Israel Report

September 2002         

Years of Hope

A reminder:

By Ze'ev Binyamin Begin - September 6, 2002

September 9, 1993

Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel

Mr. Prime Minister,

The signing of the Declaration of Principles marks a new era in the history of the Middle East. In firm conviction thereof, I would like to confirm the following Palestine Liberation Organization commitments: The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security. The PLO accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations ... The PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators ...

The PLO affirms that those articles which deny Israel's right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter, are now inoperative and no longer valid. Consequently, the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant.

Sincerely,

Yasser Arafat

Chairman, the Palestine Liberation Organization

These were surprising developments. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin responded to them on the same day: "... The government of Israel has decided to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and to commence negotiations with the PLO within the Middle East peace process."

Four days later, the Declaration of Principles was signed in Washington. A month later, the Israeli government committed itself to the PLO, to encourage the activity of the Palestinian institutions of East Jerusalem. In February 1994, the first Cairo agreement was signed; in April, the economic agreement was signed in Paris; in May, the first PLO officials arrived in Gaza and Jericho and two months later, Yasser Arafat arrived in Gaza. In August of 1994, the protocols transferring authority to the PLO were signed at the Erez checkpoint and Cairo, and in November, the donor countries decided on a generous grant to the PLO. In December, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the head of the PLO, the prime minister of Israel and its foreign minister.

In February 1995, the second Cairo agreement was signed between the PLO and Israel, and in September, the Interim Agreement was signed in Washington. In November and December of 1995, the PLO assumed control over six cities in Samaria and Judea. In January 1996, 812 terrorists were released from Israeli prisons and 10 days later, elections were held for the Palestinian Authority Council and its president. The reconciliation process reached its climax in April 1996, when the prime minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, announced that the Palestinian Covenant was annulled.

Those were years of hope.

Nine years after the exchange of instruments between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, the government of Israel (with the participation of the Labor Party) accepted the assessment by the Israel Defense Forces General Staff and the Shin Bet security service that as of now, the continued presence of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria, supporting Shin Bet activities there, is a necessary - though not always sufficient - condition for preventing terror activity. In the opinion of many, the developments of the last two years are an expression of a dangerous distortion of the message of peace in the Oslo agreements, and the source of the problem is that the "political horizon" of the Arab residents of Samaria, Judea and the District of Gaza has been blocked.

The perception of the Oslo agreement as a means leading to peace was based in its day on two assumptions. First, that the PLO had given up its traditional goal of the elimination of the State of Israel, including through the realization of the right of return of 1948 refugees to their homes, and second, that the PLO gave up violence as an instrument to achieve this goal. Therefore, the logical conclusion was that a peace agreement with the PLO was within reach, since the main obstacle was removed from the path to peace, and the remaining disputes, which were detailed in the Declaration of Principles, would be settled around the negotiating table. That hope was not realized and, in the last two years, two main reasons have been proposed by way of explanation: Likud government policies between 1996-1999 and the policies of the Labor government in 1999-2000.

But a discussion of the question of whether Israel missed the opportunity for peace should also include a focused look at the early, formative period of the Oslo agreement - in the years 1993-1996. In those years, a "dovish" government headed by the Labor Party, with the participation of the liberal Meretz party, was in power and the widest possible political horizon was laid out before the PLO. An analysis of the same period enables what approximates an examination under "laboratory conditions" of the PLO's approach with regard to the two main aspects of the Oslo agreements: the PLO's goal and the means to achieve it.

Strategy and tactics

The PLO's goal was embedded in two plans, strategic and tactical. The strategic plan was included in the Palestinian Covenant, which was approved by the Palestinian National Council (PNC) in Jerusalem, in 1964. The plan is founded on the negation of Jewish nationhood, and therefore the negation of the right of the Jews, who only belong to a religion, to establish a state of their own in the Land of Israel. Since such a state was established on Palestinian land, it must be removed through "armed struggle." The PNC approved the tactical plan in 1974, known as the "stages plan" for the liberation of Palestine. With this pragmatic plan, the PLO determined its readiness to achieve control over all of Palestine gradually and not only through "armed struggle." The PNC's decision said that: "In light of this program, the leadership of the revolution will determine the tactics, which will serve and make possible the realization of the objectives."

About a year before the signing of the Oslo accords, the late Faisal Husseini discussed the distinction between the strategy and the tactic, in a speech to an Arab youth organization in Amman (Al-Ra'y, Jordan, November 12, 1992). "In the life of all nations there are two political strategies: the overall strategy and the current political strategy. We have to know that the slogan for the current stage is not `from the sea to the river' ... we have not conceded and will not surrender any of the existing commitments that have existed for more than 70 years ... We have within our Palestinian and united Arab society the ability to deal with divided Israeli society ... We must force Israeli society to cooperate ... with our Arab society, and eventually to gradually dissolve the `Zionist entity'." [Quotes from the Arab media in this article are courtesy of MEMRI, unless otherwise noted - Z.B.B.]

Two years after the signing of the Oslo agreement, Husseini repeated these views on July 22, 1995, at the University of Jordan. "The political solution we are now proposing is within the context of our political strategy and not our overall strategy. Our policy with regard to the second strategy is known. If you ask any Palestinian, he will tell you that the boundaries of Palestine go from the river to the sea. There are no arguments over that. We might be mistaken about our political strategy, but we are never wrong about our permanent overall strategy."

Husseini proved that this, indeed, is his permanent view when he reiterated the distinction six years later. He told the Cairo Al-Arabi on June 24, 2001: "We distinguish the strategic, long-term goals from the political phased goals, which we are compelled to temporarily accept due to international pressure ... The Palestinian borders according to the higher strategy [are] `from the river to the sea.' Palestine in its entirety is an Arab land, the land of the Arab nation, a land no one can sell or buy, and it is impossible to remain silent while someone is robbing it, even if this requires time and even [if it means paying] a high price."

In that interview, Husseini revealed the PLO's tactic with regard to the Oslo agreement. "The people of Troy ... cheered and celebrated thinking that the Greek troops were routed, and while retreating, they left a harmless wooden horse as spoils of war. So they opened the gates of the city and brought in the wooden horse. We all know what happened next."

Hatem Abdel Kader, a member of the Palestinian Legislature, repeated the idea in the eulogy he delivered for Husseini (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, July 17, 2001), saying Husseini "used the metaphor of the Trojan horse to issue his first call, `Climb into the belly of the horse' - it may have a bit of rotting wood and maybe you don't like the type of wood, and maybe you'll find strange things inside, but get inside. When, over time, the horse arrives at its destination, you will hear a different call: `Get out of the belly of the horse!"

Arafat described the tactic in a speech at a Johannesburg mosque, in May 1994 in which he compared the Oslo agreement to the peace agreement signed between Mohammed and the Koraish tribe, at the Hudeibah springs. Mohammed signed the agreement in a moment of weakness, all the while intending to violate it and eliminate the Koraish, after he gained strength - which is what he did. "This [Oslo] agreement," said Arafat in Johannesburg, "I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Mohammed and Koraish, and you remember the Caliph Omar refused this agreement and [considered] it a despicable truce." [Source: IRIS-Information Regarding Israel's Security - Ha'aretz].

Nabil Sha'ath did not need any metaphors when he said in Nablus in January of 1996: "We respect the Oslo agreements and nonviolence as long as they proceed step by step. When Israel declares, `Enough, we won't talk about Jerusalem, we won't get into the refugee matter, we won't discuss the settlements, we won't discuss the borders,' then it is saying that we should go back to violence, but this time with 30,000 armed Palestinian soldiers in the cities, while on the ground there are already many elements of liberty, and at a heavy price to Israel."

Did the PLO give up its goal?

Arafat did not conceal his strategic plan. Barely an hour before the signing of the Declaration of Principles at the White House on September 13, 1993, Jordanian television broadcast a brief speech by Arafat, in Arabic, which he had taped in Washington a few hours earlier. With caution that was appropriate to the timing, he mentioned the foundations of the PLO's traditional struggle: liberating Palestine and turning it into an Arab land, the right of return of the Palestinian diaspora to their homes, "the "stages plan" from 1974 for gradual fulfillment of that right, and jihad as the means of fulfilling the plan.

Among other things, he said: "Oh my beloved, do not forget the Palestinian National Council accepted the decision in 1974. It called for the establishment of a national authority over any part of Palestinian land that is liberated or from which Israel would withdraw. This is the fruit of your struggle, your sacrifices, and your jihad ... this is the moment of return, the moment of gaining a foothold on the first piece of liberated Palestinian land ... the world recognizes our legitimate national rights, and the unity between our people and its leadership, the PLO, which merges those who live in the diaspora and those who stood fast under occupation ... long live Palestine, liberated and Arab."

There was no contradiction between what the PLO's leaders were saying publicly in Arabic, and what was being said to Israeli representatives in closed-door discussions, and there was no concession on the right of return of the refugees to their actual homes. Deputy defense minister Mordechai Gur, who conducted talks with the PLO's representatives during 1994, said (Ha'aretz, January 30, 1995), "It's not very pleasant to hear what I hear from the Palestinians. They aren't talking about the house in Hebron or on Givat Hatamar [in Efrata - Z.B.B.]. They are talking about the university hill in Tel Aviv ... Once, during one of the sessions, I called aside the head of their delegation and told him that if I were to record the discussions and play them back to the members of my party, not the opposition, 90 percent of them would say `stop the talks immediately.'"

In early 1995, the Palestinian Information Ministry issued Booklet No. 5 in which the State of Israel is defined as "land occupied in 1948." Booklet No. 6, "Palestinian refugees and the right of return," published in English 28 years after the 1967 war, refers to "more than four decades of occupation." It says "the 1947 resolution guarantees the right of return of all those Palestinians who want to return home and live in peace with their neighbors." Other sections of the booklet mirror the Palestinian covenant. "The Palestinian people didn't accept the Balfour Declaration at anytime ... The 1947 resolution on the partition of Palestine came only to complement the unjust laws and military orders enacted by the British Mandate government - the partition of Palestine was baseless and illegal ... The purpose of the Zionist movement was the establishment of a state of their own at the expense of the original inhabitants of Palestine ... Arab and international attempts that sought to convince the Jews to accept self-autonomy rule in Palestine, were doomed to failure ..."

Arafat himself declared, with the start of the handover of responsibility for cities in Samaria to the PLO (Voice of Palestine, November 11, 1995) that "the campaign is not over until all of Palestine is liberated." A clear definition of "all of Palestine" was heard from one of the moderates in the PLO leadership, Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) who declared on December 23, 1995 at the Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, inhabited by refugees from the Beit Shemesh and Beit Guvrin area within Israel proper, "Inshallah, the return is coming soon."

For Israel, the test of real change in PLO goals would be the implementation of the commitment included in Arafat's letter from 1993, "the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant." When prime minister Peres announced on April 24, 1996 that the annulment that day of the covenant by the PNC was "the most important ideological event of the past 100 years in the Middle East," he did not know yet that Arafat had deceived him. The details of the circumstances were only to become known two years later, in an article by the legal advisor to the Foreign Ministry in the years 1993-1996, Joel Singer ("The truth about the covenant," Ma'ariv, June 19, 1998).

The following are the main points: Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed that the PNC would approve the formula "the current covenant is hereby annulled," but two days before the PNC convened, Arafat told the government that he could not discharge that commitment. Instead, Israel and the PA agreed on an alternative, less binding formulation. Instead of annulment of the covenant, those articles contradicting the letters of mutual recognition from September 1993 would be immediately removed. But that compromise also did not work, and the PNC came up with its own language, which, says Singer, could be interpreted as a decision to amend the covenant in the future.

When the government realized it had been deceived, it demanded a "clarification" from Arafat. It received, in English, a false version of the PNC decision, and coming only a few weeks before the elections in Israel, the government approved it. Singer said in his article that "this was blatantly a political decision," and elsewhere in the article states, "I never gave an opinion to the Israeli government saying that the amendment to the Palestinian Covenant, as adopted by the PNC, met the Palestinian commitments."

The PLO's fraud was exposed by the chairman of the PNC, Salim Za'anun, 10 days after the PNC met. He told Al-Nahar on May 5, 1996, that "the PNC accepted a `third formulation,' different from what Israel demanded." Five years later, he revealed the entire truth in a manifesto issued in Cairo on February 2, 2001: "The PLO Covenant continues to exist, because the PNC was never convened to ratify the changes that were proposed in the past, particularly because no legal committee was appointed to draft the necessary change."

All of this makes clear that even in the years of hope, the PLO did not give up realization of all its rights, expressed in its doctrine in a consistent order: first, the right of return of the refugees to their homes, second, the right of self-determination after the return of the refugees, and third, the right to establish a state with Jerusalem as its capital on the basis of the fulfillment of the first two rights. The gap between these three conditions and the existence of the State of Israel is unbridgeable.

Did the PLO give up terror?

In 1974, Arafat delivered a speech to the UN General Assembly, wearing a uniform and a pistol on his hip. Nineteen, and then 20, years later, he tried to repeat that success on two occasions: during the signing of the Oslo agreement at the White House, and during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo. Israel and his hosts convinced him to remove the pistol, but at both ceremonies, he appeared in combat uniform. The message was clear: The war was not over. The new political circumstances, after the signing of the Oslo accord, did not allow Arafat to make direct use of his organization, Fatah, as a terrorist instrument, so he chose a two-legged solution: incitement to violence against Israel and terror operations conducted by proxies, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Marwan Barghouti, then head of Fatah in the Ramallah area and even recently described as a moderate, explained clearly the basis of the division of terrorist labor during an interview with NBC at the end of January 1995: "The commitment to cease the armed struggle only applies to the areas under the Palestinian Authority's control - in the rest of the areas, it is legitimate."

Arafat himself conducted the incitement. On January 1, 1995, a few months after a series of lethal suicide bombings inside Israel, he said at a public gathering in Gaza: "We are all seekers of the path of martyrs, [mashari shahada, in the original]. And I say to the shaheeds [martyrs] who have already died, on behalf of the shaheeds who are still alive, that our vow remains, and our commitment remains, to continue the revolution."

At a convention of the Palestinian Women's Union on June 15, 1995, Arafat praised Dalal al-Mugrabi, who participated in the Israeli coast road terrorist attack in the spring of 1978, as "the commander, the star, one of the heroes who conducted the landing on the beach. She was the commander of the force that established the first Palestinian republic inside the bus ... the woman of whom we are all proud and in whom we take glory ..."

Four days later, at a memorial gathering for the censorship chief in Gaza, Arafat declared: "We are all seekers of the path of shaheeds, in the way of truth and rights, the way of Jerusalem, capital of Palestine ... We will continue this long and difficult jihad, the way of martyrdom, through sacrifice ... on this difficult jihad, through the fallen, through victory, through glory, not only for our Palestinian people, but for our Arab and Islamic nation."

Mahmud Zuheir, one of the Hamas leaders in Gaza, congratulated Arafat on his speech during a condolence call the Palestinian leader paid on January 5, 1996, after the death of "the engineer," Yihye Ayash: "As you say in all your speeches, Mr. President, we are all seekers of the path of martyrs."

With this incitement in the background, at the end of 1995, the PLO reached an operational agreement with Hamas, allowing the organization to conduct terror actions as long as they do not embarrass the PA. The head of research in Military Intelligence explained in March 1996: "Arafat believed the genie would stay in the bottle as long as it suited the interests of the PA. The understanding his representatives reached in December 1995 with Hamas representatives - though it never became a formal agreement, but actually determined the behavior of Hamas and the PA ever since - symbolizes [Arafat's belief] more than anything.

"Within the framework of this understanding, Hamas implicitly committed itself not to act against Israel and Israelis from areas within PA jurisdiction until the end of the IDF redeployment and the elections of the PA council. Arafat has done practically nothing since to fight the operational infrastructure of Hamas and Islamic Jihad while they exploited that to prepare a series of terrible attacks. A close examination of Arafat's behavior and that of his people enables us to see clearly that this is not merely a policy that began in recent months. It is the conception that has guided him since he entered the territories in May 1994."

This was officially detailed only four years later in an English-language publication by the Israeli government, that was prepared by Military Intelligence (Ha'aretz, November 24, 2000) and included the following [the parentheses are in the original]:

"An important development was the understanding between the PA and the Hamas leadership, in preparation for the January 1996 Legislative Council elections - in effect, encompassing the sort of `rules of the game' for terrorist action that prime minister Rabin had warned against, more than a year earlier. What the PA sought (in the draft exchanged with Hamas in October 1995) was `an end to military operations in or from the National Authority's territory, or a declaration of them in any form.' The actual understanding, reached in Cairo between PNC Chairman Salim al-Za'anun and Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al on December 21, 1995 allowed Hamas to `hold on to its reservations' as regards the Palestinian commitments (to restrain terrorism); but the movement did undertake `not to aim at embarrassing the Authority' - i.e., avoid operations which the PA could be blamed for."

The official report went on to say: "In a joint interview, Za'anun went so far as to explain that in the event of an attack in Hebron (then still under Israeli rule), it will not be the Palestinians' duty to do anything about it; if Israel wants to avoid such action, it should hurry up and withdraw from the rest of the territories ... This concept was clarified by the PLO representative in the Arab League, Mohammed Sbeih, a few months later (March 8, 1996): Hamas, he said, `had committed itself not to act from inside Palestinian controlled areas' ... Throughout the early period of consolidation in the areas under its control - from May 1994 onward - Arafat resisted constant pressures by Israel to restrain Hamas and restrict, if not destroy, the infrastructure established by the terrorist organization. The failure to do so put in question the basic underpinnings of the Oslo accords; and its most evident outcome was a sharp rise in the number of Israelis who fell prey to terrorist attacks during this period."

Shimon Peres summed up the matter succinctly in July 1997: "Until March 1996, Arafat did not listen to me when I demanded he act against Hamas."

It is, therefore, clear that even during the years of hope, 1993-1996, the PLO had not forsworn either its political goals or terror as an instrument to achieve them. Arafat never intended to keep the glowing promises he included in his letter to the prime minister of Israel on September 9, 1993, and the fact that the Oslo agreement was successfully marketed requires an explanation.

Marketing the Oslo concept

In 1993, the Israeli government faced a dilemma. The Camp David accords, signed 15 years earlier, did not produce peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors in Samaria, Judea and the District of Gaza. During the months of negotiations with the PLO, it became clear to the government that the organization was demanding far-reaching changes in important elements of the Camp David accords: the establishment of a legislative council instead of an administrative council; Israel's relinquishment of its authority in the territory, and of responsibility for security in those areas removed from its authority; and the creation of a "strong police force" instead of a "strong local police force." The choice was clear: either face the risk of no agreement or the risk of signing an agreement with the PLO that would profoundly contradict the political and security defense mechanisms anchored in the Camp David accord.

The difficulties of an agreement with the PLO were not foreign to then-prime minister Rabin and then-foreign minister Peres in the summer of 1993. In the words of Dr. Yossi Beilin, speaking to the Knesset on January 24, 1990, what they sought was no more than to "lead to a situation in which the PLO would be the one to accept our political plan and to give a green light to the Palestinians in the territories to come to terms with us in order to reach elections."

According to Beilin's book, "Touching Peace: From the Oslo Accord to a Final Agreement," in June 1993, Rabin ordered a halt to the talks with the PLO and sent Peres a letter with vehement reservations about the deal that was taking shape, but shortly afterward, he reauthorized the continuation of the contacts. A few days before secretly signing an agreement with PLO representatives, Peres told the Knesset on August 16, 1993: "The Israeli government will not negotiate with the PLO or with official members of the PLO. I want to say what revolts me about the PLO: First, I don't want to negotiate with the diaspora. I want to negotiate with the residents of the territories. This is not a formalistic issue, this is an essential issue. Secondly, I do not want to negotiate with elements who are currently dealing with terror."

An attempt to avoid signing an agreement directly with the PLO continued up to the last minute. In the formal version of the Oslo agreement, the Declaration of Principles, which was signed in Washington - and as it has been published ever since - one party to the agreement is "the Government of the State of Israel," and the other party is "the PLO team (in the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to the Middle East Peace Conference) (the `Palestinian delegation') representing the Palestinian people." [All parentheses and quotes are in the original - Z.B.B.] Under pressure from the PLO, a few minutes before the signing, that lengthy title was crossed out with a pen, leaving only the initials PLO. The trap was closed.

The assumption that it was possible to reach a permanent peace with the PLO by abandoning the critical defensive elements in the Camp David agreement was disconnected from reality. It is clear today that warning signs were not lacking, and the fact that many good people accepted the assumptions of the new era again raises questions about human judgment regarding the dangers facing individuals and society. It seems that some cultural, psychological and political elements came together at the time to blind the leadership, the intelligence community, the academic community, the media and the public. The main reason for that is the fundamental human desire to see better days and the psychological inhibitions about dealing with threatening scenarios. Although such scenarios might come true, the fact that they belong to the future permits people to comfort themselves that the threats will never unfold.

Furthermore, one must take into consideration the cultural climate of the times, in which Francis Fukuyama's essay, "The End of History," shone, and the consensus was that ideology had passed from the world. But, in fact, many large groups in the world did not change their ideology and did not share in the "spirit of the time" that held sway in the universities, the press and the diplomatic circles of the Western world. The denial of the importance of striving for the truth, and education about the coexistence of "relative alternative narratives," combined to soften bitter disputes in the imaginations of tolerant listeners.

This method was effectively applied by Yossi Beilin, who submitted to the PLO, during the Taba negotiations in January 2001, a document aimed at a "just solution for the Palestinian refugees, based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, providing for their return ..." Under the headline "Narrative," Beilin summarized the source of the dispute thus: "Despite accepting the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 1947, the emergent State of Israel became embroiled in the war and bloodshed of 1948-49 ..." (Source: Le Monde Diplomatique). Questions such as who attacked the emergent Jewish state were evidently left for another "narrative."

The illusion that even the conflict in the Middle East was successfully nearing its conclusion was based on the prevailing view in Western society that every dispute has a solution based on compromise. The fact that many disputes in the Western world have no agreed solution is proved by the enormous amount of civil disputes litigated through legal mechanisms, but slogans, like "meeting half-way" and "territorial compromise," were entrancing.

In such an atmosphere of peace, a paradoxical "explanation" of the PLO's violations of the Oslo agreement was easily embraced. It consisted of the following logical chain: 1. Israel signed an agreement with Arafat. 2. To fulfill the agreement, Arafat must politically survive. 3. To survive, Arafat must violate the agreement.

In other words, the agreement cannot be kept unless it is violated.

Nissim Zvilli, a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the time, recently gave heartfelt expression to that (Ha'aretz, July 27, 2002): "I remember myself lecturing in Paris and saying that Arafat's double-talk had to be understood. That was our thesis, proved [later] as nonsense. Arafat meant every word, and we were naive, thinking that he is doing it to overcome the resistance to the agreement among his public."

Oslo's supporters in Israel overcame resistance to the agreement in our public, but nice achievements in public debate do not mitigate the hardship s of reality. The tragedies of the past two years were sown in the first two years. As far as the PLO is concerned, the Oslo agreement was not derailed and the violence involved in its implementation was dictated from the moment it was signed. Things could not be any different - and therefore they were not.

`Oslo criminals - nonsense!'

Ha'aretz Magazine: There will be those who interpret your article as part of a political agenda - there's nobody to talk to and nothing to talk about, so the conflict will go on forever. Is that your political conclusion?

Begin: "Under no circumstances should there be any negotiations with the PA/PLO. There should certainly be negotiations with representatives of the Arab residents of Samaria, Judea and the District of Gaza who truly seek peace with us. Success in the war against the PLO and company is therefore vital for building a chance to reach peace with our neighbors. Those who have despaired of this are actually the supporters of the Oslo agreements, who are now demanding, with even more zealotry, a unilateral withdrawal by Israel to the 1949 lines.

"The bitter Oslo years prove we cannot reach peace by giving up homeland. However, those alchemists who failed to bring peace-by-giving-up-land with an agreement now promise us serenity-while-abandoning-the-land without an agreement. These desperate people assume that in the new Middle East, what doesn't happen with retreat will happen with escape. Escape is a recipe for continuing war; firm steadfastness is a condition for peace in the future."

There are people who regard the agreement itself as illegitimate, calling its architects criminals who should be put on trial. What is your position on this issue?

"In 1993, the Labor government hoped the Oslo agreement would result in the annulment of the Palestinian Covenant, an end to terror, and lead to peace. The Knesset ratified the agreement, 61 to 50. In 1998, the Likud government knew that the Palestinian covenant remained in force, knew that the operational agreement between the PLO and Hamas about the division of labor with regard to the use of terrorism remained in place, knew from its sources - and was explicitly warned - that the PLO intended to violate the Oslo-Wye agreement. The Knesset approved the Wye agreement 75 to 19. The slogan `Oslo criminals,' is baseless and is a form of incitement. We have plenty of problems without such nonsense."

The article is evidence of comprehensive research. What motivated you to invest such a great effort involved in writing it? How important is it to you, and what does it contribute to the public debate?

"All the information in the article is available from public sources. Nonetheless, when I lectured on this subject in the last two years, including at the National Security College, I was surprised to find that the audiences was surprised by its content. I thought it was important to bring the facts to the readers. They'll judge whether it makes a contribution."

©2002 - Ha'aretz


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