Confessions of an Oslo Criminal

Signing the Oslo Accords without committing ourselves to evacuating the settlements was a horrendous mistake, but things would have been a lot worse without them.

Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid
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Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid

The tears choking up the minister melted my heart, the same heart that is now going to reveal all its secrets. This is the confession of an Oslo criminal.

From one annual commemoration of the death of Oslo to another, Jewish time passes. Even 20 years after the ignominious agreement and eight years since the expulsion from Gush Katif – two memorial days in the one week leading up to Tisha Be’av, the millennia-old commemoration of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem – the wounds are still bleeding, and the displaced families are still homeless and without a secure livelihood. Knesset members demand an annual “day of mourning to mark the uprooting of Gush Katif” so everyone will know: no more evacuations from the Garden of Eden straight to hell.

For the Garden of Eden it truly was: Two-thirds of Gush Katif residents drew their salaries from the public trough; 350 farmers got rich using cheap Arab labor, with even local children picking produce from the fields and in the hothouses; soldiers accompanied settlers going to the grocery store in the nearby town; 10,000 or so Jews amidst 1.5 million Palestinians in an arid land. This is how you do Zionism these days. Forget what it stands for; instead, make sure the fences are firm.

But then, at the height of success and prosperity – lo and behold, the death warrant was issued. The mind that delivered was the mind that erased, and ironically it was the mind’s right hemisphere. But the damned left hemisphere is always the one in charge of brainwashing. This week, one opinionated settler bemoaned the humbling of the thieves-turned-victims. “The left has yet to ask for forgiveness,” she wrote. “It is still not admitting ‘we were wrong’… I demand the left gets down on its knees and apologize.”

OK, I’m getting down on my knees right now. Indeed, we were wrong; we are guilty. It was a horrendous mistake to sign the Oslo Accords without committing ourselves to evacuating the settlements. The continuing settlement in the occupied territories ensured the accords’ failure. That was true in the West Bank and certainly true in the Gaza Strip. We had an opportunity to open a new page in our relations with the Palestinians and we blew it. We continued to write our history on the same old page.

We were wrong. Only a false heart refuses an honest reckoning. An agreement based on gradual stages must not be adopted. The concept of gradualism – Areas A, B, C and all other arcana – is the source of all guilt, with nothing but regret to show for it at the end. It has been said that there is nothing more dangerous than trying to hurdle a chasm in two jumps; it takes a single, calculated, bold leap. Two steps or three beats are a sure way to break your neck. The chasm attracts all the negative forces, from either side, plotting to ensure failure. An agreement must be done with a clear national decision or not be done at all.

The same mistake is made over and over again and confession follows confession: we erred again and are unworthy of forgiveness; our support for Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan came with built-in buyer’s remorse. Leaving the Gaza Strip without dialogue and understanding with the elected Palestinian Authority –fleeing and forgetting –was a mad hatter’s scheme that paved the way for Hamas control. This was inevitable, given the all-too-little forethought.

The right isn’t exempt from its own errors. Zvi Handel, a Gush Katif leader, confessed one of them to me, saying, “We erred when we ignored your warnings about Arik’s sneaky duplicity. He declared that what was true for Netzarim was true for Tel Aviv, then changed his mind, turned against us and destroyed everything. In the same conversation, I sold him the slogan: The depth of the investigation will equal the depth of the uprooting."

The Oslo Accords and the loosening of the noose around our neck were imperatives, not an invention of the left. Imagine that, despite all the errors, we were still denying the Palestinian Arab people their very existence, national rights and leaders. Jeremiah famously prophesied, “From the north disaster will come.” Well, this week, either disaster or its opposite came from Europe. And that’s just the start. And imagine, if you will, that to this day civilians and soldiers were being killed in the Gaza Strip, and that Israelis were continuing to grow their lettuce there, irrigated with stolen water and blood.

President Clinton presiding over the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.Credit: AP

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