Norway’s then-Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre declared, inter alia, that “Norway, like the rest of the international community, considers the Israeli presence in East Jerusalem to be a violation of international law.”10

Every state has the sovereign prerogative to accept foreign missions and to express its policy viewpoint on any political issue. But given Norway’s heavy involvement in the negotiating process and special status as witness to the accords, such statements, in effect, prejudge the outcome of negotiations on the issue of Jerusalem.

International Commitments against Financing Terror

From the beginning of the international efforts to counter the blight of terrorism in the 1970s, the issue of financing terror has consistently figured as a central component of such a struggle. Hence, the obligations in international and regional treaties, as well as UN resolutions, to act to prevent terror financing, especially since it constitutes a form of moral and practical encouragement and support for terrorism.

Such international obligations include:

  • The 1977 European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, which, as amended, reaffirms all the counterterrorism conventions, including the 1999 terrorism-financing convention.11
  • The 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism criminalizes the provision of funding, directly or indirectly, for any use connected with terrorism.12
  • The 1994 UN Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism (General Assembly Resolution 49/60), which calls upon states to refrain from organizing, instigating, facilitating, encouraging, tolerating, and financing terror activities.13
  • Obligatory UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which addresses threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression following the 2001 World Trade Center attacks.

    This resolution obliged states to cooperate in combating international terrorism and criminalized all provision of funding for terrorist use. It determined a freeze on and prohibition of transfer of funds and assets of persons who commit terrorist acts.14

  • The 2006 UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy Plan of Action (annexed to General Assembly Resolution 60/288) reiterates the resolve of member states to prevent and combat terrorism, including refraining from financing terror, and specifically encourages states to implement international standards on money laundering and terrorist financing.15

Oslo Accords Provisions against Terror

Central provisions of the Oslo Accords contain commitments by both parties to prevent and deal with terror.

Such provisions include the commitment to “act, immediately, efficiently and effectively against acts or threats of terrorism, violence or incitement,” and to “foster a positive and supportive atmosphere to prevent hostile acts and to facilitate the anticipated cooperation and new relations between the two peoples.”16

The parties committed to “carry out confidence-building measures necessary to prevent acts of terrorism, crime, and hostilities directed against each other, against individuals falling under the other’s authority, and against their property and shall take legal measures against offenders.”

Further provisions under the same counterterror heading include the undertaking that the Palestinian police will “act systematically against all expressions of violence and terror and shall immediately and effectively respond to the occurrence or anticipated occurrence of an act of terrorism, violence or incitement and shall take all necessary measures to prevent such an occurrence.”17

A related requirement in the context of the functioning of the Palestinian police is the obligation to “apprehend, investigate, and prosecute perpetrators and all other persons directly or indirectly involved in acts of terrorism, violence, and incitement.”

The assumption is that both Norway, in actively accompanying the negotiation and drafting of the accords, and the EU, in supporting and endorsing the accords, both being signatories as witnesses to the accords, would not act to undermine such central provisions.

Hence, the decision by Norway and EU countries to resume funding to Palestinian NGOs that are heavily identified with Palestinian terror organizations, and that channel funds to those organizations, is particularly striking.

This decision not only undermines and violates international counterterror instruments to which they are party but also undermines those provisions of the Oslo Accords calling for the prevention of terror.

Conclusion

In light of the above, it is clear that the use of international funds to support and encourage Palestinian NGOs, including providing funds for paying the salaries and benefits of terrorists serving prison sentences for acts of terror, is the very antithesis of any bona fide, positive international action to encourage human rights, peace, and stability in the Middle East.

The use of European governmental funding for the direct or indirect support of terror organizations runs against the spirit of their respective counterterrorism policies, contravenes their own international commitments, and is incompatible with their active involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

* * *

Notes

1 https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2022-07-21/ty-article/.premium/norway-becomes-10th-european-state-to-reject-israels-blacklisting-of-palestinian-ngos/00000182-2137-d76f-a9ae-27bf592f0000. See also https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2022-07-12/ty-article/.premium/9-eu-nations-to-keep-ties-with-palestinian-ngos-israel-blacklisted-as-terrorist-groups/00000181-f349-daef-a79b-f7dfa4650000.

2 https://nbctf.mod.gov.il/en/Pages/211021EN.aspx. For a detailed study of the six designated organizations, see Alan Baker, “Israel’s Designation of Six Terrorism-Linked NGOs Was in Full Accordance with International Law,” November 2, 2021. See also Lea Bilke and Alan Baker, “Israel’s Designation of Six Terrorism-Linked NGOs Was in Full Accordance with International Law,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, November 2, 2021, https://jcpa.org/israels-designation-of-six-terrorism-linked-ngos-was-in-full-accordance-with-international-law and “Summary of the PFLP’s NGO Network,” NGO Monitor, October 20, 2021, https://www.ngo-monitor.org/reports/summary-pflps-ngo-network/.

3 https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/foreign-affairs/peace-and-reconciliation-efforts/innsiktsmappe/peace_efforts/id732943. See also Hilde Henrikson Waage, “Norway’s Role in the Middle East Peace Talks: Between a Small State and a Weak Belligerent,” 34(4) Journal of Palestine Studies: 6-24, https://www.paljourneys.org/sites/default/files/Norways_Role_in_the_Middle_East_Peace_Talks_Between_A_Strong_and_a_Weak_belligerent-Hilde_Henriksen_Waage.pdf.

4 https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/General/the-israeli-palestinian-interim-agreement-annex-vi.

5 U.S. Department of State, “Witnessing International Agreements,” https://2009-2017.state.gov/s/l/treaty/faqs/91236.htm.

6 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement Article IX (Powers and Responsibilities of the Council), paragraph 5(a), https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/General/the-israeli-palestinian-interim-agreement.

7 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_relations_of_Norway#Diplomatic_relations https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4000445,00.html.

8 Article V, paragraph 2, “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements” (Oslo 1),
September 13, 1993, https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/General/declaration-of-principles.

9 Article XVII entitled “Jurisdiction,” paragraph 1(a), https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/General/the-israeli-palestinian-interim-agreement.

10 https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumentarkiv/stoltenberg-ii/ud/Nyheter-og-pressemeldinger/pressemeldinger/2010/pm_jerusalem/id591172/.

11 http://www.worldlii.org/int/other/COETS/1977/1.html.

12 https://treaties.un.org/doc/db/terrorism/english-18-11.pdf.

13 http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/49/a49r060.htm, see Article II(5)(a).

14 https://www.unodc.org/pdf/crime/terrorism/res_1373_english.pdf.

15 https://www.un.org/counterterrorism/ctitf/en/un-global-counter-terrorism-strategy, see Part II (“Measures to Prevent and Combat Terrorism”), paragraphs 1 and 10.

16 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (Oslo 2), https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/General/the-israeli-palestinian-interim-agreement, tenth preambular paragraph.

17 Ibid., Article XV.