US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright makes her Middle East debut at a time when Israelis are doing a lot of soul-searching about the Oslo process. The recent wave of suicide bombings is intolerable, yet not easily remedied. The architects of Oslo assured us such violent acts would become a thing of the past, but Yasser Arafat's renunciation of terrorism again has proven hollow as he allows a new brand of terror - Islamic suicide bombers- to reap unprecedented carnage throughout Israel. And Oslo restrains Israel from taking effective measures against the promoters of this insane martyrdom.David R. Parsons
Ironically, the seeds for Oslo's collapse were sown at its very inception. On September 9, 1993, PLO Chairman Arafat and Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin exchanged mutual letters of recognition even as Israeli buses were sent to the Lebanese border to return hundreds of Hamas activists previously deported to south Lebanon. The spate of suicide bombings now making it impossible for Israel to continue with business as usual can be traced back to this episode, as international, including American, interference forced Israel to treat Hamas with kid's gloves and welcome back the recruiters of human time bombs.
The UN condemned Israel (Resolution 799) for the temporary expulsion of 415 Hamas activists in December 1992. Months later, President Clinton's UN Ambassador, Madeleine Albright, threatened to veto a second UN resolution sanctioning Israel for the deportations. The PLO - then as now - stood by their Hamas brethren and instructed the Madrid-format Palestinian delegation to boycott the Washington talks. To get the Palestinians back to the table, the US and Israel agreed to an accelerated return of the deportees. As a result, the Hamas activists were given a heroes welcome in Gaza even as Rabin and Arafat shook hands at the White House.
While in Lebanon, these Hamas terrorists received explosives training. Upon their return, the suicide bombings began, totalling 20 to date. (In April 1993, the first "suicide bomber" - to protest the deportations - steered a car packed with explosives towards its victims.)
Arafat's recent embrace of Hamas leader Abed el-Aziz Rantisi (spokesman for the deportees) clearly gave a "green light" to further terrorism. But it is only one of many green lights given in recent years by world leaders reluctant to confront this growing Islamic threat.
Sadly, Secretary Albright has engaged in a little poor signalling herself. Albright predicated her first visit to the region on the PA restoring security cooperation with Israel following the Mahane Yehuda bombing. Yet she decided to come at the very moment Arafat was "dialoguing" with Hamas and defiantly telling Fatah to prepare for war.
The Clinton Administration undeniably has exhibited a propensity to turn a blind eye to Arafat's blatant flaunting of his Oslo commitments, including the requirement to disarm militants and combat terror. WHY? It is no secret the State Department seeks to override Israel's own assessment of progress towards peace in order to make (predetermined) demands for more Israeli concessions in one big, final push to impose a settlement that serves primarily American interests in the region.
Confidence in American mediation, and judgement, is suffering as a result. The "risks for peace" demanded of Israel are not expected of Arafat. We are told that if he complies with his agreements, he risks being toppled. But if Arafat takes the risk of dismantling Hamas, for example, Israelis will take due notice. If he survives as is, no one benefits - least of all the Palestinian people.
For there to be true progress towards peace, the US must demand that Arafat fight terror, rather than force Israel to take ever-increasing risks. The very first step for Albright must be to single out for firm, public condemnation this particular brand of terrorism grounded in the Islamic belief that suicide bombers go directly to heaven for killing Jews. The same should be required of Arafat, or the deadly Oslo seed will continue to reap its toll.