The Jerusalem Post, May. 27, 2002

THE DEADLY 'POLITICAL HORIZON'

by Evelyn Gordon

If there is one thing that almost everybody in the world agrees on today, it is that Israel will never enjoy security unless it gives the Palestinians "a political horizon" and ends "the occupation." You cannot open a newspaper anywhere, including in Israel, without seeing this mantra. You cannot listen to statements by politicians, even in Israel, without hearing it.

There is only one problem with this accepted wisdom. Empirically speaking, it is demonstrably false.

The truth is that Israel enjoyed a very tolerable level of security while it controlled the West Bank and Gaza. It was only following the Oslo Accords, when Israel began withdrawing from these areas, that terrorism rose to levels unprecedented in Israel's history.

Within two and a half years after Oslo was signed in 1993, Palestinian terror had claimed as many victims as it had during the entire preceding decade, which included the period of the first intifada. By five years after the accords were signed, the terrorist death toll had surpassed that of the 12 worst years of the pre-Oslo period the years of Yasser Arafat's mini-state in Lebanon (1970-82), which included such spectacular attacks as the Munich and Ma'alot massacres and the Entebbe hijacking. And all this is before we even get to the 500 Israelis killed in the last 20 months. In total, almost 800 Israelis have been slain by Palestinian terror since September 1993 nearly five times the 162 deaths of the 1970-82 period.

Furthermore, the worst terrorism occurred precisely during those periods when the "political horizon" i.e. movement toward a Palestinian state was most in evidence. In the heady days of Yitzhak Rabin's government, which included recognition of the PLO, withdrawal from Gaza and large chunks of the West Bank and an almost total freeze on settlement construction, the terrorist death toll was more than five times what it was under Benjamin Netanyahu, who resumed settlement construction and virtually halted the withdrawals. And of course, the worst violence of all broke out after Ehud Barak offered a Palestinian state on more than 90% of the West Bank, including evacuation of settlements and east Jerusalem as its capital.

IT IS not difficult to explain this seeming paradox. Should a people so desire, greater independence facilitates terror in several ways. And the Palestinians, quite clearly, so desired.

To start with, it is much easier to stockpile weapons when they can be imported legally than when they have to be smuggled. Under Oslo, the Palestinian Authority brought in 50,000 Kalashnikov rifles with Israel's consent, creating the only "police force" in the world armed with assault weaponry. These rifles have since been used with deadly effect against Israelis. An independent Palestinian state would have even greater freedom to acquire arms.

Second, a state-in-the-making and even more so an independent state can raise money for arms and terrorist operations far more easily than a terrorist organization. While certain Arab states always financed Palestinian terrorists, the Palestinian Authority has access to additional funding sources that the PLO could never dream of: the European Union ($300 million last year), and even, until 20 months ago, Israel (roughly $400 million a year). This money helped pay for items such as the $15 million worth of arms seized aboard the Karine A. Even today, as the German weekly Die Welt reported recently, the PA has no qualms about openly asking the EU for $20 million with which to purchase arms a request it prioritized higher than money for health and education and $15.5 million for the families of "martyrs" a Palestinian euphemism for suicide bombers.

Finally, it is much easier for terrorist organizations to perpetrate attacks when they do not have to waste time and energy on eluding capture. When Israel controlled the territories, its security services pursued such organizations relentlessly. But the PA has left them undisturbed except when faced with momentary international pressure, at which point it typically rounds up some low-level activists and then releases them once the pressure dies down. Even the IDF's new tactic of periodic lightning raids begun after years in which PA territory was completely off-limits is a poor substitute for full-time presence; these raids disrupt the terrorists for no more than hours at a stretch. But with full independence, even this would be impossible.

The dismal experience of the last nine years proves irrefutably that Israel's security would be far better served by restoring "the occupation" than by ending it. Right now, nobody in Israel really wants that. But if the only alternative is to continue letting their parents and spouses and children be slaughtered at discos and cafes and bar-mitzvahs and seders, most Israelis will inevitably come to see it as the lesser of two evils.

And so far, the Palestinians have not offered any other alternative.

The writer is a veteran journalist and commentator.



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