Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once said that one thing you could not negotiate was your right to exist. But nations negotiate all the time with adversaries whose fervent desire is that the other side cease to exist. The United States did it during the Cold War, with the communist enemy. And under pressure from the United Nations and the United States, Israel has been forced to do it with its Palestinian foes.
It's been 30 years since the Six Day War, when Arab states attacked Israel and were defeated and then forced to surrender a security zone on the West Bank and in Gaza. Israel tried for 10 years to trade this security zone for a lasting peace settlement in the Middle East, without success. In 1979, the Israelis did manage to trade another spoil of that war -- the Sinai Peninsula -- for a peace treaty with Egypt. Then four years ago, as part of the Oslo Accords, efforts to make a similar deal over the West Bank and Gaza were revived.
The current peace process between Israelis and Palestinians living in the security areas is governed by the Oslo Accords, and was signed in 1993 by Yasir Arafat and the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Under these accords, Israel agreed to recognize a "Palestinian Authority," and to cede to this authority Gaza and territory in the West Bank. Israel also agreed to allow 24,000 lightly armed Palestinian police within the disputed territories. In return for these concessions, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority agreed to remove the provision of the Palestine Liberation Organization charter
that calls for the destruction of Israel and to renounce violence and terror as negotiating tools.
For Israel, complying with this agreement has meant a great weakening of its national security. Yet Israel has done so. In contrast, the Palestinians have failed to comply with the provisions of the agreement. The PLO charter has not been revised; the Palestinian leaders have continued to threaten war if their wishes are not granted; terrorist acts against Israel have continued; Arafat has formed as many as seven different secret police forces in the West Bank and Gaza. Arafat also increased the size of the original open "police" force granted under the accords to 40,000, and turned it into an army that wears fatigues, carries machine guns, travels in armored personnel carriers and engages in acts of war against Israel when Israel undertakes actions of which Arafat disapproves.
The most blatant of these violent episodes was the mini-war last September in Jerusalem. Shortly before his "police force" opened fire on Israelis, Arafat incited them with these words: "Our blood is cheap compared with the cause which has brought us together and which at moments separates us, but shortly we will meet again in heaven ... Palestine is our land and Jerusalem is our capital."
Actually, Jerusalem is presently the capital of Israel. The pretext for Arafat's violence was the opening of a new exit to an archaeological tunnel whose creation Arafat claimed was a "crime against [Islamic] religious and holy places." In fact, the tunnel was nowhere near such places. As if the direct provocation of violence were insufficient to telegraph the standing Palestinian threat of renewed warfare, numerous top officials of the Palestinian Authority, including Arafat himself, uttered inflammatory statements. "The Palestinian Authority does not exclude the return to the armed struggle, and it will then use its weapons," said Muhammad Dahlan, the Palestinian Authority's top security official for Gaza.
With the authority vested in him by the Oslo Accords, Arafat has now
established a police state on the West Bank and in Gaza, crushing all opposition and enforcing gangster rule. There is, according to one important critic, "a total absence of law or the rule of law in the Palestinian autonomy areas." These are, in fact, the words of Edward Said, once a member of the PLO's National Council and the most prominent apologist for Arafat and PLO terrorism in the West. Said is now an "unperson" in liberated Palestine, his works confiscated and banned. Said is an outlaw because he committed the high crime of criticizing Arafat. Formerly, Said -- who has opposed the Oslo Accords from the beginning as a sellout -- lauded the liberator of Palestine, but now he refers to him as "our Papa Doc," in reference to Francois Duvalier, the former butcher of Haiti. It is not a stretch to call Arafat a sadistic dictator. Under his iron-fisted rule citizens who sell land to Jews are executed by law and summarily shot in the streets without the benefit of a hearing or trial by the "security forces" of the Palestinian Authority.
If Palestinians themselves -- not to mention prominent figures like Said, who has a long record of commitment to the Palestinian cause -- are treated like vermin by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, what justice can Jews who disagree with the Palestinian rulers and their agendas expect? There is no need to wonder. Arafat has already told them. At a refugee camp in the West Bank last October, the Palestinian leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner said:
"We know only one word: jihad [holy war], jihad, jihad. When we stopped the intifada, we did not stop the jihad for the establishment of a Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem. He who doesn't like it -- let him drink some water from the Dead Sea."
Arafat, the signer of the Oslo peace accords and many ancillary
agreements that pledged him to "renounce the use of terrorism and other acts of violence," to "abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda" against Israel and to "take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime, and hostilities," is a shameless liar and a ruthless tyrant, surrounded by the thugs of the Palestinian Authority. Nonetheless, the Israelis continue to honor the peace process because the alternative, a return to open war with the PLO -- now strengthened by an
army of 40,000 "policemen" -- and perhaps with Iran, Syria and Iraq as well, is even less attractive.