Reprinted from The Boston Globe of October 29, 1998
Yasser Arafat signed his first peace agreement with Israel (the Oslo accord) in September 1993. He signed a second peace agreement (the Gaza-Jericho accord) in May 1994. He signed a third peace agreement (Oslo II) in September 1995. He signed a fourth peace agreement (the Hebron accord) in January 1997. And last week he signed the document negotiated at the Wye Plantation, his fifth peace agreement with Israel in five years.
Arafat has reaped a rich bounty from this peace process. He rules his own quasi-state, the Palestinian Authority. Nearly all of Gaza is his, and every major town on the West Bank -- and more land is to come. He enjoys international deference and prestige. He has a well-armed police force and millions of dollars. He controls Palestinian newspapers, radio, and TV. He is immune from prosecution for his many crimes, which include the murder of children. He has been awarded the Nobel Prize.
All through the years of peacemaking with Israel, Arafat has repeatedly made clear just how far his vision of coexistence extends. He made it clear again on Oct. 22. Even as the negotiations were underway in Maryland, Palestinian Authority police were arresting six Arabs from the village of Waladja, near Bethlehem on the West Bank. They were seized for engaging in behavior that is forbidden in Arafat's kingdom -- they had paid a condolence call on the family of Itamar Doron, a 25-year-old Israeli Jew murdered a few days earlier while bathing in the stream at Moshav Ora. Other residents of Waladja protested. The six, they said, had no right to visit the grieving family "in the name of all the village." Arafat's Fatah organization announced that while murder should be condemned, there must be no condolence calls by Palestinians to Israeli homes.
Such is the nature of peace in Arafatland. The road from Oslo has led to calamity. What Israel offered was land for peace. The exchange it got instead was land for terror: More Israelis have been blown up and gunned down by Palestinian terrorists in the five years of "peace" than in the previous 15 years.
Israel has exchanged land for threats: Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the PLO's political bureau, vowed on Oct. 14 that the Palestinians will follow up their declaration of a state next May by launching "the battle against Israeli forces" to eradicate "the Israeli presence on Palestinian lands."Kaddoumi is seen by many as Arafat's most likely successor.
Israel has exchanged land for antisemitism: The largest newspaper in the Palestinian Authority, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, writes that Hitler's persecution "was a malicious fabrication by the Jews." That "Jewish control over the mass media has . . . put a pleasant face on the vile image of Jews." That "Jews spread prostitution as a means of plunging the world into decadence, abomination, and corruption."
Israel has exchanged land for incitement: Fiery sermons in Palestinian mosques preach jihad against the Zionists. Schoolbooks exhort children to "gather for war with red blood and blazing fire" and assign essays on the question, "Why must we fight the Jews and drive them out of our land?" Land for peace? Israel surrendered land and was paid back in hatred. The Center for Palestine Research reports this month that 51 percent of the Palestinian public supports acts of violence against Israel. If those are the sentiments of Israel's peace partners, how must its enemies feel?
The accord that Benjamin Netanyahu brought back from Wye is worse than the deals negotiated by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Not just because Arafat will again be paid in land for promises he has broken over and over. Not just because the language is so full of fuzz and loopholes that it makes a farce of the "reciprocity" Netanyahu insisted would be his irreducible minimum.
What is most alarming about this latest agreement is that there is no Likud Party to oppose it. Netanyahu and his foreign minister, Ariel Sharon, have acquiesced in an accord that would have had them screaming had it been signed by their predecessors. Peres was deposed as prime minister because most Israelis didn't trust him to keep them safe. Now Netanyahu has agreed to terms that even Peres never swallowed -- for example, letting the Clinton administration, not the Israeli government, be the sole judge of Palestinian compliance. The administration that couldn't stand up to Saddam Hussein, that had no idea India was about to go nuclear, that was stunned when North Korea launched a missile over Japan, and that has lurched from empty threat to empty threat in Kosovo is now going to crack down on Arafat's violations?
The language of the Wye Memorandum is plain. It does *not* say, contrary to media reports, that the Palestinian charter calling for Israel's destruction is to be annulled. It does not say that Arafat's police force is to be reduced. It does not say that terrorist murderers will be extradited to Israel or imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority.
The only sure consequence of Wye is that Israel will yield more land and Arafat will demand still more. Eventually Israel will refuse to give, but by then the State of Palestine -- with its Arab allies -- will be ready to take. For the fifth time in five years, a peace agreement has been signed that brings war closer. There is a reason Arafat wore battle fatigues to the signing ceremony.
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for the Boston Globe. His e-mail address is: email@example.com.