The following essay was submitted to MOMENT by Sidney Laibson in response to an article by Letty Cottin Pogrebin, in which she criticizes Israel but, quixotically, failed to recognize the Arab violations of the Oslo accords and the serious threat they pose to the existence of Israel.
The glowing condition in Israel that Letty Cottin Pogrebin describes in her recent article, "What a difference a year makes ..." (Moment, Feb. 1997), did not in fact exist prior to the 1996 elections. Her essay, a myopic collage, is laced with omissions, half-truths, and distortions. It paints a misleading picture of current and past events.
No mention is made, that during the period between the signing of the Israel-PLO peace accords of September 1993 and the 1996 elections, there was more terrorism committed than at any other time since the founding of the state of Israel.
Ms. Pogrebin also fails to mention, and appears oblivious to what Arafat and other PLO leaders have been saying and doing since signing the peace accords. These critical words and actions are not isolated anomalies, but a continuing on-going occurrence.
Arafat, for example, repeatedly refers to the 1974 "phased plan" for Israel's destruction. In fact, on the very day that the Israel-PLO peace accords were signed in September 1993, he spoke on Jordanian television and told his people not to forget that the Palestine council made a decision in 1974 to liberate Palestine by taking whatever portion they could from which Israel withdraws. This
amendment to the Palestine National Covenant is commonly known as the "phased plan" -- a plan to facilitate the ultimate goal -- the destruction of Israel.
Later in a speech given in Johannesburg (April 1995), Arafat compared the Oslo accords to Mohammed's agreement with the Meccans 1300 years ago, which he broke two years later when militarily stronger, attacking and conquering the city.
Again in February 1996, at a secret meeting with Arab diplomats in Stockholm, Arafat said: "We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem. Within five years we will have six to seven million Arabs living in the West Bank and Jerusalem. We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a Palestinian state ..."
Arafat's commitment to revoke the provisions of the Palestine National Covenant calling for Israel's destruction was the very foundation of the Oslo peace accords. Yet, today, almost four years later, the Covenant is still in force.
Ms. Pogrebin fails to mention Arafat's numerous inflammatory speeches that have assuredly incited the Arab masses and exhort them to commit violent acts of terrorism -- a serious and deadly violation of the Oslo accords.
For example, in a speech delivered in April 1995, Arafat said: "They (terrorists) will fight for the cause of Allah and they will kill and be killed."
Again in July 1995, memorializing terrorist Abir Wahaydi, Arafat said: "... we will continue this long Jihad ... via deaths, via battles ..."
In December 1995, Arafat led an impassioned crowd of 50,000 in Nablus with a rousing call: "Redeem Palestine in blood and spirit."
Ms. Pogrebin also remains silent and fails to mention Arafat's refusal to extradite avowed terrorists who have murdered Israelis. Extradition is a specific requirement of the Oslo accords. Nor is there any mention that terrorists use Gaza and towns in the West Bank under Palestinian control as sanctuaries.
In 1995, Deputy Read of Military Intelligence, Brig. General Ya'acov Armidor, reported: "The entire subject of arrests and trials are one big farce -- there are prisoners in Gaza who have been freed (by the PA) and continue to be involved in terrorism."
Were we to glance at developments in the wider region beyond the borders of Israel we should find further cause for concern. But here again Ms. Pogrebin fails to see the threat of the consortium of Syria, Iraq and Iran that are massively arming with both conventional and unconventional weaponry. However, she does express her concern that Israel will not surrender strategic territory on the Golan to Syria, but is not concerned that Syria will misuse such an advantage by attacking Israel from those very lands, as was done between 1948 and 1967.
Demonstrating the so-called good will between Egypt and Israel, Ms.Pogrebin makes reference to Hosni Mubarak as "brokering peace between Jews and Arabs." However, she fails to mention that during the eighteen years of peace with Egypt -- a benchmark for future peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors -- there has been unrelenting vicious anti-Semitic attacks in the Egyptian controlled press that have become an acceptable element of hostility against Israel.
Small wonder that the current Israeli government is proceeding with caution in ceding additional territory to the Palestinian authority. Yet, ignoring all this, Ms. Pogrebin is highly critical of the new
government's slowdown of the "peace process." The same new government that has withdrawn from Hebron; significantly eased the "closure" of the territories that were put in place by the previous government (until the latest terrorists attack in Tel-Aviv); released thePalestinian women terrorists; and offered to withdraw from an additional 9% of the West Bank.
The same Israeli government is now vilified and threatened by the Arab world and condemned by the U.N. and segments of our own Jewish community. Why? Not because of Israeli acts of terrorism and murder -- the hallmark of Arab hostility, but because of a tunnel and a building project in East Jerusalem that were both approved for construction by previous Israeli governments.
Ironically, the vilifiers claim they do not "trust" Netanyahu, ignoring the words and actions of Arafat and the egregious Palestinian violations of the Oslo accords.
Who can fail to remember the recent armed violence that saw 40,000 armed Arab police army confront Israel? It has raised Israel's concern for future armed conflict with the Palestinians to a startling new level. The pretext for this violence was an outrageously false charge that construction of a new entrance in a long existing tourist tunnel in Jerusalem would undermine a sacred Mosque. What is also of grave concern is the realization, that although the Oslo accords limited the total number of Palestinian police to 18,000, there exists today a Palestinian armed force of over 40,000 developed during the previous government's tenure.
Ms. Pogrebin ignores all of the above, disingenuously calls the construction of the tunnel exit an Israeli violation of the peace accords, and casts the sole blame on Israel for the violence perpetrated by the armed Palestinian forces.
The most recent "spontaneous" violence and terror that Arafat "predicted," erupted in Tel-Aviv and the West Bank shortly after he met with Hamas and other militant Islamic organizations on March 9, 1997. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, on March 23, 1997, said that militants apparently believed they had the go-ahead ("green light") from Arafat.
The violence that has recently been generated is in total violation of the Oslo peace accords that calls for the renunciation of all violent acts. All those who are deeply concerned about Israel's well-being should pause and reflect. Rather than distort past events and vilify the present, we should look into the distant future with caution.
Will resurgent Islamic fundamentalism led by Iran swallow Egypt and Jordan (after King Hussein), and then link forces with the rejectionist states of Syria, Iraq and Libya for a final thrust to obliterate a vulnerable Israel with shrunken borders resembling the old pre-June 1967 lines? Will a new Palestinian state, demanded by the Arab world, seize the opportunity to complete the "phased plan"
outlined in the Palestine National Covenant and become a willing partner in the conspiracy?
Would peace agreements, peace keeping forces, and security fences suffice as a counterweight to such a series of events? Not likely. Could all this happen? We don't know. But we can pause and cautiously reflect on whether the risks taken today will become tomorrow's risk of life itself.
Sidney Laibson is President of PRIMER (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting).