Once Reviled, the Oslo Accords Are Now the Settlers' Best Asset

Settlers invoke a deal signed by Israel's left-leaning Rabin government to block Palestinian development plans.

The Oslo Accords, so deplored among rightist circles, have become an ironclad settler asset concerning the Palestinian town of Rawabi, now being built northwest of Ramallah. While battling the temporary building moratorium in the Jewish settlements, the settlers opened a front against paving the approach road to the town not more than nine kilometers from the Palestinian capital. They "discovered" its route slips into Area C on the outskirts of the settlement of Ateret. There's no way they are going to allow the government to keep this road. These territories (60 percent of the West Bank ) are under Israel's military and civilian control! How is it possible to violate the law of the Oslo criminals?

Amos Biderman
Amos Biderman

This is how they work: At the end of August, the neighboring Jewish settlements invited Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon to observe the Rawabi building site. The Srugim Internet site reported the minister examined a map showing that the road to Rawabi - woe betide us! - will connect Ramallah to Bir Zeit to Rawabi to Nablus and create significant territorial contiguity for the Palestinians. The communications minister promised to expose the plot at the next meeting of Likud ministers.

At the Likud ministers' forum, most of the participants criticized the prime minister's reported intention to transfer to the Palestinian Authority 500 dunams for paving the road. For the sake of comparison: "State lands" Israel allocates only to the Jewish settlers amount to about a million dunams. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the opportunity to complain "they are building a whole city with our encouragement and are quarreling with us over every home in Judea and Samaria."

Several days ago, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai reassured people on both sides of the Green Line that this one's just ours, that one, too. In reply to a parliamentary question from National Union MK Uri Ariel on the disputed road, the man from the party that articulated Oslo said the government has adopted the position of the coordinator of activities in the territories and has rejected the Palestinians' request. In fact, it's not at all important. As Netanyahu said, the permanent status agreement will make Oslo history.

Image of the victim

Famously, the Arabs don't need excuses to kill Jews. As everyone knows, only self-hating Jews believe there's a connection between the Israeli side's behavior in the occupied territories and violent acts by the Palestinian side. Right?

Not according to a recent article in the important Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a journal that comes out in Washington. Contrary to the received version that "Israel only reacts" to Palestinian violence, the article scientifically shows that the cycle of violence spins in both directions. The three researchers - Prof. Nancy Kanwisher from the United States, Dr. Johannes Haushofer from Switzerland and Prof. Anat Biletzki from Israel - question previous articles claiming the Palestinian do not need provocations from the Israeli side, and that the terror attacks and rockets do not come in response to assassinations and attacks on Israel's part.

The article sums up a statistical analysis of the data on fatalities and Qassam launchings from 2000-2008, published by the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman and B'Tselem - The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Territories. The analysis was done using a method called vector autoregression, which enables isolation and analysis of how a single incidence of violence by one side influences the other.

Haushofer, an economist and neurobiologist at the University of Zurich, says the study shows that every time one side attacks the other, it can know with near certainty the other side will respond with violence. In this way, in effect, violence directly causes more Palestinian casualties or another rocket attack on Israel.

For example, according to the article's model, when Israel kills five Palestinians, the chances an Israeli will be killed by Palestinians the following day increase by 50 percent. Haushofer explains that he and his colleagues conducted the inquiry to "clear out" the rhetoric, the stereotypes and the ideological claims and to focus the discussion on the facts and their scientific and sane analysis.

Kanwisher, who heads the "Kanwisher Lab" for brain research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, points to a cognitive bias on both sides, which do not see their own reactivity and responsibility for the conflict. "Thus, for example, even though the Israelis are the occupying side, they see themselves as victims of the other side," she says.

Without any direct connection to the article's research findings, Kanwisher says the Israelis do not understand their role in creating the violence of the other side. She suggests the policy makers in the United States direct their attention to the fact that acts like stealing Palestinian lands and violations of basic human rights are perpetuating the continuation of the conflict. And, in the nature of things, a conflict leads to one or another level of violence.

The third partner in the article, a Tel Aviv University professor of philosophy, Anat Biletzki, says the article knocks the scientific basis out from under the claim that the conflict is unilateral, and that the Palestinians attack Israel while Israel "only reacts."

"We are hoping the article will contribute facts and numbers to the public discussion of the conflict," says Biletzki, who for many years headed B'Tselem.

Biletzki contributes a political diagnosis of her own: "I don't need scientific research to determine that all the behavior of the Palestinians is a reaction to the Israeli occupation. For this, common sense is enough."