["Yediot Ahronot" 23 January, 1997]

PALESTINIAN COMPLIANCE NOW

By Dr. Aaron Lerner



The time has come for Israel to insist on compliance. Not only for Israel's own security needs but in order to bring Palestinian expectations back to reality.

Compliance will be unpleasant for the Palestinians. Arafat will have to disarm not only the Hamas but also his own many and various illegal militias. He will have to fire some terrorists from the security forces and even hand over some of the terrorists to Israel. He will have to pull out his troops from Jerusalem and stop terrorizing Arabs who helped Israel in the past. And in compliance with the Accords he will have to restrain his electronic media, putting a halt to the constant incitement to violence which is the hallmark of Palestinian Television and Radio broadcasts. This and much more.

None of these actions will be easy for Arafat to do. But they will drive home a clear message to the Palestinian people: they are going to have to lower their expectations. And the sooner that the Palestinians lower their expectations the better the chances are that the Oslo experiment will not end in a blood bath. Because no matter how many red lines Netanyahu et. al. may be willing to cross - even if they jump to the Left of Peres - they will be light years away from what the Palestinians ultimately think Arafat will get them: a judenrein well armed Palestinian state covering the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip - including all of East Jerusalem - with all this as a springboard for the ultimate march towards the sea. Not to mention the implementation of the right of return to Haifa and Jaffa.

Israeli opponents of compliance demands claim that Arafat cannot possibly honor the agreement and retain power. But if Arafat cannot honor the agreement today, with many tens of thousands of armed troops and, as the Late Prime Minister Rabin put it, "no Supreme Court and no B'tselem" to tie his hands, there is no reason to expect that he will be able to survive if he accepts even the most liberal of Israeli compromises as a final agreement. And if, to survive, Arafat sells the final agreement with Israel as only another step in the nefarious program to destroy Israel in stages, then the entire exercise will have been meaningless for the Jewish State.

Some Leftist extremists argue that at least then they will be able to face the battle for survival with the moral satisfaction of knowing that Israel exhausted all alternatives to war. But the cost of such "moral satisfaction" is too dear. The mystical irrational belief in the ability of the IDF to win any war under any conditions flies in the face of the very cornerstone of Judaism which maintains: "don't rely on miracles".

Since his election, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has frequently said that Israel demands "reciprocity" from the Palestinians. The term "reciprocity" is deceptive as the world interprets it as meaning that, at any given time, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) start with a clean slate - Israel can't expect or demand anything from Arafat without doing something itself.

This choice of terms has sucked Israel into a symmetry which Oslo does not have: There is absolutely no symmetry in Oslo. Israel is the sole risk taker as a nation in this "experiment". Israel agreed to allow tens of thousands of enemy armed soldiers into the very heart of its territory. If Arafat fails, he risks, at best, personal danger for him and his colleagues. They may end up killed as traitors - or alternatively as terrorists - but they in no way risk the very survival of the Palestinian people while Israel ultimately does. The old slogan "for Israel every test is a final exam" rings true.

It is because of this serious imbalance of risks that Oslo lacks any symmetry on a number of security related issues: Israel has the legal right to insist on the transfer of terrorists while the PA can't even ask for Israel to hand over an Israeli pickpocket; Israel was supposed to be able to veto recruits in the PA's various security services and there were supposed to be strict limits on the weapons they carry while the PA has no say as to the size, composition or arming of Israeli forces. The agreement allows for IDF forces and just plain Israelis to travel freely on the roads throughout the Autonomy while allowing Israel to block access to Palestinians.

The ramifications of Palestinian violations of the agreement are also much different than those of Israel's so-called violations. Israel's delayed release of female Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons may certainly upset the Palestinian's but it has no conceivable impact on Palestinian security. In sharp contrast, the refusal of the PA to hand over terrorist murderers goes to the very heart of Israel's security. The failure of the two sides to reach agreement on the opening of the so called "safe passages" is certainly an inconvenience, for the Palestinians, but there is no comparison between this inconvenience and the security implications of the illegally armed militias now sitting in the autonomy.

For Israel's sake and for the sake of the entire peace process, the insistence on Palestinian compliance must be made loud and clear. The insistence on compliance is not a delaying tactic - it is the only way to insure true peace.

Those who oppose compliance are not friends of peace but rather its most dangerous foes.

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Dr. Aaron Lerner is Associate Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis), POB 982 Kfar Sava) Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-9-7411645


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