The Oslo Accords


A new book has been published which illuminates the role of Scandinavian diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As the 30th anniversary of the Oslo Accords approaches, a new book by Dr. Nir Levitan, titled “Scandinavian Diplomacy and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Official and Unofficial Soft Power” (Routledge, 2023) provides a timely addition to the literature on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The book sheds light on the involvement of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in the peacemaking process, drawing on new material from Danish archives and personal interviews with key negotiators. It illustrates how Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were involved in the initial stages of mediating the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It also explores how they established communication channels between the parties.

In the book, Levitan explores how the three small countries developed a unique foreign policy approach that used soft power diplomacy to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table. The book analyzes the specific type of peace diplomacy offered by Scandinavia and examines the reactions of both Israel and the Palestinians to the Scandinavian methods of mediation.

Dr Levitan is a lecturer in the Israeli Special Studies Program for the Security Forces and a research fellow at the Europa Institute at Bar-Ilan University and an affiliate fellow at the Center for Koldkrigsstudier, University of Southern Denmark. He holds a PhD from Bar-Ilan’s Graduate Program in Conflict Resolution, Management and Negotiation.

The book offers a thorough and penetrating analysis of the strategic foreign policy initiatives of all teams of negotiators that participated in the Oslo process, including first-hand accounts of the mediators involved in nine separate negotiation channels over three decades of diplomatic engagement. Furthermore, the book includes the personal, unpublished papers of David Kimche, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and deputy of the Israel intelligence services.

One of the revelations in the book is the account of how Herbert Pundik — father of historian Ron Pundak, who played an important role in starting the Oslo peace process in 1993 — attempted to assist his son in opening a secret channel in Copenhagen. However, after facing refusal from the Danish Foreign Ministry, the younger Pundak ultimately sought the assistance of the Norwegians.

Levitan analyzed documents in five different relevant languages and his Danish background allowed him to access, interview, and study primary sources in their original language, on location in Scandinavia. His extensive research also incorporates recently available archival material from the Royal Danish Library, along with access to the unpublished private papers of Kimche and extensive personal interviews with key Israeli and Scandinavian negotiators, including Herbert Pundik; senior advisor to the Swedish government and former minister Pär Nuder; former foreign ministers of Denmark, Per Stig Møller and Uffe Ellermann-Jensen; Ariel Sharon’s senior advisor, Dov Weissglas, and negotiator and senior minister, Yossi Beilin.

“Scandinavian Diplomacy and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” serves as a compelling read for scholars, diplomats, and the general public, offering fresh insight into why the Oslo negotiations ultimately failed after so much attention, financial support, and multi-national encouragement was expended toward a successful outcome. The book highlights the complex nature of the diplomatic task and the flaws in the process, explaining why peace remains elusive in the Middle East.

Dr. Levitan’s book is based on his PhD, which was completed under advisor Dr. Amira Schiff, Head of the Graduate Program in Conflict Resolution, Management and Negotiation.