Opinion

Failure’s Silver Anniversary

The chance to find a local Palestinian leadership for negotiations was lost with Israel's recognition of the PLO at Oslo

FILE Photo: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, joins a reading of the Koran prior to a meeting of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee in Ramallah, August 22, 2015.
Majdi Mohammed/Reuters

Those seeking to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians living under Israeli control after the Six-Day War did not have to travel to Oslo. They could have found Palestinians closer to home – in Ramallah, Hebron or Gaza. The mistake of those looking for a negotiating partner for the establishment of an autonomy regime in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip was seeking out the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

The recent decision by President Donald Trump to cut U.S. funding for UNRWA, the UN agency providing assistance to Palestinian refugees, has highlighted the unprecedented attempt to turn all descendants of the original Palestinian refugees into refugees too. In other words, to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem and turn it into a weapon against Israel’s very existence. The PLO has for years been the leading exponent of this public relations manipulation, and has been successful at selling it throughout the world. It has also been successful in claiming that it and it alone is the only legitimate representative of the “Palestinian people.” But for that claim to have meaning, Israel’s acceptance was needed.

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For years successive Israeli governments refused to recognize this claim. It meant negotiating with a terrorist organization that had been responsible for the most heinous terrorist outrages, but also meant tacit approval of the legitimacy of the “right of return.” What’s more, it meant implanting this gang of terrorists as the leadership of the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

In the preparations for the Madrid Conference in October 1991, Yitzhak Shamir resisted American pressure to find a place for the PLO at the conference table, agreeing to the presence of a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation that would not include PLO representatives.In June 1992 Yitzhak Rabin defeated Shamir in the elections and on July 13 of that year Shimon Peres became foreign minister. It was assumed by many that the new government would continue the policy of not negotiating with the PLO. It was not to be. Unknown to Rabin at the time, a delegation set off for Oslo and that is how the Oslo process began. Rabin was in due time convinced to lend his support, and on September 13, 1993 – 25 years ago Thursday – the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO was signed on the White House lawn in the presence of President Bill Clinton, and Rabin unwillingly shook the hand of Yasser Arafat.

The following years have been years of Palestinian terrorism and bloodshed. Over a thousand Israeli were killed and many more wounded. When 30 Israeli civilians were killed in a suicide attack on the eve of Passover, March 22, 2002, at the Park Hotel in Netanya, the Oslo process ended. The bloodshed continued.

It has been argued that there would have been Palestinian terrorism and Israeli victims even without the Oslo Accords. It is hard to believe that Palestinian terrorism would have reached such a level had it not been for the leadership provided by the PLO terrorist leadership embedded in the area by the Oslo agreements.

But, most importantly, the opportunity of seeking out a local Palestinian leadership for negotiations was lost and Israel’s tacit recognition was given to the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugees and their “right of return.”

Parliamentary support for the accords was squeezed through the Knesset by various political manipulations, and even that support eventually disappeared. It was further proof, if proof was needed, that major decisions need the support of a substantial majority. Making peace by hook or by crook does not work.