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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Two Haaretz op-eds that actually make sense

Moshe Arens used to be my favorite Israeli politician before he withdrew from politics (and before Natan Sharansky emerged from the Gulag.) His stuff is worth reading.
One mistake after another
By Moshe Arens

Author and columnist Hillel Halkin, who initially had not been critical of the Oslo accords, writes in the September issue of Commentary: "It has long been obvious to all but the incurably or willfully blind that the 1993 agreement signed in Oslo between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization was a horrendous blunder on Israel's part. Rarely in history has a country so foolishly opened its gates to a Trojan horse as Israel did when it welcomed Yasser Arafat and his PLO brigades, handed over to them most of the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank, and gave them the arms to impose their rule on the local inhabitants. How could such a mistake have been made by experienced political and military leaders?"

This probably expresses the view of most Israelis today - those who saw the Oslo accords as a major error right from the start, as well as those who supported them at the time they were signed.

After 45 years of war, belligerency and terror, and after the first intifada, one could perhaps excuse the impatience the Yitzhak Rabin government displayed with the ongoing and seemingly endless conflict - an impatience that led to caution being thrown to the wind, and the subsequent haste and disorderly process that led to the Oslo accords. The enthusiasm with which the agreement with Yasser Arafat was greeted throughout the world, together with the Nobel peace prize awarded to Rabin, Shimon Peres and Arafat, were seen by many as confirmation that the Israeli government under Rabin's leadership had finally taken a bold and courageous step toward the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It took Arafat's erratic behavior, his dictatorial and corrupt rule over the Palestinians under his control, and a quantum leap in the level of Palestinian terror directed against the population of Israel for most Israelis to begin to come to a more sober assessment of these ill-fated accords.

Seven years after the Oslo accords, then prime minister Ehud Barak announced he was going to put an end to the intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. This time, under the watchful eye of the president of the United States at Camp David, and by now presumably knowing full well with whom he was dealing, Barak made Arafat an offer he thought Arafat would not be able to refuse. Arafat was offered major concessions, which had never even been discussed in public, in return for an agreement that would "end the conflict once and for all."

When Arafat, nevertheless, turned down Barak's offer, the latter did not call it quits. With his government by now in tatters and having no mandate for the concessions he had offered, and with an election in the offing, Barak delegated his ministers to offer further concessions in a desperate attempt to reach an agreement before Israelis went to the polls. It didn't work - and not only did it fail, it turned out to be the prelude to Palestinian acts of terror against the Israeli population that set new heights in violence and brutality. It was a major blunder that, in history, will no doubt take its place alongside the Oslo accords. And again, one might ask the question: How could an experienced military leader like Barak commit such foolishness?

But, as is well known, Israelis do not give up easily. If we cannot reach an agreement with the Palestinians, we are just going to solve the problem ourselves - unilaterally. We are going to put some space between us and the Palestinians or, in other words, disengage - even if creating that space means pulling Israeli citizens out of their homes by force. It is almost incomprehensible that this ludicrous idea - that in this tiny country, in which Jews and Arabs live cheek by jowl, we can separate the peoples so as to avoid all contact - has been promoted by another experienced military man and politician, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and has seized the imagination of many Israelis.

The fortuitous demise of Arafat, the arrival of Mahmoud Abbas as elected leader of the Palestinians, has given another boost to this idea, now embellishing it with the anticipation that disengagement will not only get Jews and Palestinians out of each others' hair, but will actually lead to peace between Israel and a Palestinian state.

As happened after the Oslo adventure, and again at the time of Barak's egregious offers to Arafat at Camp David, Sharon's disengagement plan is being praised as a bold and courageous move in much of the world, and the Nobel peace price committee is probably already preparing next year's award. But if, as seems likely at the moment, the Palestinian mini-state in Gaza turns out to be a nest of terrorist activity against Israel, the Noble prize will have to be mothballed and Israel, sobered up for the nth time, will have to go back to meeting the challenge of handing the Palestinian terrorists a decisive defeat, in the realization that this is the necessary condition for progress toward peace in the area.
Hat tip to Israpundit.

In an amazing turn of events, Haaretz also publishes a second op-ed that doesn't suffer from liberal wishful thinking:

If you lie down with missiles
By Yoel Marcus

I wonder how many times we can go on quoting Abba Eban's immortal observation that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity without boring the reader. But what can you do? It still fits. The Palestinians haven't learned a damn thing. They have a morbid knack for making the biggest, most stupid mistakes whenever the door opens a crack and a chance comes their way to establish a state alongside Israel.

What prompted them, after the Oslo accords were signed with such pomp and circumstance, to send suicide bombers into the heart of Israeli cities? Why, the moment the Barak, Arafat and Clinton summit ended at Camp David, did they kick off the Al-Aqsa Intifada that left 4,000 people dead on both sides? What is the sense in holding a victory parade in Gaza and then firing a massive volley of Qassam rockets into territories that Israel left of its own will? What is the logic in choosing a critical time, when Sharon is fighting for his political life against rebels in his own party, to bombard Israel with 40 Qassams in one night? What do they want? An Israel led by Bibi and Uzi Landau?

For a moment, it seemed that Hamas was abiding by Abu Mazen's request to silence the guns while the disengagement was under way, when Sharon made it clear there would be no withdrawal under fire. But the instant the last Israeli soldier left Gaza, the Hamas chiefs couldn't wait to take credit for "chasing out" the Israel Defense Forces and knocking down the settlements. In a bid to grab the reins when the Palestinian Authority goes to the polls in January, they've been stirring up the crowds as only they know how - until the Qassam explosion that killed 19 Palestinians and wounded 200. Hamas couldn't sell the lie that Israel was behind the blast, even to al-Jazeera.

Forty Qassams launched in one night was bad news for Abu Mazen on the eve of his summit with Sharon. Condoleezza Rice raked him over the coals and demanded that he disarm Hamas. Establishing a democracy with armed militias is out of the question, he was told. An analogy would be Lehi and Etzel, Israel's pre-state militias, taking over the country by force after the establishment of the state. David Ben-Gurion, aware of this danger, not only took away the weapons of these militias, but disbanded the Palmach. Those who keep monsters at home shouldn't be surprised when their appetite grows with the eating.

The goal of the Hamas leadership is to rule the PA roost. Abu Mazen appears to be too weak to enforce the one government-one army rule. He knows very well that Mussa Arafat, bumped off by Hamas, lived 200 meters from his home in Gaza. Hamas derives its power from the Palestinian street. It would be a strategic error on its part to do anything to bring Israeli artillery, tanks and planes back into firing range, now that the IDF has left the Gaza Strip and the inhabitants have been given a chance to rebuild their lives, free of the shackles of occupation. Put it this way: He who goes to bed with Qassams should not be surprised if he wakes up with a boom.

Both Abu Mazen and his interior minister denounced Hamas. When its leaders tried to shift the blame on Israel, it was Abu Mazen who didn't let them get away with it: "Those who brought in combustible materials should have considered the possibility of a match being struck." Nice words, but not sufficient.

The president of the Palestinian Authority has enough army and police units, and all the international backing he needs, to deploy them in Gaza in a display of strength against Hamas. Hamas has not only been lambasted by the ministers of the European Union but defined by the Bush administration as a terror organization.

For Israel to make more painful concessions for the sake of an agreement, it will take more than the shameful goings-on at the convention of the Likud Central Committee, and more than last night's vote and its consequences. What is needed more than anything is a leader on the other side who is no less forceful than Sharon - a man who is prepared to fight against the extremists and the enemies of peace, and be more than a partner on paper.