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Historic handshake at the White House

WATCH/LISTEN

13 September 1993: The BBC's John Simpson reports on the Washington peace accord

KEY DOCUMENT

Declaration of Principles
The Oslo Peace Process

The election of the left-wing Labour government in June 1992, led by Yitzhak Rabin, triggered a period of frenetic Israeli-Arab peacemaking in the mid-1990s.

The government - including the "iron-fisted" Rabin and doves Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin - was uniquely placed to talk seriously about peace with the Palestinians. The PLO, meanwhile, wanted to make peace talks work because of the weakness of its position due to the Gulf War.

Israel immediately lifted a ban on PLO participants in the stalemated bilateral meetings in Washington. More significantly Foreign Minister Peres and his deputy Beilin explored the possibility of activating a secret forum for talks facilitated by Norway.

With the Washington bilateral talks going nowhere, the secret "Oslo track" - opened on 20 January 1993 in the Norwegian town of Sarpsborg - made unprecedented progress. The Palestinians consented to recognise Israel in return for the beginning of phased dismantling of Israel's occupation.

Negotiations culminated in the Declaration of Principles, signed on the White House lawn and sealed with a historic first handshake between Rabin and Yasser Arafat watched by 400 million people around the world.

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