Between October 30 and November 1, 1991, a so-called “peace conference” sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union was held in Madrid to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In attendance were delegates from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as the two sponsors and the host, Spain. It was the first time the Palestinians and Israelis would be involved in direct negotiations.
The conference was supposed to be the preliminary step in peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine and it paved the way for the Oslo Accords which were signed two years later. It effectively laid the foundations for the purported “peace process” – the dominating paradigm for conflict resolution between Israelis and Palestinians. Thirty years on, we can say quite confidently that this paradigm has not brought Palestinians any closer to self-determination; rather it has allowed Israel to consolidate its domination over them.
Although the Palestinians and Israelis were supposed to negotiate on an equal footing in Madrid, they were far from treated as equals. The Palestinians were patronised and humiliated from the start. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was leading the Palestinian struggle from exile in Tunisia, was officially barred from attending, upon the insistence Israel and the US. Instead, the Palestinian delegates were part of a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation.
To add insult to injury, two of the unofficial advisors that had accompanied the Palestinian delegation, Faisal Husseini and Hanan Ashrawi, were barred from the negotiating room because they were Jerusalemites. For the Israelis, their inclusion meant recognition that Palestinians had a rightful claim to Jerusalem. This demeaning treatment of Palestinians would continue to feature prominently in all “peace talks” that followed.