Oslo at 20

In every area of modern life Israel boasts a genius that on a per capita basis must be unrivaled. Yet on the world stage its politicians seem almost bereft. The only statesman equal to the challenges it has faced over the past 20 years, so it seems to me, has been Benjamin Netanyahu, and the crucial chapter of his story is yet to be written.

It is a remarkable fact that the country has never had a public accounting for the utter disaster that was Oslo. Israel’s President Shimon Peres of course won a Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement in the Oslo Accords that resulted in the return of Yasser Arafat from his Tunisian exile to rule over the Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza. I think this was a profound mistake deriving from idealism and cynicism, but you can be sure that President Peres does not count it as such.

Indeed, President Peres has reaffirmed it in the supposed witticism I heard him utter last year at the Presidential Conference last year in Jerusalem: “In order to make peace, you have to close your eyes. You cannot make love or peace with open eyes.” I am quite sure that this is a quote that will not bear comparison with: “At the summit true politics and strategy are one.” (Ruthie Blum collected more quotes from President Peres’s conference speech here.)

On the twentieth anniversary of the Oslo Accords, Michael Freund takes a look back and (on the eve of Yom Kippur tonight) calls for repentance on the part of the Israeli architects of Oslo. “By all measures,” he writes, “Oslo was a disaster. It divided the people and land of Israel, failed to bring peace, established a hostile Palestinian entity, weakened the Jewish state’s deterrence posture and empowered Hamas.”

Whether or not the living architects of the Oslo Accords heed Freund’s call, the Israeli public seems to have awoken to their folly. Freund’s call on Peres and others to repent is not likely even to inspire much introspection on their part, yet it is a call that strikes a chord with me on a subject that remains of continuing relevance.

UPDATE: Today Caroline Glick devotes her weekly column to “Israel’s twenty-year nightmare.”


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