By MICHAEL FREUND, JPOST—
Twenty years ago this week, Israel committed one of the greatest strategic blunders in its modern history, one that is still casting a long and painful shadow over the entire Middle East.
Ignoring military intelligence, moral principles and basic common sense, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords with PLO terrorist-in-chief Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, setting the stage for unprecedented bloodshed and unparalleled instability.
Nonetheless, despite the passage of two decades, the architects of Oslo stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the error of their ways and continue to ignore the damage they have wrought. It is time for them to do so.
Under Oslo, Israel allowed Arafat and his cohorts into Gaza and gave them weapons as well as territory to control. In return, we received the worst wave of violence and terror in the nation’s history.
Instead of harmony, Oslo brought horror, resulting in an immediate, predictable and painfully prolonged wave of stabbings, shootings and suicide bombings.
Here is a simple fact which speaks volumes: in the five years after Oslo, more Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists than in the 15 years prior to the signing of the agreement. A total of 279 men, women and children were murdered in the half-decade following the accords, while 254 were killed in the previous 15 years.
And in the two decades since Rabin and Arafat exchanged handshakes with Bill Clinton looking on, over 1,400 Israelis have lost their lives to Palestinian terror.
By all measures, 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.
One might have expected that the main culprits behind this catastrophe would at least have had the intellectual honesty to come clean and take responsibility for the fiasco. But like a fretful husband who has gambled away his paycheck at the blackjack table, they prefer instead to deny reality and blame the deck of cards rather than own up to their actions.
Take, for example, Ambassador Uri Savir, who took part in the talks with the PLO. Writing in The New York Times last month, Savir had the audacity to rewrite history in a pitiful attempt to salvage his reputation.
“Oslo,” he declared, “failed to meet the Israeli and Palestinian expectation of resolving their bitter conflict, primarily due to the election in 1996 of an anti-Oslo government in Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and also Yasser Arafat’s failure to combat Palestinian terror and extremism.”
Amazingly, in the course of just one sentence, Savir manages to squeeze in not one, but two major distortions of history.
First, he places the blame “primarily” on the outcome of Israel’s democratic process, rather than on the Palestinian leadership’s nasty habit of violating every one of its major obligations, including the need to crack down on violence, disarm and disband Hamas, and halt anti-Israel incitement.
Second, Savir also fails to note that his mentor Shimon Peres was actually leading in the polls in the run-up to the May 1996 election after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. It was only after the wave of Palestinian suicide attacks in February and March of 1996, when buses were blowing up in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, that public support shifted.
In other words, even if one wanted to make the dubious assertion that it was Netanyahu’s election which derailed Oslo – it wasn’t – the fact remains that it was Palestinian terror and noncompliance which soured any hope of eventual progress.
Not content with mere obfuscation, Savir goes on to engage in chicanery: “The main lesson to be learned from Oslo,” he insists, “is that for the peace process to be successful, it must be inclusive, not elitist. It must be a peace by the people, for the people.”
Umm, no. The main lesson to be learned from Oslo is that Israel cannot and must not entrust its security to others, and that appeasement and territorial concessions are a recipe for ruin. All the rest is commentary.
Savir, of course, is not alone in his efforts to conceal the dark truths of Oslo and its aftermath.
Others, such as President Shimon Peres and former deputy foreign minister Yossi Beilin, continue to cling to their pseudo-messianic pretensions about the wisdom of the experiment.
This was most clearly on display earlier this year in an Independence Day interview that Peres granted to The Jerusalem Post.
As the Post reported on April 15, Peres said that he did not regret Oslo nor did he think that it had been a mistake. Instead, he defended the agreement, saying that due to the accords, there is now a Palestinian peace camp, whatever that means.
Needless to say, Peres did not offer a word of contrition or remorse, nor did he ask forgiveness from the victims of Oslo.
As it turns out, this coming Friday not only marks the 20th anniversary of Oslo, but it is also the eve of Yom Kippur, when Jews around the world engage in soul-searching, grapple with our sins and seek to make amends.
The intersection of these two occasions presents the perfect opportunity for Peres, Savir, Beilin and all those who backed Oslo to give the people of Israel the belated apology that we deserve. Doing so would not only be the just and moral thing to do, it would also begin to heal some of the schisms Oslo caused in Israeli society.
The architects of Oslo might not be able to undo the mistakes of the past, but they sure can seize this moment to finally begin to atone for their transgressions. And acknowledging the failure of Oslo and apologizing for their roles seems like a good place to start.