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Washing Away the Blood of the Oslo Accords

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A man pays his respects to Shimon Peres at his grave, September 30, 2016.
A man pays his respects to Shimon Peres at his grave, September 30, 2016.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem

Shimon Peres’ death meant that Israel was faced with a dissonant situation. Most Jews in Israel, who are right-wing, believe that in the best case, the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians were a traumatic diplomatic mistake, and in the worst, they were a crime, a betrayal of the people and of God. But when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin eulogized Peres, they didn’t mention that he was responsible for the crimes of Oslo.

The Jews of Israel see that Peres enjoyed unprecedented stature around the world for an Israeli politician. They watched Barack Obama and Bill Clinton come to his funeral. They hadn’t seen such an illustrious high-level group of world leaders at the Mount Herzl cemetery since Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated. After Rabin was killed, however, they didn’t elect Peres to pursue his path. They elected Netanyahu, the one who incited against Rabin from Zion Square in Jerusalem.

The honor and glory heaped upon Peres around the world is the result of Oslo, that loathsome stain that no aspiring Israeli politician would dare identify with. Obama and the other world leaders actually came to mourn Peres’ passing because of the crimes of Oslo, not because he established an Israeli nuclear reactor or because of some harebrained vision that he had about nanotechnology. Peres meant Oslo, and in Israel, Oslo was a sin. The contradiction is unbearable, so what can be done about it?

Oslo cannot be whitewashed. Whitewashing Oslo would mean recognizing the Palestinians’ right to a state. It would mean actively and resolutely seeking a two-state solution to the conflict. It would means evacuating settlements, dividing Jerusalem, surrendering to terrorism. Whitewashing Oslo is out of the question. There is only one other way to resolve the contradiction and that is to whitewash Peres himself, and Peres took care of that while he was president and beyond.

The whitewashing of Peres involves a rewriting of sorts of history — not something that the Israeli propaganda machine is incapable of achieving. If Oslo is a crime, that would mean that Peres is a criminal. That’s not good. Then Oslo is not a crime. If Oslo was a mistake, then Peres, who was foreign minister at the time, was responsible for the biggest mistake in the annals of Israeli diplomacy. That’s not good. After all, Netanyahu proclaimed Peres “one of the greatest of our leaders,” and great leaders don’t make critical mistakes.

Therefore Oslo will be remolded into a heroic act of faith in peace, of reaching out to our neighbors, in the same spirit as Israel’s declaration of independence, of optimism and hope. Peres’ burial also means that peace has been buried. At Peres’ funeral, the leaders of the world joined us in eulogizing the prospect for peace with the Palestinians. Let’s say we tried. Peres tried, God bless him. With Oslo, Peres proved that it’s impossible to make peace with the Palestinians, and for that, he deserves our thanks. Peres really did deserve his Nobel Prize.

That suits Netanyahu just fine. Let’s mourn both Peres and peace. Netanyahu can now be presented as Peres’ successor, who has never ceased wanting peace but who understands it’s impossible. We tried. Oslo wasn’t a mistake. It was an experiment. Lady Macbeth didn’t manage to get the blood off her hands, but it is possible to cleanse Peres’ body of the blood spilled at the hands of the terrorism spawned by Oslo. The Oslo experiment has ensured Israel’s eternal rule over the territories.

What will Peres’ legacy be? The territories. He established the settlements, and through Oslo, he ensured that they will never be evacuated. Rabin, who was murdered, and who will be forgotten, has been stuck with the legacy of treason, with an empty public square on the anniversary of his murder, pictured in an SS uniform. Rabin's memorial will only be of interest to foreign tourists.

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