It is an image that symbolizes like no other the great hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Two sworn enemies, Israeli Prime Minister Izchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), shook hands in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on September 13, 1993.

However, the three decades that have passed since the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords have been anything but a rose garden. Arafat, Rabin and Shimon Peres received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. The historic conflict between the two peoples, which has already claimed tens of thousands of lives, remains unresolved to this day.

Disappointed expectations on both sides

The signing followed months of secret negotiations in the Norwegian capital Oslo. The joint declaration of principles then led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. It is responsible for supplying the population in the areas it administers. However, this regulation was originally only intended for a period of five years – in the long term, the Palestinians hoped to establish their own state.

Thirty years later, the mood of Palestinians is “characterized by frustration and disappointment,” says Dimitri Diliani, president of the Palestinian Coalition of Christian Organizations. “Despite the initial optimism, we have the feeling that our aspirations for self-determination through our own state have not been fulfilled despite all the sacrifices,” explains Diliani, who is a member of a splinter group of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah organization. “Fundamental questions such as the final status of Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees and the future demarcation of the border remain unresolved.”

Why have peace efforts failed so far? “Both sides have violated the agreement from day one,” says a commentator for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, referring to the 30th anniversary. “The Palestinians with terror, the Israelis with settlements.” At the same time, both sides accuse each other of not being really serious about a peace settlement.

Israeli settlements as an obstacle to a solution

While around 110,000 Israeli settlers lived in the West Bank in 1993, today the number has risen to around 500,000, almost fivefold. The settlers live among three million Palestinians.

The United Nations considers the settlements to be a major obstacle to a peace settlement between both sides. Abbas has repeatedly emphasized that a Palestinian state cannot look “like Swiss cheese.” In addition, more and more cases of settler violence against Palestinians are being reported.

Palestinian attacks again and again

The Oslo Accords did not mark the end of Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Islamist opposition groups have repeatedly tried to torpedo the peace process with bloody violence, especially since the start of the second Palestinian uprising, the Intifada, in 2000.

Since the spring of last year, a new wave of terror has once again claimed victims among Israelis. In Israeli military operations in Palestinian towns, Palestinians are killed almost every day – many of them rely on armed struggle, but bystanders also die.

According to recent polls, more than half of Palestinians continue to support a return to armed insurgency. Palestinian assassins are celebrated by large sections of Palestinian society as heroes in the fight against Israeli oppressors.

Internally, however, the Palestinians are deeply divided: the radical Islamic Hamas drove Fatah out of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist and fights the Jewish state. The division has “weakened the Palestinian negotiating position and makes it difficult to present a united front on the international stage,” says Diliani.

Palestinian Authority corruption and lack of democracy

Abbas now rules the Palestinian territories in the West Bank as an autocratic ruler. The last presidential election took place in 2005 and the last parliamentary election in 2006. According to surveys, the vast majority of Palestinians are very dissatisfied with the 87-year-old Abbas, and around 80 percent want him to resign.

Professor Kobi Michael of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) accuses the international community of having tolerated a “culture of corruption” within the Palestinian leadership over the years.

Murder of Rabin and steady movement to the right in Israel

The fight for a peace settlement with the Palestinians ultimately cost the then head of government Rabin his own life. A Jewish fanatic shot him in Tel Aviv in 1995 to prevent further ceding of territory to the Palestinians.

A year later, Benjamin Netanyahu became head of government. Since then, he has led the country’s fortunes with only brief interruptions. Meanwhile, Israeli society has steadily moved to the right. Today, the most right-wing government in Israeli history is in power.

But Michael thinks that right-wing extremist ministers like Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir do not reflect the majority opinion. He considers the idea that three million Palestinians in the West Bank could be permanently controlled to be dangerous. “The Zionist project has no chance without separation from the Palestinians.”

However, according to surveys, only 28 percent of Palestinians still support the two-state solution. Diliani sees a common “democratic, secular state” as a possible alternative for both peoples.

The young generation of Palestinians in particular are more inclined to such a solution, says Michael. From an Israeli perspective, however, this is out of the question. A common state for both peoples would mean “the end of the Zionist project” – that is, Israel as a home for the Jewish people. Given this situation, he doesn’t expect a solution to the conflict in this generation – “perhaps not in the next either.”