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The most fundamental question for this new Post-Oslo era is this: How could Israel have allowed itself to pursue the ''peace process'' in the first place? The answers are very likely to raise serious doubts about the nature of secular Zionism itself and its alleged success in resolving the modernity dilemma of the Jews.
The great mystery about the Oslo ''peace process'' is not why it failed but why anyone in Israel could have been persuaded in the first place that it might succeed. Secular Zionism was supposed to ''normalize'' the Jewish people. The simple fact of the matter is that no ''normal'' people under similar circumstances would have succumbed to such foolishness.
Here we had the leaders of Israel from the Labor Party, the Israeli Left and the Likud insisting that peaceful relations with the Arabs could be achieved through a long process of Jewish self-deprecation, self-denial and self-humiliation. They claimed that peace could be achieved through Israel agreeing to turn over its heartland to terrorists, that security could be achieved by the abandonment of security and Israel distancing itself from its Jewish roots.
They insisted for years that if only Israel would jettison its traditional defense policies and instead trust the goodwill that would be generated by making concessions to the Palestinians, Jordanians, and the Syrians, peace would break out.
They convinced themselves that military force was obsolete and played no further role — this in the most barbarous region of the planet. In the early 1990's, Yasir Arafat and the PLO leadership were far off in Tunisia where they had been banished as a result of the devastatingly effective, if highly controversial, Israeli campaign in Lebanon in 1982.
The world — or at least the United States — had made its peace with the Israeli position that the PLO was not an acceptable partner in any Arab-Israeli peace talks and that the most Palestinian Arabs could hope for would be a limited autonomy with no role for the PLO. The intifada violence that had begun in the late 1980's had petered out, with fewer and fewer incidents by the month and with terrorists so desperate for weapons that they were concocting zip guns out of household materials.
True, Israeli troops were harassed by Palestinians throwing rocks, but this was a harassment that could have been ended at any time through a firmer response, albeit one with some fleeting public relations costs. The rock throwing generally threatened neither the soldiers nor the existence of the State of Israel.
Israel Rehabilitates Arafat
But into this picture of near-pastoral tranquility came the Oslo ''peace process'' to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. It was based on the proposition that economic interests and consumerism had replaced military power as the determinants of international relations in the post-modern world. It sought to reduce tensions with the Palestinian Arabs who had just been defeated in their intifada by importing the PLO's leadership into the ''occupied territories'' and then allowing it to arm itself and build up an army in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Incredible as it now seems, the Israeli government actually provided many thousands of rifles to Palestinian terrorists sworn to destroying the country.
Seven years into the ''peace process,'' Prime Minister Ehud Barak was ready to hand over to the PLO the Old City of Jerusalem, including control over the Western Wall, in addition to slabs of pre-1967 Israeli territory in the Negev — all this while the Palestinians were still routinely murdering Jews. The PLO's response to this obsequiousness was to launch a war against Israel in the form of the Al-Aqsa intifada.
At this point, the army of tens of thousands of PLO soldiers possesses anti-aircraft missiles that threaten Israeli civilian and military air traffic. They possess anti-tank weapons and Katyusha rockets. They have already shelled civilian areas inside pre-1967 Israel. The Gaza Strip is today a large mortar factory. The goodwill measures of Israel have produced a campaign of Nazi-like hatred led by the Palestinian Authority, down to and including virulent Holocaust denial accompanied by Holocaust justification (never mind the contradiction).
Every single prediction of the pro-Oslo camp has proved incorrect, and every single warning by the opponents of Oslo has proved correct. The PLO was never interested in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict but rather in establishing itself in the West Bank and Gaza in order to use those areas as staging grounds for attacks against Israel, with the ultimate goal of drawing the Arab countries into a new full-scale Arab-Israeli war.
The complete debunking of the range of arguments expressed in favor of the ''peace process'' is by now unnecessary, as events themselves have proven more than sufficient in doing so. True, much of the Israeli intellectual elite and the ''chattering classes'' are still living in the dead past. They are still insisting that new formulas and new concessions be offered so that at long last a ''permanent deal'' can be signed with Arafat, but few others still suffer such blindness.
About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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