Oslo is Dead, Let Hope Live

Don Bustany

Mon, 8 Sep 97

Dear Gershon:

My compliments on a very clear and perceptive analysis of the current Israeli-Palestinian situation. The only vital point you left out is what nearly all Israeli and American commentators leave out --- the fundamental cause of the conflict and the necessity of acknowledging it.

Informed Israelis and American supporters of Israel are well aware that the situation that has persisted for the past 50 years is a direct result of the successful campaign of European Jews to take the land of the Arabs of Palestine---a literal theft. The only part of the 100-year-old original Zionist agenda not realized was the plan to expel the Arabs from Palestine.

Regarding the cause of the conflict, Israel's apologists go into psychological denial. They fear that addressing it would invalidate the state of Israel.

For the sake of Israel's welfare and long-term security, what you and the rest of Israel's 'progressives' need to understand is that Israel will never attain ethical and moral validity until it does acknowledge the wrong it has committed upon the Palestinians. (Never mind, for the moment, the Syrians and Lebanese.) The dozen or so books by Israel's new historians document--admit to--the wrongs quite candidly and categorically. And Moshe Dayan's conversation with Yediot Aharanot reporter Rami Tal gave us more truth about who the aggressors were at the Golan.

Israel's security in this century has been guaranteed solely by its military might. But, if history teaches us anything, it is that things change. For how many generations can Israel's 4.5 million Jews remain militarily superior to the surrounding hundred million wronged and humiliated Arabs?

Israel's future---a comfortably peaceful future---depends upon its ending the occupation by both its soldiers and settlers, making restitution of the stolen lands and homes where it's practical, and paying compensation where it is not. Finally and eventually, the leaders must negotiate a public ceremony in which Israel will apologize and the Palestinians will forgive. Nothing less will provide both peoples with the emotional closure that is so essential to letting go of the hostilities of the past hundred years and making it psychologically okay for them to be mutually constructive neighbors.

Yes, Gershon, I'm with you -- let hope live on.

Sincerely, Don Bustany <dbustany@msn.com> ---------- From: Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information Sent: Sunday, September 07, 1997 9:18 AM To: (Recipient list suppressed) Subject: Oslo is Dead, Let Hope Live On

Oslo is Dead, Let Hope Live On Gershon Baskin, Ph.D. Israeli Director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Infomration

September 7, 1997

Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated that Oslo is dead. The concept upon which the Oslo framework was based, according to the Prime Minister, was a deal between Israel and the PLO that consisted of the following: Israel would give territory to the PLO in exchange for the PLO fighting against terrorism. The events of the at least the past year and a half, Netanyahu states, have proven that this concept has not worked. I would claim, however, that the basis of the deal between Israel and the PLO had not been understood correctly and therefore the wrong policies were developed and implemented, by both sides. Furthermore, this misunderstanding existed almost since the beginning of the process, under Rabin and Peres as well as Netanyahu.

Oslo was a deal which was supposed to be composed of the following: in exchange for mutual recognition which would lead to a two-state solution, Israel and the Palestinians would create mutual interests which would include economic development (for both sides) and mutual security guarantees which would benefit both peoples. The Oslo package was supposed to have included the development of a partnership between Israel and the PLO. The process included first removing the main enemy of Israel from the circle of violence (the PLO). In exchange for that, Israel would concede territories which it had held since 1967 in order to provide the Palestinians with a land base for beginning to establish their independence. From that land base, Israel expected the Palestinians to establish a government and a security force which would be capable of guaranteeing stability and security. The success of the package deal was based on a continuum of progress which, however, ended soon after it began.

Senior Israeli officials (from the Labour Party) have said that even in the highest points of the peace process, the decision makers in the government (Rabin and Peres) did not agree to conceptualize how far the process would go. In fact, there was no strategic planning or thinking on the Israeli side on how to progress beyond each step-by-step agreement. The Palestinians, however, were led to believe, both by senior Israeli officials and by the Americans, that they would get their state, sooner, rather than later. Shortly after signing the Oslo agreement In September 1993, the first suicide bombing took place (on October 4, 1993). In 1994 there were five more suicide bombings, killing 38 and wounding 145 Israelis. In September 1994, Arafat began massive arrests of Jihad and Hamas political activists, two months after his return to Palestine. But at the same time, Arafat, in fear of a civil war, began to adopt a policy of trying to integrate the Islamists into his regime.

Terrorism continued in 1995 killing 39 more Israelis and wounding 253. In September 1995 after a Jerusalem bus bombing, Arafat made a decision to launch an attack against the Islamic Jihad. His troops opened fire on prayers leaving the Palestine Mosque in Gaza on a Friday afternoon. Arafat's troops killed 18 in that attack. Fearing the outbreak of a civil war in Gaza, Arafat went about trying to negotiate a treaty with Hamas and Jihad. Receiving the support of the Israeli government, Arafat sent officials from Fatah to meet with Hamas leaders. The meetings were held in Sudan. The Israelis allowed Hamas officials to leave the territories to take part in these meetings. In October 1995, Arafat reached an agreement and prevented a civil war. The Palestinian public supported the agreement fearing that without it there would be a total breakdown and a complete civil war in Gaza. However, later that month Israeli forces assassinated Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shikaki and on November 2, 1995 the Islamic Jihad broke the agreement and launched a series of suicide attacks against Israel. Two days later, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. On January 5, 1996 Israel masterminded the assassination of the Hamas "engineer" Yahya Ayash (who no doubt deserved to die) in order to save the reputation of the Israeli secret service. In response there was the series of suicide bombings of February and March 1996 which led to the fall of the Labour Party government and the victory of the "Security and Peace" campaign of Netanyahu.

And here we are today, with more terrorism, no peace, no security and no Oslo. The Palestinian economy is in a shambles. Arafat has created a corrupt autocratic regime. Israel, which had always said that they hoped a Palestinian regime would be democratic, preferred to adopt the philosophy set out by Rabin "without Betzelem (a human rights organization) and without Bagatz (the Israeli Supreme Court)" failing to understand that without democracy in the Palestinian territories there could be no stability and no security.

Former Israeli security officials exploited their connections with Palestinians, and with the support of the Israeli government, helped to create a monopolistic Palestinian economy, paying bribes and loaded with graft for Palestinian security officials, government officials and handsome profits for themselves. Israeli so called "security cooperation" amounted to handing the Palestinians lists of people to place under administrative detention without any due process, just as had been done under the Israeli occupation. Closures blocked the Palestinian economy from progressing with more than 30% of working days since Oslo frozen in perpetual umemployment. Any investments which were searching for chances of being absorbed left the region, perhaps permanently. Is it any wonder why the process is dead?

Arafat is weaker now than at any point in the history of his struggle. A rift has developed and deepened between returnees from Tunis and the Palestinians who led and supported the Palestinian uprising. Palestinian support for any opposition to Arafat, including the Hamas and Jihad is at an all time high and growing. Israel's demands on Arafat to fight against terrorism fail to take in account the impossibility of that task. Even if Arafat wanted to fight against the Hamas infrastructure now (and it is unlikely that he wants to), he is incapable of doing it. Any serious attempt by Arafat to fight against the Hamas and Jihad now will result in an internal intifada against him by the Palestinian masses. In order for Arafat to win against the Hamas and Jihad he must first accomplish the following:

1. He must clean up his own government, firing those responsible for corruption and replacing them with honest technocrats. This, however, is impossible because his whole regime is built on corruption.

2. He must create a system of justice based on the rule of law and on guaranteeing basic human rights to his own people. Once again, this cannot be done because his entire regime is based on autocracy and all decisions must be approved by himself directly.

3. He must bring home some political achievements, such as further control of more territory, safe passages, the Gaza port, the airport, blockage of additional settlement building, etc. This is also impossible because the Netanyahu government won't allow him any political achievements because that is perceived by them as capitulation and dangerous to Israel's existence.

4. Arafat must show that there will be a peace dividend. There must be economic growth and the public must be shown that the peace process will improve their welfare. This is a longtime process and so far the exact opposite has been the case. Palestinians are suffering more now and before the peace process and this is one of the major failures of the peace process.

There is no chance that Arafat will succeed or perhaps even attempt to do what Israel has ordered him to do. If the Israelis truly expect Arafat to seriously fight against the Hamas and the Jihad, they simply have no understanding of the situation on the ground.

So is Oslo dead? The answer is probably yes. But that does not tell us what will happen next. Israel's insistence and demands that Arafat fight against the terror infrastructure will not change the reality. Israel, calling upon the slogan of "taking back the security" will probably send assassination squads into the Palestinian towns and villages. Some Hamas personalities will be killed and others will be kidnapped. Eventually, one of these squads will run into a group of armed Palestinian forces. At that point there will be casualties on both sides and the process will deteriorate even further. Arafat will exploit the actions of the IDF to rally support around himself. He will make speeches about Jihad and Jerusalem, but the Palestinian public will no longer support him. Any serious people who have remained in the Palestinian Authority will leave before the roof completely collapses. There will be suicide bombers waiting on line to carry out attacks. The Israeli public will also lose any hope that peace is achievable in this generation.

So what hope is there? Maybe none, but it's not because that Oslo was predestined to fail. People made it fail, it didn't happen on its own, nor did it have to be guaranteed to fail. The real choice for peace, for a new beginning was never really made. Both sides were apparently not ready for it, at least, the leaders of both sides were unready and unwilling.

Over the last seven years, I have met thousands of Israelis and Palestinians, officials and common citizens who did want a new beginning and believed that we were on the real path to peace. They dreamed peace and they began to taste peace. They enjoyed meeting each other. They looked forward to working together. They waited impatiently between meetings for more occasions to meet and learn about each other. They enjoyed the thought of normalcy. They treasured in the discovery of how similar were our hopes and aspirations. They felt that they were personally making peace, and it felt good.

Today, hundreds of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians feel nothing but despair. We have lost our hope. We have buried our dreams of peace together with our sons and daughters. Our tears and pain weigh heavily on us all - Israelis and Palestinians alike. Our tragedy crosses the borders between us. Instead of becoming partners in peace we have become partners in suffering. I have spoken with many Palestinian friends (yes, I dare to use that word) since the last terror attack. I feel their pain as I describe my own.

I have no brilliant suggestions now on how to save the process. I have no confidence in the leaders of either side that they have the intelligence or foresight to be able to create peace, nor do I believe they have the political will to do so. This is an outcry for the Palestinian people and the Israeli people not to allow the chance of a better future to disappear. Simple Palestinians and Israelis, together who are longing for peace are the only hope we have that we will not lose this opportunity for a better future. It is time for the citizens to be heard. Leaders - be aware, our silence is not acquiescence or acceptance of your foolish policies. Peace is more than a dream and it is achievable.