Successful Failure: The Intifada and the Shultz Initiative of 1988

Master thesis

Schirmer-Nilsen, Bjørn (2021) Successful Failure: The Intifada and the Shultz Initiative of 1988. MA thesis, Institute of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Oslo.

Read the MA thesis here

This thesis examines the Shultz Initiative of 1988, launched to quell the first Palestinian intifada and reach a solution to the Palestinian question in the last year of the Reagan presidency. The initiative aimed to forestall the development of nationalist tendencies in Palestine by establishing a Jordanian-Israeli condominium over the West Bank while excluding the Palestinians as equal negotiating partners. Built on outdated assumptions about the practicability and desirability of the Jordanian option and reluctance to deal with the Palestinian leadership as equal partners, the initiative stalled by mid-1988. Failing to attract partners to the initiative and losing control over international efforts, the secretary allowed the PLO to establish themselves as a legitimate actor on the international stage over the latter half of 1988. Courted by independent peace initiatives and becoming fully legitimized on the international stage, the PLO was able to force the US to accept their status and demands as legitimate by the end of the year. The oft-overlooked Shultz initiative occupies a space between two paradigms in approaches to the Palestinian question: a pre-1988 reliance on the Jordanian option as the only solution to the issue, and a post-1988 universal recognition of eventual Palestinian national demands. Although the Shultz initiative failed in its ambitions, the dynamics established through the months of attempted dialogue and maneuvering would form the basis for a new paradigm in American mediation of the Palestinian issue, recognized as the key to comprehensive peace. The thesis argues that the failure of the Shultz initiative and the disruption of American hegemony over the Arab-Israeli conflict acts as a vital bridging point, inadvertently legitimizing the PLO and giving international actors the maneuvering space necessary to lay the groundwork for the later Madrid and Oslo processes.

An error has occurred. This application may no longer respond until reloaded. An unhandled exception has occurred. See browser dev tools for details. Reload 🗙