Oslo and the Lack of Peace
Weeks ago, on September 28, it was the 25th anniversary of the Taba signing of the Oslo II Accord — and no one celebrated. Hardly anyone even seemed to notice. Recently, a former high level staffer for Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin penned an article where he claimed, “Oslo was derailed”; he otherwise supported the longtime claims of Israel’s harshest critics in the Arab world and beyond. His idea that Israeli families living in communities in Judea-Samaria are the true obstacle to peace is untrue. This academic and many like him strive to recall the Oslo agreements as something they never were, and still want to assign responsibility for the lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to Jews in Judea and Samaria instead of supporters of terrorism in Gaza and the PA itself.
Professor Meron Medzini, who taught modern Japanese history for over 20 years at Hebrew University, made several mistakes in his book review article for the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. The journal is published by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations (ICFR), and Medzini’s piece appeared in issue 14:1. The ICFR is an official part of the World Jewish Congress.
Dr. Medzini claims that “Oslo was derailed because of continued Jewish settlement in the West Bank; heightened Palestinian terror; and the decision of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to effectively freeze the entire process after he gave up Hebron.”
But Medzini is mistaken on all three counts.
First, the Oslo Accords did not prohibit Jewish construction in Israeli-controlled parts of Judea-Samaria; so even if Israel had continued to build Jewish communities there, it would not have violated the agreements. However, when Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister, in 1992, he initiated a policy of refraining from constructing new communities in these areas, and all of his successors continued that policy. The only construction there has all been within existing communities — again, something not prohibited at all by Oslo.
Second, the issue was not “heightened Palestinian terror,” but rather the fact that Israel’s supposed peace partners, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, were carrying out terrorist attacks. The notion that terrorism was only the work of Hamas or Islamic Jihad crumbled in the face of the revelations that so many of the suicide bombers, shooters, and perpetrators of knife attacks were sent by Arafat and his cronies. No wonder Israelis’ faith in Oslo was shaken.
Third, Netanyahu did not freeze the process. On the contrary, he repeatedly made concessions to the Palestinian Authority in the hope of restarting the process — including releasing imprisoned Palestinian Arab terrorists, refraining from demanding that the PA extradite terrorists to Israel for prosecution (an Oslo obligation), continuing to supply electricity to the PA even though it refused to pay its bills, and freezing all Jewish construction in Judea-Samaria for 10 months. The PA never responded to any of Israel’s numerous concessions. It is the PA, not Israel, which deserves blame for the absence of peace.
Where are all of these mistakes coming from? It would seem that Dr. Medzini is blinded by his desire to see a Palestinian state formed as soon as possible. Dr. Medzini earlier in his review of the 2019 book Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny by Dennis Ross and David Makovsky mournfully writes that “when Donald Trump unveiled his so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ … for all intents and purposes that plan eliminated the two-state idea.”
However, there is no reason to believe that a “two-state idea” would be any solution at all. After all, the creation of a de facto Islamic Republic in Gaza not only hasn’t brought peace to the region, it has dramatically increased the footprint of Iran-backed Islamic terrorism in the area. This was most recently demonstrated by The Washington Post‘s October 25th headline “At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai.”
Jews should be free to live anywhere in the land of Israel. This is not a right-wing position, but rather a sacred Zionist principle that has been at the center of the Zionist movement since its inception. The “two-state idea” that Dr. Medzini, Dennis Ross, and David Makovsky all advocate involves the forced relocation of Jewish families from their homes, neighborhoods, and towns, just as Jews were removed from Gaza by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza.
What’s behind the reason to fear that such Jewish families and their communities would obstruct peace? If the Palestinian Arabs genuinely want peace, they should have no objection to Jewish neighbors, just as Israeli citizens who are Jewish live side by side with nearly two million Arab citizens of Israel.
Moshe Phillips is national director of Herut North America’s US division. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and is dedicated to the ideals of pre-World War II Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Herut’s website is www.herutna.org.