Sadly, the logic of the Oslo 'Process' is being played out in Washington in terms which directly derive from its premises. The idea of 'land for peace' itself has turned peaceful co-existence into a commodity which may legitimately be withheld as a result of proper or entirely unjust claims on land. Since the a priori necessity for peaceful relations is no longer in force, the failure to do Arab bidding then becomes a cause of violence within the terms of the framework by which the 'international community' determines to settle the issues 'Oslo' is supposed to. These were caused ultimately by the Arab failures in a series of vicious wars against the existence of the only non Islamic state in the region (Lebanon has been Islamicised).
Furthermore, the reciprocal element in the equation, that Israel have secure borders, has no weight whatsoever. Rather, more and more land has been surrendered without any perceptible or measurable increase in security and the borders with the Arab entities have become less and less easy to defend. Nor has the series of discussions succeeded in settling the Arab claims or ensuring that their perceptions of Israel become less hostile and more favourable. The basis of the deal was supposed to be that an end to bloodshed would occur, as the late Yitzhak Rabin put it. Also that there would be an economic and social openness between Israeli Jews and the neighboring Arabs; Shimon Peres even thought of Israel entering the Arab League.
Instead we see more intense self-seeking by Yasser Arafat, heading one of the most violent, lawless and corrupt governing agencies on earth with no freedom of the press and arbitrary 'justice' and no restraints on fraud and embezzlement in high places - and low ones. His statements to the West he blatantly contradicts to reassure his Arabic speaking audience while he manages to bask in the inflamed passions to murder which he incites, talking of redeeming Palestine in blood and fire. Meanwhile he stashes way a fortune given by donor states, increasing his own bank account like an African or South American dictator.
It has been well pointed out that if Yasser Arafat can deliver security for Israel then he has failed to do and is not worth talking to - let alone again being begged to in exchange for land. And if he is unable so to deliver then he must be useless to talk to. Of course anyone properly informed, including Israel's Prime Minister, knows full well that Arafat is in cahoots with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and has no intention of departing from their objectives whatsoever. Yet the charade goes on. How many times has it been declared even by Madeline Albright that security matters? How many times has Binyamin Netanyahu declared that there must be reciprocity? How many times has bad faith, lack of extradition, release of murderers been seen, without 'the process' being declared a total failure and therefore null and void?
And yet: still Israel's government goes on declaring that it was elected to pursue the process. This verges on the bizarre. The process as two way does not actually exist. Dore Gold told the Washington Institute For Near East Policy that the Prime Minister and his aides wanted to make the process work. That might have been a noble - if utterly misguided - aim. But now that they have failed to do so and Arafat has proven himself no nearer being a 'peace partner' than before the process began, there is no sense in 'flogging a dead horse'. It is time to give up. It is time to go on the offensive in the international arena. Washington is the place to start unraveling everything as Bill Clinton, under suspicion of perjury, lying to the people, and being a delayer of justice, heads an administration under a cloud. He has no authority of any rational kind by which to coerce Israel into further surrender for no good purpose.
The status quo is more or less untenable and putting a halt to further weakening concessions will force the Arabs' hands. But the alternative to surrender must be preferable. Ahmad Khalidi, a one time PLO negotiator, has commented (BBC 2 Newsnight, 15.10.1998), that over the last two years the Palestinian Arabs have gained little by the process: their economy is worse and the settlements have increased. In the light of the corrupt monopolistic practices and the appalling thefts of donor money, the former can come as no surprise. The overlapping 'security' apparatuses (at least seven) and perhaps double the number of 'police' to that allowed by the Accords show something of where the money has gone. But of a deeply sinister nature also is the idea that Jews living near to Palestinian Arabs are not welcome. That is the attitude not at all of a peace partner but of hatred. With those who hate there can never be peace, nor a process towards it. Nor indeed are such neighbors with whom to share security responsibilities or unsafe frontiers.
On the same day as Khalidi's comments Arutz 7 reported: 'Farouk Kadoumi, head of the PLO's diplomatic desk, says that a Palestinian state will be established in May 1999, and that it will wage war against Israel. In an interview published in the Palestinian Authority's newspaper Al Hayat al-Jadeeda, Kadoumi said that after the new state is recognized by most of the world, the Palestinians will use their weapons to fight against the Israeli presence on what he called "Palestinian lands." He said that the only differences between Hamas and the PLO involve the tactics by which to reach their common goal.
David Bar-Illan, a top Netanyahu media advisor, said in response, "Kadoumi has shown the true face of Palestinian intentions - war with Israel."'
That being so, why on earth should Mr. Netanyahu surrender land to Arafat and show willingness to weaken Israel? The gain of U.S. approval and that of the European Union - these are worthless in comparison with lives, safety, the integrity of the state of Israel. Meanwhile Russia arms the surrounding Arab armies along with America. What makes these Arab war-mongers worth appeasing? What makes Oslo (so-called) worth backing? If after years of safety for Jews visiting every Arab town, and friendly school textbooks, and many selfless acts of friendship by Arabs, after many many warm and appreciative speeches and occasions - over years - without any Jihad based murders, Israel wished to consider some acts of generosity, conceding strategic and historic territory miraculously won in self-defense, by many considered part of a sacred trust, even then would make no sense.
In the light of all this good will being lacking, and its antithesis being so evident, for the sake of those living under PA rule, the Middle East Christian minorities, and for Israel's sake, a further withdrawal must be regarded as both immoral and utterly inappropriate.
Christopher Barder is the editor of the ISRAEL BULLETIN (Swindon, England) and a member of the Advisory Committee of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies. He is a Foundation Scholar in History at Pembroke College and Cambridge.