Common Grounds

Developing an Analytical Framework for Defining and Achieving Success through the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 and the Oslo Accords

September 19, 2017

By Nicholas Alexander Hoffman Beeter


For the past few years Nicolas has been writing on issues ranging from conflict and mediation analysis, foreign policy in the MENA region, to human rights issues. With regards to his work at the Muslim Public Affairs Council focused, he focused on writing human rights reports on countries (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco) that claim to be Muslim via their legislation through an Islamic lens. Said publication’s focus is on democratic indicators, constitutional rights/legal rights, civil liberties issues, women’s rights, minority rights, ease of doing business, and migrant/refugee rights"

Developing an Analytical Framework for Defining and Achieving Success through the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 and the Oslo Accords

Understanding or achieving success within the literature of mediation has and still is a hotly debated issue. For some mediators, getting opposing actors to sit down at a table might be deemed as a success. However, for other mediators, getting opposing actors to the table is but only the first steps in a long continuity of steps in order to achieve some form of, and if possible, long lasting, success. With that said, on top of what stage of the mediation can be deemed as a success, mediators will also look at a conflict from the perspective of short term and long-term goals or land marks in assessing whether the mediation process was a success or not. In order to get closer to having a functional operational definition of what success is in the field mediation, one must take the lessons learned from both failed and successful cases of mediation. The context of this paper will focus on the mediation processes used in the Oslo Accords and the Madrid Conference of 1991.


The cases selected for this piece were chosen, with regards to what success is, due to the perceptions of success by the ongoing process and the outcomes of the two peace processes. More specifically, looking at the Oslo accords one will see that it was a success in getting both Palestinian and Israeli delegates to agree on a list of issues, but in the long run, said accord/agreement fell short during its implementation process in the proceeding years. The Oslo Accords case brings up the question of whether one can consider the entire process, which includes the implementation of said accord can be considered a success as a whole or if one should look at the process as a series of successes and failures.


The same string of logic applies to the Madrid Peace Conference and its inverted outcome. The outcome of the Madrid peace conference, between Israel, Egypt, Syria, and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, lead to very little resolution to decades of conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. However, even though not much was accomplished as a whole, the Madrid Peace Conference can be seen as setting the foundation for future repeated diplomatic relations between all of the actors involved.


Ultimately, the lessons or ideas that can be taken from these two cases are that 1) success and its process cannot solely be viewed as a process/outcome that is fixed and unchangeable; furthermore, success and its process should be viewed as a process/outcome that evolves.


And 2) success and its process should be looked at from both a macroscopic and microscopic level, so one can see the entire picture[1].    


As a whole, success should be seen through the perspective of a continuum (ranging from absolute failure to absolute success) with degrees of success or as obtaining small victories that build upon each other. This approach will be expanded upon in the next section and will be used to understand what success can come to mean within the two cases being used.


An Analytical Framework for Defining and Achieving Success


From a traditional framework perspective, defining what success is within the field of mediation, is a monumental task due to a lack of a unified theory. If there is to be a unified theory of sorts, then one must attempt to find a set of universal indicators that can be used as a roadmap. Prior to dueling into said universal indicators, first it is important to understand what traditional mediation theory defines as being a successful mediation attempt.


First, theories of mediation both look at the supply side and the demand side as origins contributing to success.


From the perspective(s) of the mediator(s), success (traditionally speaking) is defined by what the mandate of the mediator is. The mandate in regular terms is the objective of said mediator. Mandates can range from a wide scope of goals or objectives. Examples of a mandate can range from solely getting conflicting parties to the table (providing good offices), providing the proper channels of communication between conflicting parties, getting an agreement, taking a more active role in shaping the talks (setting the format of the talks to shaping perceptions), and finally taking an active role in the agreement implementation phase of the conflict[2][3]. In general, the major issue with mediation is the disjointed nature of mediators having a limited mandate and obtaining a resolution that is usually not seen through the long run.


Realistically speaking mediators tend to not be able to take on long-term reform, which is essential to get at the root causes. Assuming that the will and the resources are available, mediation should always be forward thinking with regards to not only obtaining short term successes, which can be used as stepping stones to long term success, but looking to settle long term deeply rooted issues. Furthermore, the inverse applies as well. Long-term success can only be achieved through short-term successes. The goal is to create a firm foundation for growth and success.


Not only is the mandate of the mediator important, it is also important for the mediator to manage the perceptions of the actors involved in a conflict during the talks and especially after an agreement has been signed. Conversely, just as it is important to manage the perceptions during and after the talks, is it important to create the perception between the conflicting parties, prior to the talks in order to create a situation in which the conflicting actors perceive that the only way to solve the conflict is through cooperation; not a zero-sum victory.


Examples of how perceptions from either the mediator or the involved actors can ruin the peace process are:


  1. A perfect example of how perception/bias can affect the mediation process is that of Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari who during the Kosovo came into the peace process with the goal of creating the state of Kosovo. Due to the fact that mediators can be tasked with setting the tone for the talks, it can be dangerous to the peace process if the mediator has bias perception towards one actor and not the other. Additionally, actor bias can lead to an unsatisfactory outcome in which an actor who has not be favored will feel like the entire peace process was a farce (actor satisfaction is key to the legitimacy of a resolution)[4].
  2. From the perspective of the actors, if neither side is capable of shedding their negative perceptions of the other side, then there is a huge chance that an agreement will never occur or actually be implemented. A perfect example of how perceptions can ruin the peace process is that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continuous labeling of Palestinians as being terrorists. This labeling is extremely damaging to the peace process due to the fact that if someone is labeled as being a terrorist then no one will want to negotiate with him or her. Once a highly influential person gives a label to something, then the rest will follow suit. The management of perceptions of inside and outside of the negotiations is essential.

The final and one of the most important issues relating to perceptions is that of the actors involved perception of the mediator, which has an impact on whether or not they are chosen by the conflicting parties. Depending on the type of conflict and the actors involved, actors involved in a conflict might choose a mediator based upon the state that he/she is representing. What this means is that in some instances mediators are chosen because they come from a state that does not have enough power or resources to enforce an agreement. Alternatively, actors can agree to the mediation by a person who is represented by a powerful state so that the odds of an agreement, being enforced is greater. Additionally, one actor might try to get mediators involved, that has a disposition towards their own side. Because negotiations are about perception manipulation, this adds the issue of actors trying to play games with the peace process, hence negotiating in bad faith.


Success as defined by this framework is one of: 1) changing initial perceptions of the conflicting actors, 2) then getting them to the negotiation table, 3) once at the table the mediator needs to take an active role in managing the perceptions at the table so that the process does not fall apart, 4) the need for discovering the interests of the actors (bypassing positions), 4) the need for the mediator to find or create the ZOPA, 5) help create or create an agreement and get it signed, and 6) continue to meet with each side and manage perceptions so that the agreement is implemented. The operational definition of success is one of a mediator taking an active role in managing perceptions and creating new opportunities throughout the entire process (pre, during, and afterwards)[5][6][7][8][9].    


The Madrid Peace Conference of 1991


In looking at these two cases separately, one sees a peace process that did not settle any of the issues between Israel and the Arab states (the Madrid Peace Conference), and on the other hand a peace process that lead to a gradual agreement that failed in being implemented (the Oslo Accords). Even though these to peace processes were failures to an extent, if one looks at both of these through the proposed framework in this paper, one will see that Madrid Peace Conference laid the foundation for future interactions, hence the peace process of Oslo 1 and 2.




When comparing these two cases, the settings, the number of actors involved in the process, and the different levels of interaction differ. The Madrid Peace Conference with respect to its format was based upon multilateral talks bringing together Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian delegations. In addition to the multilateral track, there was a second track peace process going on between Israeli and Palestinian delegations. Allowing a two-track negotiation allows actors to openly engage each other if the multilateral talks is stalling due to various positions.




Even though the Arab delegations could not get along with the Israeli delegation and vice-versa, the conference was successful in establishing a unified interest in 1) a two-state solution, 2) looking at the potential good in the current socio-political changes going on in the Arab states, 3) the issue of creating unified Palestinian institutions, and 4) above all getting Arab states and Israel to the table in order to either solve the issues at the conference or to build up a relationship so that there would be a foundation for future negotiations.




Possibly the biggest issue to arise from this conference is the fact that it was partially open to the rest of the world, which then can open up the process to having actors using the conference for international exposure. Additionally, having a more secretive and secluded peace process would have possibly reduced the issue of theatrics.




Even though the conference did not produce any formal agreements, the fact that certain issues were in principal agreed upon between the actors laid the foundation for future interactions. The agreed principles regarding the need for a two-state solution, the need for Israelis and Palestinians to sit down at the table, and setting up a unified set of institutions in the Palestinian territories would be become the issues for the upcoming Oslo peace process under President Clinton up until Camp David 2 talks. Holistically speaking, the Madrid Peace Conference set the tone of future talks by creating small successive successes[10][11][12].


The Oslo Accords:




Throughout the period that spanned the Oslo peace process and later on during the Camp David 2 talks were both held in a secluded area away from international and domestic politics. This was done in order to allow the mediator and the conflicting actors to have more freedom when it came to finding a solution. Weather it was the first Camp David Accords, the Oslo Accords, or even the second Camp David Accords, the mediators all realized that seclusion in an intensive setting led by the mediator can produce an agreement even amongst the toughest of opponents. 




Building off the historical agreement during the Madrid Conference, the Oslo Peace Process focused on the reciprocal recognition of each actor’s official legitimacy. The PLO was to renounce the use of violence by 2000. Both sides agreed that there would be Palestinian rule in Gaza and in the Jericho area of the West Bank. Additionally, the issue of illegal settlements was settled upon and would require that Israel during a five-year interim period would start settlement withdraws from the West Bank.




As a whole, the peace initiative did not have any real issues beyond the fact of the precedent set by the newly created perceptions between Israel and Palestine. Said perceptions that were created were of an occupier dealing with the occupied. Even though Palestine has suffered from having less leverage than Israel, it is after the Oslo peace process and through the continued expansion, that Palestine became even weaker at the negotiation table.


With the conclusion of the first Oslo accord, in 1995 a right wing Israeli nationalist who claimed that Rabin had betrayed Israel’s God given right to a greater Israel assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Rabin. Rabin’s death opened up a power void in which Benjamin Netanyahu came into power from 1996-1999, and then from 2009-present. His entrance into Israeli politics is significant because he radically changed Israel’s potential interest in actually negotiating with Palestinian officials to rebranding them as being terrorists and rapidly expanding settlements on Palestinian land. Additionally, like Rabin’s assassin, Prime Minister Netanyahu sees the Oslo accords and subsequently the Camp David 2 process as being a betrayal of Israel and its people. His appearance on the political scene is seen as being a spoiler for future talks.




As mentioned with the objectives section, the objectives were agreed upon and were in the implementation phase until Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated. Because of the assassination, nothing of worth came from Oslo peace process besides the almost successful yet stalled talks at Camp David in 2000[13][14][15][16][17][18][19].




Even though both cases were failures in their own right, they both set up individual processes that could be used as strategies for success in other cases of negotiations. Said lessons can be boiled down to setting up talks in a conference setting can be used to build up relations which then can be used to discussion actual issues behind doors in s secluded location, which then can result in an agreement. Not only did these two cases serve as an inspiration for my framework, but also, they bring up the need for a mediator that has to be involved at every step of the process for the agreement to work. Additionally, every small success should be seen as building a foundation for a greater success so that the actors in conflict can imagine a gradual process of positive change. The most important aspect of my framework is to either see the mediation process as series of milestones, so that one can in reality or just perceive that progress is being made. Being able to map out one’s own progress in general can lead to the creation of a positive mindset, and to the acceptance of long-term change. The manipulation of perceptions is key in mediating conflicts.  



[1] By macroscopic and microscopic levels, what I mean by these two levels of analysis is that one can look at a conflict, whether violent or not, from the most basic level (person to person interactions) to more complex levels (comprised of domestic and private spheres, to state to state interactions). What can be taken from this idea is that through a comprehensive or holistic viewpoint, one can understand how each level of analysis can affect other levels. This part of my framework is meant to bypass the issue of the limited effects of a limited mediation mandate, which ends up solving a small fraction of the conflicting actor’s issues. 

[2] Format refers to setting, the period, the duration of the talks, how many actors are involved, and whether or not the location of the talks is recessed from the domestic sphere. On a side note, the strategy of picking a secluded location can to extent shield the conflicting actors from the effects of domestic politics and from domestic opinion. Being shielded from the effects of the domestic sphere can take off some of the pressure from the actors, which then allows them to explore more options.

[3] The shaping of actor’s perceptions is also known as using carrots and sticks (using positive and negative reinforcement). The mediator can use either economic incentives or any other positive reinforcement to get an actor to cooperate or a mediator, if he/she is representing a state, can threaten the use of force or international political isolation in order to obtain cooperation. An example of using the stick is that of President Jimmy Carter during the first Camp David accords. During this peace process, President Jimmy Carter threatened both Israel and Egypt with withdrawing U.S. support if they do not cooperate. The same tactic was used during the Camp David talks led by President Clinton during the Camp David 2 talks.  

[4] In the case of Kosovo, the mediator already having an outcome in mind was detrimental in the end because years down the line the Russian Federation would use Kosovo as a geopolitical precedent for Ukraine and other “liberated” ethnic-Russian regions. 

[5] Fisher, Roger & Ury, William, “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (revised edition),” (2011), Penguin Books. Chapters: 1-5.

[6] Bercovitch, Jacob, “Studies in International Mediation,” Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Chapters: 1-3.

[7] Hopmann, P. Terrence, “The Negotiation Process and the Resolution of International Conflicts,” University of South Carolina Press, 1996. Chapters: 3, 6, & 12.

[8] Crocker, Chester A, “Grasping the Nettle: Analyzing Cases of Intractable Conflict,” United States Institute of Peace Press, 2005. Chapter: 6.

[9] Hoffman, Nicolas A, “Lessons Learned from Mediating the Camp David Accords,” paper for SA.640.742.01, 2014.

[10] Office of the Historian, “The Madrid Conference 1991,” (2013).

[11] James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy & The United States Institute of Peace, “Twenty Years After Madrid: Lessons Learned and The Way Forward for Arab-Israeli Peacemaking,” (2012).

[12] Rodriguez, Fernando, “The 1991 Madrid Peace Conference:

U.S. Efforts Towards Lasting Peace in the Middle East Between Israel and its Neighbors,” (2011).

[13] Weiner, Jill Allison, “Israel, Palestine, and the Oslo Accords,” (1999).

[14] Barak, Oren, “The Failure of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, 1993-2000,” (2005).

[15] Taheri-Keramati, Yashar, “Recipe for Failure: The Impotence of the Oslo Accords,” (2010).

[16] Al Monitor, “Former Premier of Norway Reflects on Oslo Accords 20 Years Later,” (2013).

[17] The Guardian, “It's now clear: the Oslo peace accords were wrecked by Netanyahu's bad faith,” (2013).

[18] About News, “What Were the Oslo Accords?,”

[19] Al-Jazeera, “Oslo’s 20-year legacy of failure lives on,” (2013).




Fill in the field below to share your opinion and post your comment.

Some information is missing or incorrect

The form cannot be sent because it is incorrect.


This article has 0 comments at this time. We invoke you to participate the discussion and leave your comment below. Share your opinion and let the world know.






Latest Blog Articles

Latest Comments