The so-called “Oslo process,” is really two processes. The first was the Oslo peace process. It began with secret negotiations between Israeli leftists with ties to then-foreign minister Shimon Peres in Oslo, Norway, in 1993. It led to Israel’s recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the establishment of the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority to run the Palestinian autonomy in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It also led to a seven-year attempt by Israel to make peace with the PLO.
The peace process, was the brainchild of the Israeli Left. It was predicated on the notion that without the PLO there can be no peace. And without peace, based on territorial concessions, Israel has no hope of surviving, let alone prospering.
The Oslo peace process failed in July 2000 when the PLO rejected peace and statehood.
The failure of the Oslo peace process was followed quickly with the initiation of the Oslo terror war by the PLO-PA and its partners in Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Its goal was to demoralize Israeli society and foment a collapse of Israel’s national will to reject the PLO’s maximalist demands, which in turn would lead to the eventual destruction of Israel.
To a large degree, the Oslo war ended in 2004 when Israel secured its control over the Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria and killed Hamas’s senior leadership in Gaza.
The Israeli Left never accepted the failure of the Oslo peace process. And the PLO-PA never abandoned its efforts to destroy Israel – in the name of peace and justice.
The refusal of both the Israeli Left and the PLO-PA to own up to the failure of both Oslo processes, has engendered a strange symbiotic relationship between the two sides. No, of course the Left hasn’t joined or supported the PLO-PA’s terror war. To the contrary. There is little if any distinction in the positions of the Israeli Left and Right on the need to defeat Palestinian terrorism.
What the Left and the PLO-PA do share is an assessment of who is to blame for the absence of peace. Never accepting that the PLO-PA was disingenuous in its expressions of peaceful intentions, the Israeli Left has looked elsewhere for culprits to blame the Oslo peace process’s failure. Its chosen culprits have always been the Israeli Right and their American supporters. The PLO-PA for its part, has always happily agreed with the Israeli Left’s indictments.
The symbiosis between the two parties was very much in evidence in an interview Maariv’s Ben Caspit published last Friday with Saeb Erekat, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s right-hand man and the chief Palestinian negotiator for peace talks with Israel.
The interview was both noteworthy and unoriginal. It was noteworthy because both men knew precisely whom to blame for the absence of peace – US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Erekat went straight for the kill and accused Trump of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians. How is Trump committing mass murder?
By ending US funding of two Palestinian hospitals in east Jerusalem.
As for Netanyahu, according to Erekat, Netanyahu “killed Rabin.” Once Netanyahu was done murdering his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin, according to Erekat, he proceeded to “kill the idea of peace. [He killed] the attempt to create a culture of peace.”
Caspit for his part, was far less extreme. But he shared Erekat’s basic conceits. In an attempt to convince his readers that we need to take heed of Erekat’s words, Caspit expressed scorn for Trump.
“Even after Trump is consigned to history and leaves behind his presidential library of pornography, they [the Palestinians] and us, we remain here together,” he wrote.
Caspit then attacked the normal Israeli suspects. He accused “the Israelis, particularly the Israeli Right of preparing themselves for the coming of the messiah,” in the face of Trump’s friendship.
While Erekat didn’t attack the Israeli public specifically, his demonization of Netanyahu was instrumental. Netanyahu after all did not seize power by force. He was elected prime minister four times. And in the next elections, he is expected to win a fifth term.
Erekat claimed that Netanyahu killed peace by rejecting the PLO’s demand to base all negotiations on the 1949 armistice lines. But Netanyahu isn’t a free agent when he rejects this demand. He is the loyal representative of the Israeli people, which keeps electing him.
This begins to bring us to the reason that the Oslo peace process was rejected and the reason the Oslo war also failed.
Both of these initiatives were launched first and foremost against the Israeli people.
From the time the Rabin-Peres government unveiled the Oslo peace process in late August 1993, until today, at its heart is an assumption that rejects the foundations of Zionism and Jewish identity more generally.
The Oslo peace process assumed that Israel’s prosperity, its survival and its morality were functions of its willingness and its success in making peace with the PLO by appeasing it. That assumption gave Yasser Arafat, Abbas and their comrades veto power over Israel’s success and survival. After all, it was up to them to decide if Israel gave enough.
Zionism and Jewish national identity have always placed the power to determine the fate of the Jewish people, its survival and its success on the Jews themselves. Jewish national identity has never been defined by other nations. It has always been defined by the Jews themselves.
Over the years, since the peace process failed, one of the things that the Israeli Left has been hard pressed to comprehend has been Israel’s high rankings on happiness indexes. Most recently, ahead of Rosh Hashanah, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported that 89% of Israelis say they are happy and satisfied with their lives.
This report, like all of its many predecessors, plunged the Israeli Left into a fit of despair. How can Israelis be happy when there’s no peace, nor even a peace process? How can Israelis be happy when the Palestinians in Gaza and Judea and Samaria reject them?
The explanations are always forthcoming. Then-secretary of state John Kerry said in 2014 that Israel’s economic prosperity – which was supposed to only come after peace was achieved – has made Israelis too rich to care about the Palestinians.
The problem with that view is that in the CBS’s 2002 survey – taken at the height of Israel’s economic recession and the darkest moments of the Oslo war – 83% of Israelis said they were happy and satisfied with their lives in Israel.
Israeli commentators like Ron Ben-Yishai have argued that the constant wars and security threats have strengthened social cohesiveness and unity, which serve ironically as the foundations for happiness.
The problem with this view is that happiness levels rise both when Israel is at war and when the security situation is stable.
The reason Israelis are so happy – despite Oslo’s failure – is unquestionably tied to the basic reason that the Oslo peace paradigm never won the sustained support of a majority of Israelis.
Israelis are a dynamic people. In the quarter-century since the handshake on the White House lawn, Israeli society has been transformed in every sphere. The percentage of Israelis with an academic degree rose to 47% from 20% between 1990 and 2012.
In the past 25 years, Israel’s economy has changed from a socialist command economy to a free-market economy and today Israel’s GDP per capita is higher than Japan’s. Israel’s annual GDP overall will likely reach a half trillion dollars within a decade.
Israel’s fertility rates dwarf those of every Western country.
Unemployment is at record lows.
All of this occurred as the Palestinians under the PLO have been robbed of their wealth by kleptocratic terrorists who run their autonomous governments like mafia bosses. To excuse their failures and mask their crimes, the PLO tells the Palestinians to blame their misfortune on the Jews and exhorts them to murder Jews at every opportunity.
One of the central narratives repeated ad nauseam over the past 25 years by the PLO and Israeli leftists alike is that the PLO is the only moderate and secular group in Palestinian society. If Israel fails to support it, then Israel will be forced to fight a war with Islam. In his interview with Erekat, Caspit gave prominent voice to this contention.
This would be an important insight, if were true.
But there isn’t.
Sunday morning, Khalil Jabareen, a 16-year-old from south of Hebron plunged a knife into 45-year-old Ari Fuld’s back outside a supermarket at Gush Etzion junction. Why did he do it? Secular, moderate Abbas.
Monday, Bassem Tawil reported at the Gatestone Institute’s website that, last Saturday – the day after Caspit’s interview with Erekat was published, Abbas gave a speech to the PLO’s Executive Committee in Ramallah. There the “secular, moderate” leader accused Israel of plotting to permit Jews to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Abbas provided no proof for his utterly false allegation. He did say that he is working with the Jordanian government to submit a complaint against Israel for its evil plot before the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
According to Tawil, the pan-Arab and Palestinian media picked up Abbas’s remarks immediately. They were the top story on the Hamas and Islamic Jihad websites.
After Jabareen murdered Fuld, the Palestinian media claimed that he killed him to defend al-Aqsa.
In other words, Abbas got Jabareen to go hunting for Jew to kill.
Abbas killed Fuld.
Erekat warned Caspit that at his speech before the UN General Assembly next Thursday, Abbas is planning to make a dramatic statement that will effectively burn down what’s left of the peace process. Caspit, for his part, warned his readers that we need to be very concerned that Abbas will follow through with his threat to dismantle the PA.
His warnings failed to alarm the public. And rightly so.
Fuld’s grotesque murder was just one more reminder that Oslo was wrong on all counts. The PLO was never interested in peace. And Israel’s right to exist, like its success, its security and its prosperity were never in the hands of anyone but the people of Israel.
The people of Israel’s rejection of Oslo’s central premise – that our happiness and success are in the PLO’s hands – and our insistence on carrying on and building their lives and country even in the face of massive suffering and persecution is a testament to two things: the absurdity of Oslo’s central assumption, and the resilience and strength of the Jewish people and Israeli society.
Israel defeated Oslo not by going to war against it, per se. Israel survived the Oslo peace process and defeated the Oslo war by remaining true to itself.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post