Can Palestinian terrorism, waged mainly, but not only, by extremist
Islamic organizations, be held responsible for the present deadlock
in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations?
The increase in suicide attacks, leaving dozens of Israelis dead
and wounded, has no doubt made the peace process more vulnerable to
right¬wing criticism, even within the Labor party. But the
Israeli-Palestinian talks were already bogged down before the
recent wave of anti-Jewish terrorism.
The fact is that yitzhak Rabin got cold feet when faced with the
necessi¬ty to withdraw Israeli forces from populated
Palestinian centers prior to Palestinian self-rule elections, as
specified by the Oslo Declaration of Principles (OOP).
Rabin's wavering is mainly due to his unwillingness to confront
Jewish settlers who have threatened more than once to oppose by
force any attempt by Palestinian police to assume responsibility
for security in the territories evacuated by Israel's armed forces.
Not only does Rabin hesitate to move on with the implementation of
the OOP, but he has authorized new Jewish buildings in the Occupied
Palestinian Territory (OPT), thus reinforcing the settlers' hold
over greater parts of the territories.
Moreover, Israel's prime minister has approved the confiscation of
other tracts of territories proclaimed "green spaces." All in all,
since coming into power, Rabin has authorized the expropriation of
some 14,000 dunums (1,400 hectares) of Palestinian land.
True enough, the Oslo OOP says nothing about Israel's settlement
poli¬cies in the territories, except that the fate of the
approximately 140 settle¬ments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
will be decided during the final stages of the Israeli-Palestinian
talks. This being the case, one could have expected that Israel
would not change the status quo on the ground during the interim
The Israeli government's land-grabbing policies, its postponement
of the freeing of prisoners and its delaying tactics in the
implementation of the DOP, including withdrawal and elections - all
these enable Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other extremist
organizations to attack Arafat's Palestinian Authority for its
"weak stand" in confronting Israel. At the same time, those
anti-peace organizations gain popularity among the Palestinian
population by striking out against Israel.
In view of all these developments, is Oslo dead or dying, as many
experts claim? Or has the time come to look for an alternative to
Oslo? The answer is an emphatic "no."
The Oslo accords are based on mutual recognition by the PLO and
Israel of each other's rights and legitimacy. This mutual
recognition represents an ideological breakthrough of crucial
importance. It has done away with a series of "no"s and "never"s
which had been blocking all hope of dialogue between the two
peoples for many, many years. Israeli leaders would repeat that "we
shall never talk to the PLO," "never recognize the PLO," "never,
never ... " As for Arafat, "we will never recognize the Zionist
entity," "we will never talk to its representatives," "we will
never make peace with IsraeL"
By replacing mutual exclusion with mutual recognition, the Oslo
OOP, in fact, constitutes a new Covenant, the only basis for
Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, be it for an interim
settlement or for a permanent solution to the conflict.
Accordingly, there is no realistic alternative to the Oslo
Therefore, Oslo is not dead, even if in its implementation it is
limping badly and must be healed.
In the not too distant past, whenever terrorists struck, Rabin
would oppose any slowdown of the peace talks, arguing that it would
play into the hands of the terrorist leaders whose aim is to kill
both Jews and the peace process. Today, Israel's prime minister has
changed his approach and makes any progress in the negotiations
dependent upon the effective¬ness of Arafat's struggle against
This is a self-defeating strategy. The less progress toward
self-rule and independence that Arafat can show his people, the
less strength can he muster in order to wage an energetic struggle
against the extremist orga¬nizations responsible for the
anti-Israeli terrorist actions.
This vicious circle can be broken only by advancing simultaneously
on all fronts: by the struggle against terrorism which must be
accompanied by a freeze on all settlement development (including
Jerusalem), by the free¬ing of Palestinian prisoners and by
Israel's withdrawal- albeit a gradual one - from populated
Palestinian areas, followed by Palestinian elections.
Only thus can th~ peace process be revived and new hope instilled
in the hearts and minds of Palestinians and Israelis alike.