By Richard H. Shulman

[6/8/99] As the Arabs come closer to making war, one think back to the start of Oslo, when hopes were fresh. Israelis used to say that the Arabs have changed. One doesn't hear that anymore.

For a couple of years, lesser Arab states took small steps toward recognizing and trading with Israel. Those steps were exaggerated by Jews thirsting for normal relations with the Arabs or hoping to vindicate Oslo. As soon as the Oslo negotiations faltered, the Arabs started retracting those steps. Those steps proved to have been bait, not meat.

Supporters of Oslo who had exaggerated the importance of some distant sheikdom negotiating with Israel over opening a consulate, now exaggerated the gravity of the consulate negotiations being suspended. They blamed P.M. Netanyahu for destroying the supposed new friendship with the Arabs.

What had Netanyahu done? He made concessions but found the PLO still struggling against Israel, sometimes with arms. Learning from experience, he suspended Israel's further compliance until the PA makes its initial compliance. He was hounded for that and blamed for the relapse in relations with foreign Arab states.

Was his suspension of Oslo justified or unjustified, mild or excessive? Of course he was justified in suspending risky concessions to a party acting in bad faith and therefore turning a risk to Israeli security into a loss of Israeli security. Of course his suspension was mild -- he was entitled to cancel Oslo, especially the Interim Agreement, which has lapsed.

For Netanyahu's justified but mild reaction to Arab violations, the distant Arab states broke off relations with Israel. What a demonstration of bad faith and how tenuous was that relationship! The relationship was more blackmail than a wondrous by-product of Oslo. Oslo has had no value.

Meanwhile, Arab hatred of Israel grows. Not only do the Islamist groups revile Israel. Egypt, in violation of its treaty with Israel, regularly demonizes Israel. Therefore Egypt's expanding, US-sponsored military might is ominous.

Oslo specifically prohibited Anti-Israel propaganda. Netanyahu found it growing more vile and violence-provoking. Should Netanyahu have ignored it? Should the victor withdraw from terrain while the vanquished aggressors continue to campaign for war? No. The suspension of Wye was Netanyahu's finest act.

But the hatred that pours from the PA Media and schools proves, along with its military buildup, infidelity to Oslo. Let it be the faithless Arabs aggressors who make concessions, when they are ready for peace. They have to prove their good faith.

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