PAYDAY: Violence Erupts as Oslo Crumbles

March and April saw street scenes in the PLO-controlled towns reminiscent of the intifada, with Israeli soldiers in Hebron and outside Bethlehem and Ram'Allah, coming under attack from mobs of rock- and firebomb-hurling Arabs.

Israel maintains the violence was incited by the Palestinian Authority. It certainly was the fulfilment of numerous warnings given by the PA in preceding months, that rioting and worse would break out if Arab demands in negotiations were not met.

As we go to press, areas under PA rule remain tense. Media attention, riveted for a few days on the "Bar-On affair", quickly swung back to the Palestinian issue. The PA has frozen security co-operation with Israel, and is reported to be stepping up efforts to import weapons outlawed under Oslo. As Passover holiday begins, security has been increased amid reports of further terror being planned. The future appears ever more uncertain.

It is what opponents of Oslo have been predicting for the past three-and-a-half years: that after Israel had been coerced into surrendering chunks of land to the PA (thus eroding its strategic depth) and into arming the Arabs (thereby creating a fifth-column up to 80,000-strong in the heart of Eretz Israel) the process would reach an impasse.

And when it did, the warning went, the Arabs would return to violence only this time from a position of their increased strength, and Israel's increased vulnerability.


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