good article by issy leibler

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    A Genuine Basis for Peace or a Recycle of the Oslo Debacle?

    By Isi Leibler

    19th May 2003

    This article is based on an address made to the WJC Executive in Jerusalem on May 19th 2003.


    Israel today stands at a crossroads. For the first time in many years there is light at the end of the tunnel. The defeat of the regime of Saddam Hussein provides a window of opportunity for achieving a real peace settlement. But there are also dangers.

    At the outset, let it be said that those who previously claimed that military responses would have no impact on terror have been proven resoundingly wrong. Despite the cluster of vicious suicide bombings coinciding with the Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting, Operation Defensive Shield not only substantially reduced the terror toll. It also brought many Palestinians to the realization that our chaotic exit from Lebanon was not simply a dress rehearsal for our disappearance from the region and that Arafat's resort to terrorism had been a prescription for self-induced misery and had brought them to the brink of disaster.

    But the situation is complex and it is crucial that we now face reality and bring an end to understating and sanitizing the virulence of the hatred that suffuses Palestinian society at all levels. That approach was a hallmark of Israeli foreign policy since Oslo, with everything negative being swept under the carpet by government spokesmen more eager to promote the virtues of Arafat as a peace partner than confront unpleasant realities.

    Today, after Arafat's rejection of Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer to cede 97 percent of the territories over the Green Line, it is indisputable that what we face is not a conflict between two people over an "occupation". It is an existential struggle with neighbours who time and again verified that their overriding objective is not to come to an accommodation but to destroy us, even if the process will be in stages over a long period.

    This is not paranoia. It is chapter and verse of the Palestinian war against the Jewish state.

    Indeed, it is now time for us to state clearly that we are confronting the worst evil since the Nazis.That is not to say that Palestinians are racially or genetically inferior to any other people. But like the Germans under Hitler, the Palestinian leaders have succeeded in indoctrinating and transforming their people into a society suffused by evil. That is not demonization. It is calling a spade a spade.

    For those who challenge this let me ask you:

    Is it not evil when a society extols as heroes those who target innocent civilians at gatherings such as a University cafeteria, a Pessah Seder, a bar mitzvah, or a discotheque?

    Is it not evil when a people bestow the highest level of merit on suicide bombers whose objective is to die killing the maximum number of Jews?

    Is it not evil when mothers endorse the monstrous custom of child sacrifice and display themselves on national television conveying pride that their children have become "martyrs" and expressing the hope that their younger offspring will follow in the same tradition and also die killing Israelis?

    Is it not evil when, until the end of the war in Iraq, the proud parents of "martyrs" were publicly rewarded for sacrificing their children by receiving $25,000 from Saddam Hussein and lauded for their contribution by Arafat himself?

    Is it not evil when children in kindergarten are taught songs and poems which extol the virtues of killing Jews? When four year-olds are taught at summer camps how to shoot Jews and indoctrinated into accepting as role models the "heroic martyrs" who died in order to kill the "wicked" Jews who "usurped" their land?

    When Palestinian television repeatedly promotes a children's song with the lyrics "How pleasant is the smell of a martyr, how pleasant the smell of the land, the land enriched by the blood, the blood pouring out of a fresh body"?

    Is it not evil when an entire religious establishment, through its mosques, calls on its faithful to hate Jews because they are Jews; to "have no mercy on the Jews wherever they are, in any country Fight them wherever they are. Whenever you meet them, kill them because they established Israel here, in the beating heart of the Arab world, in Palestine"?

    And if not evil incarnate, how can one explain or justify the joyous street celebrations that erupt as soon as there is news of Israeli women and children having been blown apart by one of the heroic "shahids"?

    So we must face the truth and insist that just as the Germans were eventually de-Nazified, so must the Palestinians be de-Arafatized and obliged to elect leaders able to enforce law and order and reverse the culture of hatred.

    Which brings me to the road map. Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz unequivocally stated that, if implemented as it now stands, it would be detrimental to Israel. Indeed, it would effectively amount to a recycling of the disastrous Oslo Accords.

    Prime Minister Abu Mazen, the Holocaust denier, is no exponent of peaceful coexistence. He differs with Arafat only on tactical, not moral grounds. He recognizes that the policy of terror was a strategic failure and is willing to revert to diplomacy. His new security minister, Muhammad Dahlan, the former commander of the Preventive Security Service, also has a long ugly track record of terror.

    And Yasser Arafat, the duplicitous mass murderer, as of now, obviously still occupies a controlling role in the "reformed" PA, and his loyalists continue to dominate the new cabinet. Indeed, the principal security organizations remain under Arafat's control despite the prime minister's alleged control of security.

    And let us set aside illusions and relate to the real world. The vision of democracy in the road map as of now is simply a mirage. If the Palestinians, the world's most vociferous supporters of Saddam Hussein, were polled today - they would continue to enthusiastically validate the suicide bombings, stating openly that their objective is to undermine Israeli civilian morale in order to bring about the unravelling of society and the Jewish state.

    More importantly, despite mumbles to the contrary, there are no indications that Abu Mazen is either willing or able to take the tough steps necessary to end the carnage. He has not even hinted at a willingness to meet Israel's minimum requirements and refuses to accept an end to the conflict.

    His call for an end to the killings is restricted only to Israel proper and he endorsed the right of Palestinians to use "all means" against settlers; his recent speeches endorse the "courage" and "honour" of the "uprising"; he reiterates his unyielding commitment to the Palestinian "right of return" to Israel; he declines to respond to the critical issue of anti-Jewish incitement in the schools, mosques and media. Indeed he went so far as to offer Hamas (who declined) the education portfolio in his cabinet - surely no indicator of a resolve to bring about an end to Palestinian incitement against Jews, an indispensable prerequisite to a real peace.

    On the international level, the road map is also highly problematic. Israel could never accept as honest brokers the perfidious Europeans and the dysfunctional United Nations, dominated by tyrants and governments whose anti-Israeli bias in recent months has reached unprecedented heights.

    But that does not mean that there is no hope for peace. On the contrary. For the first time, a "new Middle East" has become a real possibility and could truly stabilise the region.

    The downfall of Saddam Hussein has dramatically reduced the conventional external threats facing us. The eastern front has crumbled; Iran and Syria are isolated; Egypt not our friend remains strategically committed against war; and Hezbollah is in the process of being defanged.

    The June 24, 2002 policy speech by President George W. Bush was an important historic turning point and reflects the current administration's responsiveness to Israel's needs more than any of its predecessors. And despite intense pressure from its British partner, the US is unlikely to blindly endorse anti-Israeli initiatives from the biased UN or the Europeans as manifested by the Quartet.

    More importantly, although divided on details, the vast majority of Israelis today share a broad consensus on not seeking to rule over Palestinians for a single day longer than security necessitates. But they are equally determined to resist making unilateral concessions which would reward terrorism. They are also conscious that the achievements of the IDF in dramatically reducing terrorism would be nullified, if in lieu of dismantling the terror infrastructure a ceasefire simply gives the destabilized terrorists time to regroup and prepare for a future round.

    And while only the extreme Left would support dismantling all settlements, most Israelis agree that in the event of a genuine Palestinian willingness to accept Jewish sovereignty and take steps to curtail terror, they would, to use Prime Minister Sharon's language, be obliged "to make painful sacrifices" including withdrawal from isolated settlements and acquiescing to Palestinian statehood.

    However that should not be interpreted to mean that Israelis would sanguinely agree to retreat to the 1967 boundaries, which Abba Eban described as "the Auschwitz borders."

    President Bush explicitly stated that the PA must dismantle the terror infrastructure before the US would back the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Colin Powell reiterated this on numerous occasions.

    The government of Israel will speak with one voice, insisting that there can be no compromise in relation to Israel's long-term security requirements. Yet at the same time they have signalled their willingness to be flexible in response to a genuine Palestinian change of heart, if and when it ever emerges.

    President Bush recently referred to Abu Mazen as "a man dedicated to peace." Would that he be proven right, but the initial signals are not promising. Most Israelis would be delighted if he were to follow the example of Anwar Sadat, also once a Holocaust revisionist, who overcame his past and become a great statesman.

    However neither prior behaviour nor good intentions will have any bearing on judging the success of the new Palestinian leadership. That will be determined by deeds: a willingness and ability to rein in terror and outlaw the terrorist organisations, end the incitement, give up on the "right" of return and become reconciled to Jewish sovereignty, accept enforceable demilitarization, and bring an end to the conflict.

    Should the Palestinians again in Eban`s words once more “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, Prime Minister Sharon will be obliged to maintain a determined opposition to Palestinian statehood, irrespective of the road map. Should that happen, Arab intractability will clearly be exposed to the world and the Israel Defence Forces will be justified in taking whatever long-term steps are necessary to protect the future of our children.

    The writer is senior vice president of the World Jewish Congress
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