At the root of the accords lay a mix of defeatism, despair and gloom - and a government that was prepared to forsake our patrimony.
Israeli police are on high alert, Palestinian terrorists have been firing mortar rounds at Ashkelon and Gush Katif, people are afraid to ride the buses, and Hamas is promising more violence.
Welcome to this week's 10th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords.
When Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat reached across the White House Lawn and shook hands back on September 13, 1993, guided toward each other by a beaming Bill Clinton, those in attendance burst into applause, their shouts of joy clearly audible on news footage of the event.
But the roar of the crowd has long since abated, replaced by the deafening sound of explosions, terror and death. Oslo was quickly revealed to be a fool's bet, one in which the future of an entire country was placed into the hands of its unrepentant foe.
Never before has a country so strong yielded so much to an enemy so weak, and never before has a government so brazenly endangered the fate of its own people.
Behold the hard facts: In the 10 years prior to Oslo, a total of 211 Israelis were killed by Palestinian terror, while in the 10 years since the agreement, that number has risen to 1,110, an increase of over 426%.
Oslo failed to bring peace, and it failed to put an end to Palestinian terror. It did not unify the nation, nor did it give birth to economic prosperity. Instead, Oslo's legacy can be found in cemeteries throughout the country, in hospital wards and rehabilitation centers, in the scars and prosthetic devices that its victims will carry with them forever.
"History," the late historian Barbara Tuchman once said, "is the unfolding of miscalculation." She might as well have been referring to Israel's dealings with the PLO. Although the Palestinians never lived up to their part of the bargain, Israel persisted in signing agreements with them. There was the 1994 Cairo Agreement, the 1995 Oslo 2 Accords, the 1997 Hebron deal and the 1998 Wye agreement.
Refusing to acknowledge its error, Israel dug itself ever deeper into the hole, turning over more land, only to receive more funerals in return.
The transcript of failure is extensive and heartbreaking, but it cannot be ignored. As far back as December 1994, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin said, "Arafat is not taking enough action against Hamas. I would expect better results in the fight against terrorism" (The Jerusalem Post, December 6, 1994).
And Shimon Peres, mastermind of Oslo, admitted back in March 1995 that, "Yasser Arafat must show more willpower, more character in his fight against terror. If he is too weak to do that or lacks the will, why should we negotiate with him at all?"
But negotiate with him is exactly what Israel continued to do, and here we are, 10 years later, with Arafat still in control and Jews still dying.
EVEN AFTER the past decade's horrors, our leaders still don't get it. They now talk about expelling Arafat but leaving the Palestinian Authority in place, as though installing a new Godfather will make the Mafia any less of a criminal organization.
They still don't realize that the problem is not just Arafat or Abu Mazen or Abu Whoever, it is the existence of the Palestinian Authority itself, which is little more than a hothouse for terror, corruption and bloodshed.
Remember, this experiment of establishing a Palestinian entity has not been going on for a year or two or three. It has been going on for a decade, for 10 long and painful years, years filled with unprecedented suffering and violence.
It is time to call it quits, to say "enough is enough," and stop proceeding down a path that has failed again and again.
Oslo is an experiment whose time has passed; only a "mad scientist" would be willing to press forward with it. The only way out of the current morass is for Israel to reassert full control over Judea, Samaria and Gaza, dismantle the Palestinian Authority and destroy the infrastructure of terror. It won't be clean, and it won't be pretty, but a government's first priority is to protect its citizens, not to appease international public opinion.
At the root of Oslo lay a dangerous mix of defeatism, despair and gloom, which brought to power a government prepared to forsake our national patrimony. Oslo's practitioners were ready to withdraw from Jewish history and undercut Jewish destiny, questioning our very right to be on this sacred soil.
If the past 10 years teach us anything, it should be that forgoing our Divine and eternal right to this Land inevitably leads to an erosion in our security and well-being. The two are inextricably linked, and we must no longer shy away from making this clear to the world.
The first step toward healing this nation is to heal the rift in the Land, and to reclaim what is rightfully ours. We spent the past decade trying to divide it, and look where that has gotten us.
The time for retreat is over. Now, let us move forward, and advance, and take back our Land, once and for all.
The writer served as deputy director of communications & policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office under Binyamin Netanyahu.
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... but preferably deadby Avi Davis/Jewsweek.com September 12, 2003
The sniper's nest above Beirut Harbor was a perfect vantage from which to pick off a moving target. While observing the movement below him, the gunman suddenly caught the silhouette of an Arab in keffiyeh in his sights. Pressing his finger to the trigger, he motioned to his commanding officer, indicating the object of so much anger and destruction who moved below. The commanding officer, using a pair of binoculars for a more intimate study of the subject, gazed for a moment and then picked up a phone. A few minutes passed. The officer then lowered his glasses and shook his head. It was August 30, 1982. The Israelis were in Beirut and Yasser Arafat had just used up another of his nine lives.
How Yasser Arafat has avoided assassination over the past four decades is indeed a thing of wonder. Not only the Israelis but the Syrians, Jordanians and Egyptians have all, at one time or another, sought to eliminate him. His biographers have claimed that he can smell danger, fleeing a car seconds before it bursts into flames. He has survived plane crashes, woundings, and political isolation. But this new round of events, which has been accompanied by the gravest toll of civilian casualties in Israel's history, offers the Israelis an opportunity to seal the escape hatch on the tunnel that has been steadily burrowed beneath their feet by Arafat for 40 years. Burdened with the intrigues of a murderer and terrorist for so long, Israel must now make a crucial final accounting: Is Arafat more dangerous dead or alive?
Killing the leader of any people is certainly not a matter to take lightly. But in Arafat's case, the balance sheet should make the answer quite obvious. Arafat not only invented modern international terrorism, he gave it dignity. The image of the PLO chairman, addressing the United Nations in battle fatigues to a rousing reception in 1974, shortly after his own operatives had murdered 22 Israeli children in northern Israel, still rankles as one of the gravest travesties in the history of international diplomacy. Since then, Arafat has turned terrorism into a traveling road show, setting up tent in Africa, in the heart of Europe, in Asia and even at the White House, to the applause of millions who were seemingly convinced that the slaughter of innocent men, women and children should be justified under the spurious label of freedom fighting.
It is for this reason that exile is simply not an option. Arafat's circus act must not be allowed to tour the world again, lending the terrorism he supports and commands further international sanction. With a hostile White House, Arafat's now turns to Europe for international legitimacy and it is there that he will perform to his most receptive paying audiences, preying on anti-American sentiment and channeling the antipathy to the Iraq war into an embrace of the Palestinian cause itself.
While ensconced in Ramallah he is no less of a danger. Regular tepid denunciations of terror aside, his implicit and explicit avowals of support for 'martyrs' have led to an escalation that he no longer wishes to control. Terror is a spigot that Arafat turns on and off at will. No other terrorist leader in the world understands so well the pressure it applies on free societies and its value in forcing concessions. His relevance in stemming violence is therefore minimal, but his continued operation, as a symbol of revolt and a figurehead to incendiaries around the world jeopardizes not only Israeli security, but the war against global terrorism itself.
Fears that the symbol of a martyred Arafat will spur even further terrorism are similarly unfounded. From Germany's Bader-Meinhoff Gang to Peru's Sendero Luminoso, there is ample evidence to suggest that the removal of a charismatic terrorist leader leads to demoralization and often collapse. Arafat's removal may well throw Palestinian politics into confusion, but confusion does not mean heightened assault against Israel. More than likely a war of succession will ensue, a struggle between the PLO, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad that will drain the intifada of its core energy and focus. Shattered by internal dissension, severed from its funding, the terrorist infrastructure will eventually shudder then topple.
In the end, no one should assume that Yasser Arafat is either invulnerable or indispensable. We should not be fooled into believing that international pressure, as clearly demonstrated by the United States' recent failed efforts, will transform Arafat into a proponent of peaceful coexistence. Temperamentally at odds with the very notion of a Jewish state, he will never be a partner for peace and more than likely the most significant obstacle to achieving it. His death may well turn him into a martyr, but isn't a dead martyr more acceptable than a live terrorist from whom advocates of civil violence worldwide receive inspiration?
With this in mind, the true question is not whether Israel and the free world can afford to eliminate Arafat. It is whether they can afford not to.
It has been 10 years since the Jewish state made its largest-ever diplomatic gamble, and the storms it generated have yet to abate.
In fact, as a diverse group of writers collectively attest in this edition, the stakes today are much higher than they were back when Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres took the fateful decision to recognize the PLO, allow its entry into Israeli-held land, and set in motion a mechanism that would potentially lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In a country famous for responding to international situations rather than creating them, the move made at Oslo was seen by many as a breath of fresh air, in that it sought to actively address Israel's worst predicament the conflict with the Arab world.
With the benefit of hindsight, it has long become the Israeli consensus that the Oslo gamble has failed. The accords' underlying assumption, that Yasser Arafat and the rest of those who joined him in Tunisia had come to terms with Israel's existence and were prepared to formally accept it, has proven unfounded.
This reevalutation did not happen overnight. On the contrary, as recently as four years ago the Israeli electorate handed Ehud Barak a landslide victory and allowed him to go all the way to Camp David, where it silently watched him offer Arafat, in the presence of Bill Clinton, the deal that until then had been assumed irresistible to a Palestinian leader: 95 percent of the West Bank, east Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and a swath of pre-'67 Israel.
For some Israelis, including avowedly secular ones, Arafat's insistence during those negotiations that no Jewish Temples ever stood on the Temple Mount lit a red light. For others, his blunt rejection of Barak's deal meant that he had never meant to accommodate the Jewish state to begin with.
Others became disillusioned when they realized that Arafat had not only rejected Barak's deal, but also failed to respond to it with a counter-proposal. Some lost faith in Arafat already in 1996 when, referring to that year's wave of suicide bus bombings, he shouted to a big crowd in Gaza, "We are all suicides." Yet to most Israelis the straw that broke the camel's back was the launching three years ago of the current war. Not only was that move clearly spearheaded by the PA's own organizations, like the Fatah Hawks, and not only did the call to arms starkly violate the 1993 commitment to never again resort to violence, but the Palestinian war effort systematically and openly targeted, and still targets, the Israeli population itself.
The technical principle behind the Oslo vision, land for peace, was not implausible in itself, and, having been previously introduced in the peace accords with Egypt, was not even novel. What was novel was the decision to strike a deal with an enemy that proved unreconstructed. Impartial experts, like Channel 2 commentator Ehud Ya'ari and Hebrew University historian Yehoshua Porath (see Page B1), argued already before the current war's eruption that Arafat's aims were not those his Israeli interlocutors were insisting they were.
The same was true for the broader vision behind Oslo that the entire Middle East was ripe for major transformation, and that this drama would be touched off by an Israeli move.
Considering that the New Middle East vision was introduced not long after Mikhail Gorbachev and F.W. De Klerk had joined hands respectively with Andre Sakharov and Nelson Mandela to change their parts of the world, there was some logic in the belief that the Middle East's Arab leaders, too, would join hands with their Israeli colleagues and allow the free movement of people, capital, goods, and ideas that they had obstructed ever since the dawn of the post-colonial era.
Alas, the Israeli public, and its leaders, soon learned that the Arab Gorbachev and De Klerk, not to mention the Arab Sakharov and Mandela had yet to appear. The most stinging proof of that came when the late Hafez Assad bluntly rejected Bill Clinton's peace-for-the-Golan offer during their meeting in Geneva in 2000. There, as elsewhere among the Arab world's elites, the thinking remains that freedom is a Western value and a political threat. Evidently, there is a relationship between this pan-Arab attitude and the particular Palestinian shunning of the Oslo vision.
It is sad enough that the Arab world remains as unreconstructed as the past decade's events have proven it to be. Yet it is just as sad that Israel's assessment of its neighbors' peace intentions in 1993 was about as accurate as its assessment of their war intentions in 1973.
One can only hope that in the future our understanding of our neighbors will be more sober, and that our neighbors' understanding of the world will be less anachronistic.
How many Jews have to die before the world allows Israel to truly defend itself?
By November 1947, when the United Nations voted on whether to establish a Jewish (and an Arab) state in Western Palestine, the Jewish people had recently accumulated an impressive number of death credits-about six million of them.
Before the Holocaust, it was harder to make the case for a Jewish state in which Jews would not simply be at the mercy of their enemies or dependent on the goodwill and protection of host societies.
One could point to massacres in the Ukraine, pogroms in Poland, vicious incitement in many places, but it wasn't impressive enough, and with the exception of the British government for a short period after World War I, the Zionists were not able to prevail in the capitals of the world.
Six million, though, was an imposing figure, enough to play a key role in convincing two-thirds of the UN to vote in favor of creating the State of Israel on November 29, 1947.
It wasn't enough to dissuade the U.S. State Department and Defense Department from embargoing arms to the new state in its War for Independence, in the hope that it would be crushed by the Arab invaders.
That fate would spare what the State Department and the Pentagon expected to be a nuisance and a headache.
But on the strength of its own grit and determination, arms supply from the Soviet bloc, and the wave of international sympathy, based largely on death credits, that had led to the state's establishment in the first place, Israel was able to survive the onslaught and set about the task of state-building.
In the last three years, during what is known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the death-credit syndrome has come back to haunt Israel with special intensity.
The numbers, of course, are much more modest-in the dozens or hundreds rather than millions.
Compared to the German fascists, the Islamofascists have harder work to do because the Jewish community they are trying to annihilate is armed.
But the principle is similar.
Israel absorbs blows, letting its citizens be picked off and murdered, until a particularly large and grisly attack gives it enough death credits that it believes the world-and particularly the Bush administration-will tolerate its taking military action.
It happened, for instance, in the case of the Park Hotel suicide bombing on Passover eve, March 27, 2002, which killed 30 and wounded 140.
Before that Israel had spent a year-and-a-half passively absorbing numerous attacks of almost comparable magnitude, including the one at the Dolphinarium disco in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2001, that killed 21 mostly young Israelis, after which Prime Minister Sharon informed us that "restraint is strength."
But in the case of the Park Hotel, the numbers combined with the symbolism of attacking Jews during a religious ceremony added up to enough death credits that Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield.
Even then, a mere week later, President Bush mustered his grimmest and most menacing expression, the one he uses for the likes of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, to proclaim that "Enough is enough!"
At present, Israeli forces have resumed hunting terrorists in the territories and the White House and State Department are not complaining too notably.
That's because, in the wake of the August 19 bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 21 civilians and scorched babies to death, Israel again figured it had acquired enough death credits to allow it to fight back for a while.
True, there had already been terrorist attacks and Israelis killed during the hudna that began at the end of June.
On July 7, for instance, 65-year-old Mazal Afari was killed in her home at Moshav Kfar Yavetz, and three of her grandchildren lightly wounded, in a suicide bombing by an Islamic Jihad terrorist.
On July 15, 24-year-old Amir Simhon was stabbed to death on the Tel Aviv beachfront by a terrorist from the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigade.
But these were paltry numbers, inconsequential.
Presumably, Sharon calculated that if he were to say, "This is no cease-fire; my people are still being murdered; I am ordering the IDF to resume operations against the terrorists"-the death credits would have been woefully insufficient and Israel, not the terrorists, would have been blamed for derailing the hudna.
Then on August 12 there were two more suicide attacks, one in Rosh Ha'ayin and one in Ariel.
But these were poorly executed, each taking the life of only one Israeli-again, not enough to register at all on the death-credit calculus.
The next day the Jerusalem Post editorialized: "Yesterday's suicide bombings could easily have killed dozens of Israelis, as could have the many similar attacks that have been thwarted since the hudna was declared.
The game of tolerating missile attacks, suicide bombings, and shootings so long as 'only' one or two people are killed is a cynical and bloody one."
The editorial went on to advise that the U.S. and Israel give the Palestinian Authority an ultimatum: "either crush the terrorists now, unconditionally, and without excuses, or Israel will do so itself."
Not surprisingly, the suggestion went unheeded.
Then came the August 19 bombing.
Its 21 dead and over 100 wounded were victims of the terrorists who targeted them.
But they were also victims of the death-credit syndrome, whereby the U.S. and Israeli governments allow Israeli citizens to be murdered so long as the numbers are small and unimpressive to them, and wait for much larger numbers to be murdered before Israel is allowed to act.
Ten years after the launching of Oslo and three years after the launching of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the upshot of U.S. and Israeli policy is that the terrorist organizations are thriving as never before in the West Bank and Gaza and an entire generation of Palestinians has been poisoned with genocidal hatred.
Yasser Arafat, having waged a terror war for ten years, is still sitting in his compound a few miles north of Jerusalem and still waging his terror war. Israel is now subjecting the terrorists to assassinations and pressure, activities that are of little efficacy as the renewed suicide bombings attest.
Yet Israel continues to strut around like a geopolitical Hamlet, speculating openly about reoccupying Gaza or finally doing something decisive to divest Arafat of his power.
Since nothing short of reoccupying all the territories and dismantling the PA terror-entity will suffice to end the death-credits game-steps that neither the U.S. nor Israeli governments are prepared to countenance-the likelihood is that the game will continue.
It will take a successful, catastrophic terror attack of much larger proportions than twenty or thirty dead (such as the abortive attempt to blow up the Pi Glilot fuel depot in Rishon Letsion on May 23, 2002, which could have incinerated thousands of Israelis) to convince those two governments that Israel has attained enough death credits to take drastic, final action.
For Israeli citizens, it is not a pleasant thought.
"The world will not help us; we must help ourselves. We must kill as many of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders as possible, as quickly as possible, while minimizing collateral damage, but not letting that damage stop us. And we must kill Yasser Arafat, because the world leaves us no alternative."- from Jerusalem Post Editorial, September 11, 2003. Full version here.
Laughing in AuschwitzJay Nordlinger - National Review Online - September 10, 2003
In Monday's Impromptus, I wrote of an extraordinary event: Three Israeli F-15 jets circled Auschwitz last week. Those jets were piloted by descendants of Holocaust survivors. They were paying tribute to the murdered. As the jets flew over, 200 Israeli soldiers on the ground at Birkenau — a part of the camp — stood at attention. One can hardly think of a more meaningful, more moving event.
But, for inane reasons, some at the Auschwitz Museum complained. They said the flyover was a "demonstration of Israeli military might" at "a place of silence." I retorted, Damn right it was a display of Israeli military might — and what could be more appropriate? Moreover, why should Auschwitz be a place of silence? Wasn't silence sort of a problem in the first place?
Forgive the repetition, but this is all leading up to something. I received a note from Jeff Jacoby, which I share with you now (with the author's permission, of course). Jacoby — for those who don't know him — is the award-winning columnist for the Boston Globe.
He writes, "As the son of a Holocaust survivor — my father was the only member of his family to leave Auschwitz alive — I am particularly involved in this question of silence in the face of Hitler's genocide. I thought you might like to see the last few paragraphs of a speech I gave for Yom Hashoa, the annual Holocaust remembrance day. They describe something that occurred during a visit I paid to Auschwitz in my father's company a few years ago."
Here are those paragraphs:
When we were in Auschwitz — in the huge section called Birkenau, the part of the camp where the trains pulled in, where the selection took place, where the gas was — my dad and I saw a large group of Israeli students. They had come on some kind of school program, and as we walked along a path near the crematoria, these Israeli kids overtook us. Like school groups everywhere, they were loud and boisterous, joking and laughing with each other.Not bad, huh?
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