September 13, 2001 marks the 8th anniversary of the greatest swindle ever perpetrated on the Jewish people. That is the date President Clinton announced the Oslo agreement on the White House lawn to the fawning applause of countless heads of Jewish organizations. And it is poetic coincidence that the expected meeting between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Yassir Arafat is to take place at this time. Even more so than the late Prime Minister Rabin, Peres is identified with the failed Oslo “peace process.” This is not only because he emerged as its chief proponent and intellectual patron ? he said it reflected the millennial economic driven intersection of Israeli and Arab interests. It was also because he led the worldwide suppression of any dissent and the demonization of anyone who sought to point out that the Emperor really had no clothes.
In retrospect, after the collapse of Oslo and the realization by most of those who had far too long been blinded by their desire for reconciliation, that Arafat and company never really accepted the existence of the State of Israel, it seems inexplicable that Oslo could have held sway for as long as it did. Yet, for years, the Peresian crowd characterized as warmongers those of us who saw Arafat's refusal to keep the promises made to Israel, not as isolated violations, but as part of a cynical game plan. Members of The Jewish Press family were advised that they would not be welcome in Israel, and distribution of the Israeli edition of The Jewish Press was disrupted. The Arutz Sheva radio station was closed down. Preventive detention of dissidents became an everyday occurrence in Israel, as were midnight raids of their headquarters. A top government minister, Chaim Ramon, declared open warfare: “We will crush you,” he told a group of protesters. Efforts were made to decertify the membership of the National Council of Young Israel and the Zionist Organization of America in the Presidents Conference.
But politics is a strange business and once again ? despite his tragic frolic, Shimon Peres has moved once again to center stage, this time to try and secure a cease fire between Israel and the Palestinians. But whereas before he was in a position to muzzle the marketplace of ideas, his own Prime Minister is on record as being skeptical about his mission. So he should not be able to bulldoze his way again.
Hopefully, Mr. Peres will not dangerously complicate things by going beyond his mandate. Even now he seems itching to go beyond discussing a one-dimensional cessation of fighting to tying it to the broader question of implementing the Mitchell proposals.
Prime Minister Sharon, with the full backing of President Bush, has said that Israel simply will not negotiate while Palestinian terrorism is being directed at its people. Israel will not allow terrorism to create leverage to be used against it. To do so, Mr. Sharon has said, would work to encourage similar tactics in the future.
We would also add a more philosophical dimension. The premise of Oslo was one that must underlie any effort to negotiate with the Palestinians. This is a commitment to resolve differences around the conference table and not through force of arms. Even by their own admission, the intifada is the violent expression of Palestinian dissatisfaction with what Israel offered at Camp David. Unless and until the Palestinians show themselves to be serious about negotiations ? and a cease-fire without strings attached would be a good beginning ? there is really nothing at all to talk about.