Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of July 22, 1998
It is typical of the Labor Party's chronic hubris, not to mention its penchant for wishful thinking, that it still takes pride in the Oslo process. Oslo's main achievement was that it legitimized a terrorist organization responsible for killing more Jews than anyone since Stalin and Hitler.
The PLO was in its death throes in 1993. The Oslo Agreement revived it and gave it a new lease on life. Overnight, the Labor Party killed the chances of reaching an agreement with the local Palestinian population and accomplished the feat of transforming one of the world's most notorious terrorists into an internationally acclaimed dignitary and world statesman.
The late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin described the Oslo agreement as "full of holes." But it is far worse than a defective deal. Oslo put Jerusalem on the chopping block. It triggered terrorist violence of unprecedented dimensions. It transformed the Palestinian "Right of Return" - an unthinkable notion until 1993 - into an acceptable solution.
It raised unrealistic expectations among Israelis and Palestinians, as well as in the Arab world. And worst of all, Oslo let the Palestinians create a military force of 50,000 and made the creation of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan an imminent threat. It raised the level of irredentist passions among Israeli Arabs to a dangerous boiling point.
Some original supporters of Oslo are honest enough to admit their mistake. General Yisrael Tal, a reputed dove, said recently: "When during the Oslo process there was an argument over whether to give them rifles, I said, 'Give them rifles. Give them submachine guns. They do not endanger us.' I was wrong. "When did I understand I was wrong?" he continued. "During the tunnel incident. The Palestinian forces opened fire, shooting to kill at Israeli soldiers. Whoever acts in this manner buries all chances of reconciliation."
Other doves do not have the same courage. In May 1994, Yossi Sarid said, "The test will be in Arafat's ability to convince us that he is doing everything possible to reduce terrorism to a minimum. If the terror incidents are not reduced, we'll know the whole thing is a failure and Arafat will end his career as Jericho's mayor."
Yet the terrorism continued unabated. Arafat accused units in the Israeli army of collaborating with Islamic Jihad in the slaughter of Israeli soldiers. AND the Sarids and Beilins of this world remained silent. Even when Arafat's own police chief was implicated in terrorist activities against Israelis, the Oslo advocates pressed for more unilateral withdrawals and greater authority for the man they once threatened to relegate to the Jericho municipality. Even now, after watching the way the Palestinian Authority educates seven-year-olds for murder and suicide killings, the Oslo fundamentalists cannot bring themselves to admit error.
The damage is not confined to geopolitics. Oslo split the nation more than any political move since the establishment of the state. Momentous, fateful decisions were taken in secret; historic agreements were forced through the Knesset by a majority of one with bribery and political chicanery, half the nation was treated as enemies, PLO chieftains were hugged and kissed while despised "settlers" were shunned as pariahs.
Oslo finally came to a dead end following the blood-drenched week of suicide bombings in March 1996. It was then that the Jews of Israel realized that the Labor government's bankrupt policies had created an environment that brought the threat of havoc and death into every waking hour of every Jew in Israel.
The Jews of Israel then voted overwhelmingly for Binyamin Netanyahu, in the hope that he would rescue peace from the jaws of Oslo. But the prime minister is still a prisoner of this historic blunder, shackled to an accord which threatens to drain the lifeblood of Israel.
As Israel celebrates its 50th anniversary, it is faced with a difficult choice. It can continue with the Oslo process, subscribing to the wild notions of a "new Middle East," believing in the views of those who thought that the fake revocation of the Palestinian Covenant was "the most important event of the past 100 years." This is the surest way to the creation of a Lebanon in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Or it can liberate itself from the defeatism and dead-end of the Oslo process and return to the path of strength as taught by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of blessed memory. Remain strong, he wisely encouraged, for only in strength, unity and the unbending commitment to truth will Israel find the true peace and security it deserves. (c) Jerusalem Post 1998
Joseph Gutnick is an Australian businessman appointed by the late Lubavitcher rebbe to be his personal emissary to Israel.