While I was immersed in negotiating the 1993 "Oslo agreement," the first in a series of the Israeli-Palestinian accords, I already knew that not only were we making history, but that we also were blazing many legal trails. In one of the lighter moments of those negotiations, I quipped that, whether or not Israel and the Palestinians would prosper as a result of them, thousands of scholars would flourish by analyzing every comma in these agreements. Watson's book, as well as the many previous legal writings on the Oslo accords summarized in the book, demonstrate that my tongue-in-cheek prediction has been fulfilled. It is also the best and most comprehensive legal analysis of the Oslo accords written thus far, making it of great interest also to non-lawyers.
The main legal issue that we faced was that the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, containing principles for the interpretation of international agreements, applies only to agreements between states. Because the West Bank and Gaza are not a state, questions arose regarding what legal norms apply to the Oslo accords and whether they are even legally binding. My objective was to make the Oslo accords legally binding while precluding a possible inference that the West Bank and Gaza constituted a state (an issue that the Oslo accords deferred until the permanent status negotiations).
Watson accepts both of these propositions. After providing a brief legal history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and an overview of the Oslo accords, Part II of his book asks: "Are the Oslo Accords Legally Binding?" - and he answers with a resounding "yes," even though he also concludes that neither the Palestine Liberation Organization nor the West Bank and Gaza are a state. After reviewing a number of alternative legal theories, Watson asserts that, like states, national liberation movements can also enter into legally binding international agreements with states.
Subsequent parts of the book review both the Israeli and Palestinian record of compliance with the Oslo accords. On each of numerous bones of contention, Watson provides both parties' positions, as well as his own conclusion regarding whose position is the more fully compliant with the Oslo accords. Finally, the last part of the book offers some ideas on how international law may assist in resolving the permanent status issues.