Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israel Responsible for Death of Peace
Process with Palestinians Because of Continuous Breaking of Agreements
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 21, 2014
An Oslo Criminal
THE DEATH of Ron
Pundak, one of the original Israeli architects of the 1993 Oslo agreement,
brought that historic event back into the public eye.
reminded us that the Rightist rabble-rousers, in their furious onslaught
on the agreement, called the initiators “Oslo criminals” – a conscious
echo of one of Adolf Hitler’s main slogans on his way to power. Nazi
propaganda applied the term “November criminals” to the German statesmen
who signed the 1918 armistice agreement that put an end to World War I –
by the way, at the request of the army General Staff who had lost the war.
In his book, Mein Kampf (which is about to lose its copyright, so
that anyone can print it again) Hitler also revealed another insight: that
a lie will be believed if it is big enough, and if it is repeated often
That, too, applies to the Oslo agreement. For more than
20 years now the Israel right-wing has relentlessly repeated the lie that
the Oslo agreement was not only an act of treason, but also a total
Oslo is dead, we are told. It actually died at birth.
And by extension, this will be the lot of every peace agreement in the
future. A large part of the Israeli public has come to believe this.
THE MAIN achievement of the Oslo agreement, an act of history-changing
dimensions, bears the date of September 13, 1993 – which happened to be
(three days after) my 70th birthday.
On that day, the Chairman of
the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Prime Minister of the
State of Israel exchanged letters of mutual recognition. Yasser Arafat
recognized Israel, Yitzhak Rabin recognized the PLO as the representative
of the Palestinian people.
Today’s younger generation (on both
sides) cannot realize the huge significance of these twin acts.
From its inception almost a hundred years earlier, the Zionist movement
had denied the very existence of a Palestinian people. I myself have spent
many hundreds of hours of my life in trying to convince Israeli audiences
that a Palestinian nation really exists. Golda Meir famously declared:
“There is no such thing as a Palestinian people.” I am rather proud of my
reply to her, in a Knesset debate: “Mrs. Prime Minister, perhaps you are
right. Perhaps a Palestinian people really does not exist. But if millions
of people mistakenly believe that they are a people and act like a people,
they are a people!”
The Zionist denial was not an arbitrary quirk.
The basic Zionist aim was to take hold of
Palestine, all of it. This necessitated the displacement of the
inhabitants of the country. But Zionism was an idealistic movement.
Many of its East European activists were deeply imbued with the ideas of
Lev Tolstoy and other utopian moralists. They
could not face the fact that their utopia could only be realized on the
ruins of another people. Therefore the denial was an absolute moral
Recognizing the existence of the Palestinian
people was, therefore, a revolutionary act.
ON THE other side,
recognition was even harder.
From the first day of the conflict,
practically all Palestinians, and indeed almost
all Arabs, looked upon the Zionists as an invading tribe that was out to
rob them of their homeland, drive them out and build a robber-state on
their ruins. The aim of the Palestinian national movement was
therefore to demolish the Zionist state and throw the Jews into the sea,
as their forefathers had thrown the last of the Crusaders quite literally
from the quay of Acre.
And here came their revered leader, Yasser
Arafat, and recognized the legality of Israel, reversing the ideology of a
hundred years of struggle, in which the Palestinian people had lost most
of their country and most of their homesteads.
In the Oslo
agreement, signed three days later on the White House lawn, Arafat did
something else, which has been completely ignored in Israel: he gave up
78% of historical Palestine. The man who actually signed the agreement was
Mahmoud Abbas. I wonder if his hand shook when he signed this momentous
concession, minutes before Rabin and Arafat shook hands.
not die. In spite of the glaring faults of the agreement (“the best
possible agreement in the worst possible situation,” as Arafat put it), it
changed the nature of the conflict, though it did not change the conflict
itself. The Palestinian Authority, the basic structure of the Palestinian
State-in-the-Making, is a reality. Palestine is recognized by most
countries and, at least partly, by the UN. The Two-State Solution, once
the idea of a crazy fringe group, is today a world consensus. A quiet but
real cooperation between Israel and Palestine is going on in many fields.
But, of course, all this is far from the reality of peace which many
of us, including Ron Pundak, envisioned on that happily optimistic day,
September 13, 1993. Just over twenty years later, the flames of conflict
are blazing, and most people don’t dare to even utter the word “peace”, as
if it were a pornographic abomination.
WHAT WENT wrong? Many
Palestinians believe that Arafat’s historic concessions were premature,
that he should not have made them before Israel had recognized the State
of Palestine as the final aim.
Rabin changed his whole world-view
at the age of 71 and took a historic decision, but he was not the man to
follow through. He hesitated, wavered, and famously declared “there are no
This slogan became the umbrella for breaking our
obligations. The final agreement should have
been signed in 1999. Long before that, four “safe passages” should have
been opened between the West Bank and Gaza. By violating this obligation,
Israel laid the foundation for the break-away of Gaza.
Israel also violated the obligation to implement
the “third stage” of the withdrawal from the West Bank. “Area C” has now
become practically a part of Israel, waiting for official annexation,
which is demanded by right-wing parties.
There was no
obligation under Oslo to release prisoners. But wisdom dictated it.
The return of ten thousand prisoners home would
have electrified the atmosphere. Instead, successive Israeli governments,
both left and right, built settlements on Arab land at a frantic pace and
took more prisoners.
violations of the agreement and the dysfunctionality of the entire process
encouraged the extremists on both sides. The Israeli extremists
assassinated Rabin, and the Palestinian extremists started a campaign of
LAST WEEK I already commented on our
government's habit of abstaining from fulfilling signed obligations,
whenever it thought that the national interest demanded it.
soldier in the 1948 war, I took part in the great offensive to open the
way to the Negev, which had been cut off by the Egyptian army. This was
done in violation of the cease-fire arranged by the UN. We used a simple
ruse for putting the blame on the enemy.
The same technique was
later used by Ariel Sharon to break the
armistice on the Syrian front and provoke incidents there, in order
to annex the so-called “demilitarized zones”. Still later, the memory of
these incidents was used to annex the Golan Heights.
The start of Lebanon War I was a direct
violation of the cease-fire arranged a year earlier by American diplomats.
The pretext was flimsy as usual: an anti-PLO terrorist outfit had
tried to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London. When Prime Minister
Menachem Begin was told by his Mossad chief that the assassins were
enemies of the PLO, Begin famously answered: “For me, they are all PLO!”
As a matter of fact, Arafat had kept the cease-fire meticulously.
Since he wanted to avoid an Israeli invasion, he had imposed his authority
even on the opposition elements. For 11 months, not a single bullet was
fired on that border. Yet when I spoke a few days ago with a former senior
security official, he assured me seriously that “they shot at us every
day. It was intolerable.”
After six days of war, a cease-fire was
agreed. However, at that time our troops had not yet succeeded in
surrounding Beirut. So Sharon broke the
cease-fire to cut the vital Beirut-Damascus highway.
The present crisis in the “peace process” was
caused by the Israeli government’s breaking its agreement to release
Palestinian prisoners on a certain day. This violation was so
blatant that it could not be hidden or explained away. It caused the
famous “poof” of John Kerry.
In fact, Binyamin Netanyahu just did
not dare to fulfill his obligation after he and his acolytes in the media
had for weeks incited the public against the release of “murderers” with
“blood on their hands”. Even on the so-called “center-left”, voices were
Now another mendacious narrative is taking shape before our
eyes. The large majority in Israel is already totally convinced that the
Palestinians had brought about the crisis by joining 15 international
conventions. After this flagrant violation of the agreement, the Israeli
government was right in its refusal to release the prisoners. The media
have repeated this falsification of the course of events so often, that it
has by now acquired the status of fact.
BACK TO the Oslo
Criminals. I did not belong to them, though I visited Arafat in Tunis
while the talks in Oslo were going on (unbeknownst to me), and talked with
him about the whole range of possible compromises.
May Ron Pundak
rest in peace – even though the peace he was working for still seems far
But it will come.