If you don’t know who Michael Oren is, go buy a copy of The Six Day War, which has just been issued in paperback with a new afterword. Today’s Wall Street Journal has a column by Oren — “Oslo’s legacy: A road map to nowhere” — that is available online only to subscribers of the Journal’s electronic edition. Here’s the gist:
“[T]he trouble wrought by the Oslo Accords — so-called, after the city where they were mediated — has been incalculable. Instead of a ‘New Middle East’ [touted, if I remember correctly, by then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres] with peace between Israel and an independent Palestinian state, war has ravaged the area, devastating economies, killing and maiming thousands. Rarely has an agreement been so celebrated — Rabin and Arafat won Nobel prizes — generated such vast expectations, and occupied so many presidential days, only to utterly fail. Now, in the wake of Mahmoud Abbas’s resignation as Palestinian prime minister, one must ask why.
“There are many answers, the most obvious of which is accountability. Israel was not held accountable for expanding its West Bank and Gaza settlements in excess of Oslo’s proviso for their ‘natural growth.’ But while Israelis may have exploited the treaty’s spirit, the Palestinians flagrantly disregarded its letter. No sooner had Arafat returned from Washington than he began smuggling explosives and weapons into the territories, harboring wanted terrorists, and educating Palestinian children to destroy Israel — all blatant breaches of Oslo. In the mid-’90s, Arafat’s Palestinian Authority failed to stop and in some cases abetted the suicide bombers who killed hundreds of Israelis. Yet, in spite of these gross violations, neither Arafat nor his Authority was ever called to task. Advocates of Oslo equivocated that the Palestinians would comply with the accords but only after they had achieved statehood, and until then, they were too weak to clamp down on terrorism or even to cease incitement. The many Israelis who died in the interim were dubbed, perversely, ‘victims of peace.’
“Another, subtler, reason for Oslo’s collapse was the absence of mutuality. The accords called on both sides to ‘recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights, but while Rabin specifically recognized the rights of the Palestinian people, Arafat never acknowledged the rights or even the existence of a Jewish people. Had he done so, he would have accepted the Jews’ claim to a permanent state in their homeland, and signaled his willingness to divide that land with them. Instead, he arrogated all of the land for the Palestinians and sought to transform Israel into a de facto Palestinian state through the mass repatriation of refugees. While ‘Palestinian people’ and ‘Palestinian state’ entered Israel’s political lexicon, the words ‘Jewish people’ and ‘Jewish state’ never passed his lips. Privately, with President Clinton, he even denied that the Jews had historical ties to Jerusalem.
“The next factor undermining peace might best be called thuggery. Rabin believed that democratic Israel was incapable of taking the draconian steps necessary to defeat Hamas and other terrorist groups, and so sought a Palestinian partner free, he said, ‘of civil rights monitors and the supreme court.’ That partner was Arafat, a strongman whom the U.S. and Israel essentially hired to suppress other Palestinian thugs. The assumption that a corrupt Arab dictator would suit the Palestinians was racist, but also politically unsound. Arafat pocketed the millions of dollars in payoffs but made no serious effort to combat Hamas. Rather than reigning in terror, he increasingly engaged in it himself.
“The lessons of Oslo could not be clearer, but have they been learned? The answer, judging from the U.S.-backed ‘road map’ — a direct outgrowth of Oslo — must be no.”
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