Mistake of the Century
Vol: 24 Issue: 28 Sunday, September 28, 2003
The Israeli decision to announce its intention to remove Yasser Arafat may well go down in history as a miscalculation on an order of magnitude equal to that of the Oslo Agreement. Not that the Oslo Agreement, as written, was such a bad idea. But the Oslo Agreement that bore the signatures of Prime Minister Rabin and Yasser Arafat bears no resemblance to the agreement that Yasser Arafat attempted to implement.
When the Oslo Agreement was signed, I went to visit Dror Zeigermann, the Israeli Consul General to Canada, to ask him what the agreement meant and what the Israelis hoped to get from it.
Dror Ziegermann was the right man to ask. He was born in Israel on May 14, 1948. During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Dror Ziegermann crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt on the lead tank in a column commanded by Ariel Sharon.
I met with him on September 14, 1993, the day after the Rose Garden ceremony in which Yitzhak Rabin reluctantly shook the blood-stained hand of Yasser Arafat, barely concealing his revulsion as he did so.
I asked Dror exactly what the agreement meant, in practical terms, from the perspective of the Israeli side. First and foremost, Dror told me, it meant there was at least a prospect for peace, although he was a long way from being optimistic about its success. But, as he pointed out, Israel had tried everything else EXCEPT trying to buy peace from the Palestinians.
The Oslo Agreement was an oblique effort to negotiate with terrorists, something Israel had steadfastly refused to do since the day Dror Ziegermann drew his first breath on this earth.
Dror explained the agreement was divided into three parts, each to run consecutively. First, there was to be a three-year period in which the Palestinians were to be given limited autonomy. The agreement turned the city of Jericho in the West Bank over to Palestinian control. The Palestinian Authority was given the authority to administer municipal services, education, and to levy local taxes.
The Oslo Agreement specifically took Jerusalem off the table. It forbade Yasser Arafat from assuming the title of ‘president’ and made no provision for a Palestinian state.
The Oslo framework called for a two-year period to follow in which Israel was to evaluate Palestinian success at limited self-rule, at which time, the territory administered by the PA would be expanded to several other Palestinian cities.
If that was successful, the final stage of Oslo set a time frame of two years during which time, the Palestinians and Israelis (ostensibly now having been at peace for five years) would discuss the final status of Jerusalem.
It was all supposed to be concluded by September 13, 2000, a period of exactly seven years.
Within hours of the signing, Yasser Arafat stood on the Jericho-Jerusalem road and claimed it as part of a new Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Oslo forbade any official Palestinian presence in Jerusalem. Arafat immediately set up his headquarters at Orient House in Jerusalem. Arafat set up the curriculuum for Palestinian schools, teaching that Israel stole the land from the Palestinians, produced maps of ‘Palestine’ that made no provision for Israel and taught a generation that the only way to achieve their goal of statehood was to kill as many Israelis as possible.
Like the current road map for peace, the only thing Oslo did was hamstring Israel.
Arafat ignored any obligations that Oslo placed on him, rewrote the terms of Oslo in thin air, and found, to Israel’s astonishment, that the world was more than willing to believe Arafat’s interpretation of the agreement, despite the fact the agreement itself still existed, and still bore Arafat’s signature.
As a consequence, by the time Oslo was due to expire in September 2000, Oslo was meaningless, and Arafat’s 1993 pronouncement on the Jericho road was given legitimacy by Ehud Barak, who offered Arafat all of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip and half of Jerusalem in exchange for peace.
Arafat turned it down cold and, in September 2000, he resumed the intifada that had initially brought Israel to the peace table in the first place. Arafat never wanted peace, and his rejection of the Camp David offer proved it to the Americans, the Israelis and even the Europeans.
Having tried for ten years to implement the seven year Oslo Agreement, Israel was in worse condition than it had been before it began. Arafat was in de facto possession of the entire West Bank. The Quartet’s road map for peace ran into a dead end.
Israel, having had enough, announced that it would ‘remove’ Arafat at a time and manner of its choosing. That was a miscalculation, as I said, on a similar order of magnitude to Oslo. To Yasser Arafat, who seemed to have pretty much run out his string, even with his own people, it was a gift.
It caused Palestinians to rally around him just when they should have been asking themselves why they continue to follow him ever deeper into a valley of poverty, degradation and death.
But Israel’s promise to remove Arafat prompted Arab dictators and even some European leaders (notably the French) to reflexively reaffirm their solidarity with Arafat.
And it isn’t that they don’t understand there can be no progress toward peace so long as Arafat wields power. It’s not that they don’t realize Arafat orders the murder of children riding school buses. They just don’t strenuously object to terrorism that is not directed at them and their fellow countrymen.
This mind-set was vividly illustrated when the U.N. General Assembly “strongly condemned” the Aug. 29 bombing that killed more than a dozen U.N. civil servants in Baghdad. The General Assembly has never ‘strongly condemned’ bombings against Israelis rather, it routinely condemns Israel’s attempts to defend itself against such acts of terrorism.
Some people will argue as do several elite news organizations that there is a huge difference between suicide terrorists murdering U.N. employees and suicide terrorists murdering Israeli women and children.
When it comes to Israel, its a case of “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” It doesn’t matter that it is an equivalent absurdity to saying, “One man’s ax murderer is another’s man’s heart surgeon.”
Because this is Israel — and world hates Israel with a white-hot hatred than it can neither explain or overcome.
The world hates Israel because of the Jewish claim to be God’s Chosen People and it doesn’t matter that the world doesn’t believe in God.
Israel IS God’s Chosen People, but the world doesn’t understand what Israel was chosen FOR.
Israel was chosen to be an ‘ensign’ to the nations, the Scripture says. “And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth” (Isaiah 5:26)
Israel was chosen to be hated for our sakes. No nation on the face of the earth has been so afflicted.
“And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall scatter them among the nations, and disperse them in the countries.But I will leave a few men of them from the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their abominations among the heathen whither they come; and they shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 12:15-16)
The world hates Israel for claiming to be God’s Chosen People, in spite of the fact the Jews would be quite happy for God to choose someone else.