President Clinton Preached Peace to Wrong Crowd in Tel Aviv
On October 31, President Bill Clinton stood before an estimated crowd of 100,000 in Tel Aviv to mark the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the hands of an Israeli ultra-nationalist. Clinton was once again urging Israelis to take risks and make sacrifices for peace.
Unlike President Barack Obama, President Clinton’s support for Israel has never been in doubt. But Clinton has fallen into the traditional trap of envisioning the road to peace as a one-lane highway traveled by Israel alone, while the Palestinians sit on the shoulder creating an inter-generational culture of incitement and terror.
Clinton presided over the signing by Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of the 1993 Oslo Accords, an agreement that was to create the foundations for a just and lasting peace between the two sides. More important, no one did more than Clinton to help implement the accords. The hopes for Oslo, however, have evaporated over the years, and some would say predictably so.
Having fled Lebanon for Tunisia, Arafat used his base there to launch terror attacks on Israelis, eventually sustaining several retaliatory Israeli strikes on his headquarters. Safely ensconced thousands of miles from the front lines of the conflict, Arafat found himself becoming irrelevant.
In 1988, Arafat changed tactics, went to the UN and played the peace card. This led to a series of secret negotiations that culminated in the Oslo Accords and resulted in Arafat’s return to the West Bank from Tunisia, from which he had conducted terror attacks not only against Israelis but also against Americans.
Months after signing the Oslo Accords, Arafat stood before a Muslim audience in South Africa and denounced the accords as no different from the agreement Mohammad, the prophet of Islam, made with the Quraish tribe, an agreement that was made to be broken.
Arafat back-peddled his statements, but subsequent events would underscore that it was the most honest presentation Arafat made about the Oslo Accords. At Camp David in 2000, Clinton worked tirelessly to bring Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Arafat to reach an agreement that would further advance the template set out in the Oslo Accords. Barak went far beyond his mandate, offering Arafat over 95 percent of what he had put on the negotiating table.
To the amazement of President Clinton and some of the other parties present, Arafat followed the time-honored Arab tradition and said, no. A year later, Barak repeated the offer and Arafat again said, no. In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an even better offer to Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, eliciting the same result, no.
In every single instance, going as far back as the British Mandate of Palestine, whenever the Arabs were offered a state that shared a boundary with a Jewish state, they have had one response, no.
This article was originally published by the Observer.