PERSPECTIVE: OF BLESSINGS AND CURSES

Five years ago, President Bill Clinton basked in the admiration of the world as he brought Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat together on the White House lawn.

Since then, Israelis have regarded Clinton as the most pro-Israel US president ever. They love him. A poll taken a few months ago showed Israelis would vote for the American to lead their country over any Israeli candidate.

In truth, Clinton has shown remarkable depths of affection for Israel, visiting the country three times and pouring a considerable amount of effort into his Middle East foreign policy.

But what about his motives? Everything he has done in relation to Israel has been aimed at getting the Jews to give up parts of their land. Indeed, he has worked actively to re-divide their God-given inheritance. By choosing to stress faith in Arafat's ostensible desire for peace, he has encouraged Jerusalem to "take risks" which see the Jewish republic pushed into a corner by the failure of the PA to keep its side of the agreement. And all the while the Arab world surrounding the Jews has grown increasingly hostile, rather than less so.

Since the agreement signed in Washington that day at least 279 people--mostly Israelis--have died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. Chunks of Israel's heartland, including the biblical cities of Hebron, Shechem and Bethlehem, have been given away. Palestinian political activity flourishes in Jerusalem as illegal Arab building in Israel's capital continues apace. A 50,000-strong armed force is entrenched on the Mountains of Israel. The talks have been stalled for over a year now, and tension is mounting as Arafat loudly insists he will declare the State of Palestine on May 4.

The region is in dire straits. So is President Clinton.

In early September, as pro-Oslo groups gathered to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the signing, US independent counsel Kenneth Starr publicised his findings into what Clinton's own spokesman, Mike McCurry, called the "reprehensible behaviour" of the American president.

Ensuing days saw film clips of the September 1993 signing ceremony screened world-wide, along with the graphic accounts of Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the humiliating video-recording of the president's testimony to the grand jury.

Even as articles dissecting Oslo were still appearing in the Israeli press, pundits from Laos to London were agreeing that, impeachment or not, Clinton's hopes of being remembered as a great US leader had been dashed for good.

Time magazine called it Norway's "Dark Night of the Soul". "Amid the country's worst economic crisis in a decade," wrote the weekly on September 14, Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik had called in sick, complaining of a "depressive reaction due to overwork". The state of the ordained Lutheran minister leading the country that spawned the Oslo process was not good. "He asked me to pray for him," Bondevik's father told Time. "He told me he was worn out and having a rough time."

One could have been forgiven for anticipating a different news item on Norway, given the date. Virtually all other media were covering five years of "Oslo".

Time listed Norway's national woes alongside those of its leader. In 18 months the price of oil has fallen from $20 to $13 a barrel, badly hurting the world's second largest exporter of oil and natural gas. The resulting speculation against the Norwegian krone has forced the repeated raising of interest rates, in turn doubling mortgage rates in the last two months, and cutting home sales in half.

In 1989 Bondevik was made Foreign Minister in the coalition government that defeated Labour. One of the first things he then did was to whitewash the PLO representative in Norway, Omar Kitmitto, by inviting him to his office in front of the entire press corps. He also issued a one-sided condemnation of Israel for the Temple Mount riots in the autumn of that year.

Last September, Bondevik's Christian Folkeparty defeated the Labour government that had delivered "Oslo". In the run-up to the elections his party had promised to move Norway's embassy to Jerusalem if it should win. On March 17, Bondevik and his party reneged on that promise and voted against a proposal to do just that.

Other Norwegian politicians who have sided with the PLO include Foreign Minister Johan Jørgen Holst, who died while working to justify the secret talks that led to "Oslo"; and Terje Rød Larsen, the brainchild behind the secret negotiations, who was brought down in disgrace shortly after he was appointed a member of the Norwegian government.

God promised Abraham concerning his descendants through Isaac and Jacob: "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you." (Genesis 12:3)

Go figure.


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