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Israel’s Security After The Oslo Agreement (First of Two Parts)


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The following is the original text of an important lecture delivered by Professor Louis Rene Beres to the Dayan Forum, Israel, on March 11, 1994 (Ambassador Zalman Shoval, presiding). It remains entirely relevant today, especially with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s: (1) recent release of Palestinian terrorists as a “goodwill gesture;” (2) the Prime Minister’s equally incomprehensible support of one murderous terrorist faction (Fatah) against another (Hamas); and his corollary commitment to the altogether twisted cartography of a markedly one-sided “Road Map.”

Sharing the Dayan Forum podium with Professor Beres on that March day in 1994 was Major General Avihu Ben-Nun, then Israel Air Force Commander.

March 11, 1994

Formal Remarks Delivered by Professor Louis Rene Beres/Tel-Aviv

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Oslo agreement has made a bad situation for Israel even worse. Should it prove “successful,” resultant Palestinian autonomy will slowly transform itself into a Palestinian state, a condition that would be intolerable for all the already well-known reasons. Should it “fail,” Arab bitterness – paralleled to some extent by unhappiness and frustration on the Israeli Left -will accelerate the intifadah and enlarge cyclical acts of violence. This, too, will undermine Israeli security, with steadily expanding and barbarous acts of terror against Israeli women and children, again for all the well-known reasons.

Clearly, it would have been better (in Voltaire’s satirical “best of all possible worlds”) for the Oslo agreement never to have happened. It is a terrible agreement, one that will occasion terrible casualties for Israelis. But what is done is done, and (although I plan to argue differently in the coming months) cannot be undone.

Where, therefore, should Israel go from here? This is all that we can ask today.

To answer this overriding question, Israel must first decide, by itself, how seriously it wishes to endure, as a state. This may seem an almost silly bit of advice, gratuitous and perfectly obvious. After all, every Israeli seeks preservation of the Third Commonwealth. But it is time for Israelis to be reminded that states are not necessarily forever and that the Jewish State is always especially fragile.

Building Israel’s peace prospects upon erroneous assumptions of enemy reasonableness and rationality would be a misfortune. From the Arab and Iranian perspective generally, Israel is an enemy state because it is a Jewish state- period! The only step Israel could now take to reduce enemy belligerence in the face of growing Islamicization (“Palestine” and Iran in particular) would be to disappear. Right now, after Oslo, the government of Israel is, in fact, cooperating in such a suicidal step.

Significantly, the Arab and Iranian worlds have been strikingly honest in identifying their goals. They have made it clear again and again that their overall war with Israel is a war with “The Jews,” and that it is a war that will continue until all of “Palestine” is “returned.”

A good portion of the Jewish world, however, in Israel and in the Diaspora, refuses to act upon these strikingly honest expressions of belligerent intent. Instead, learning nothing from 2,000 years of a murderous history, they create their own reality – a nicely balanced, finely-tuned reality of diplomatic bargaining, negotiation and incremental settlements – and assume that Syria, Iran, the Palestinians, etc., will be grateful.

The result, of course, is predictable. Israel’s enemies call for more and more. Israel, the individual Jew in macrocosm, asks for less and less. Taken together, these calls portend a shrinking and enfeebled Israel in an expanding Islamic sea. It is not a pretty picture.

Right now, Israel reminds me very much of Gottlieb Biedermann, the cautious Swiss businessman in the brilliant play by Max Frisch, “The Firebugs.” Biedermann contends with a neighborhood epidemic of arson by implementing a series of self-deceptions. Ultimately, Biedermann invites the arsonists into his home, lodges them, feeds them a sumptuous dinner and even provides them with matches. Not surprisingly, the play ends for the protagonist (read Israel, in this parable) on an incendiary note. It also ends, predictably, with a pathetic and revolting disclaimer from an academic observer who has counseled capitulation all along. Removing a paper from his pocket, as the sky reddens from fire, the all-too-familiar “professor” disassociates himself from the calamity. He is, he exclaims, “not responsible.”

In his letters, the Roman statesman Cicero set the foundations for realist thinking in world affairs. Inquired Cicero: “For what can be done against force without force?” It is time for Israel to ask itself this same question. At one time, it already knew the answer. Today I am not so sure.

International law is not a suicide pact. Israel, in the fashion of every state in world politics, has a right to endure. With respect to Judea/Samaria/Gaza, Israel has eroded this right by itself. The ongoing territorial surrender of the “peace process” was preceded by linguistic surrender. By accepting, incrementally, the use of the term “occupied,” a term that is challenged almost nowhere in the world – it was inevitable that events would come to where they are today – in March 1994.

In this country (Israel), an academic journal – a distinguished law review – recently refused to publish an article of mine dealing with Israel’s rights under international law because I did not accept that the disputed territories were “occupied.” The irony gets worse. The article was subsequently accepted by a distinguished American law review sponsored by the Jesuits. A “no” from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to a manuscript supporting Israel; a “yes” from the Catholic University of Notre Dame.

(To be continued)

Copyright The Jewish Press©, August 10, 2007. All rights reserved

Louis Rene Beres was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli and Middle Eastern security issues. His work is well known to Israel’s senior military and intelligence communities. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

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About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


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