The One Promise Arafat Will Keep

By Jan Willem van der Hoeven

DURING a visit to Hebron last September 4, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said: "The IDF must not withdraw from Hebron, as Hebron is different from all the other cities."

How true that is!

Together with the Jewish people, Christians all over the world know that Hebron was the first place acquired by father Abraham, was one of the first cities inherited by Caleb after Joshua had entered the Promised Land, and was the first capital of Israel, from which King David reigned for seven-and-a-half years before he made Jerusalem Israel's eternal capital.

Hebron is therefore a unique city, one never to be separated from the Jewish people. As Ben Gurion said years ago: "It would be a grave and dreadful error if we do not settle Hebron, the neighbour and predecessor of Jerusalem, with an extensive Jewish population within the shortest possible time."

And yet, the continuous refrain being heard from the opposition as well as from leading members of Prime Minister Netanyahu's Cabinet is that Israel is bound to her international agreement with the Palestinian Authority, and therefore must keep its pledge to withdraw from Hebron.

This is nonsense, however often repeated by friend and foe alike. Because of Yasser Arafat's failure to live up to many of the major commitments of the Oslo Accords, no Israeli government need docilely keep on fulfilling its promises. In the days of Peres and Rabin, and since, Arafat has been whitewashed while pressure to comply with and fulfil the Oslo commitments is placed firmly and solely upon the people and government of Israel.

Nowhere is the demand that Arafat keep his commitments to be heard.

In a letter dated September 9, 1993, Arafat promised Rabin the following as part of the Oslo agreements:

"The PLO considers that the signing of the Declaration of Principles constitutes a historic event, inaugurating a new epoch of peaceful co-existence, free from violence and all other acts which endanger peace and stability. Accordingly, the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators."

Beautiful words, if they became deeds.

But no-one who knows that Arafat and his men have done, and what they have allowed to be done in the years since this promise was made needs to be convinced that it has been broken by him time and time again. A recent report by the independent monitoring group Peace Watch makes this absolutely clear. Speeches made by Arafat since he gave this undertaking to the Israelis should alone have been enough to demonstrate the utter fallacy of the claim that Israel has any moral obligation to continue fulfilling its side of Oslo. The other party has trampled the agreement in the most cynical and sinister way. Surely any government in its right mind would, in view of such gross inconsistencies, have primarily a moral obligation to its own people to demand a quid pro quo.

Did Winston Churchill feel obligated to keep Britain's commitments to Adolf Hitler once the Nazi leader had broken his side of the Munich accords signed by Nevile Chamberlain?

One would hope that both Internal Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani, who has publicly stated that he would leave the government should it fail to give up Hebron, and Agriculture Minister Raful Eitan, who said he would resign if Israel did indeed withdraw from Hebron, would agree before more internal quarreling erupts to unite around this demand: That the government with one voice insists that Arafat begins to fulfil his promises before any further IDF withdrawals take place.

It would, after all, be unacceptable if ministers like Kahalani threatened to leave the government because Netanyahu did not keep Israel's side of the Oslo commitments, but at the same time swallowed the blatant violations of Arafat himself. And we are not talking here about some minor PLO breaches. We are talking about the fact made clear through many of his speeches after Oslo that Arafat intends in the end to keep none of his promises to Israel.

Let us recall his words of May 10, 1994, in a speech in English at a Johannesburg mosque:

"This agreement I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Muhammed and Koraish. And you remember that the Caliph Omar had refused this agreement, considering it solha donia [a despicable truce]." A position he reiterated later that year in a letter to the leaders of Palestinian groups in neighbouring states who opposed the agreement:

"In order to obtain the goal of returning to Palestine, all of us sometimes have to grit our teeth. But it is forbidden that this harm the continued struggle against the Zionist enemy. Cooperation and understanding between the PLO and the rejectionist organisations is what will lead to the speedy retreat of Israel from the occupied territories in the first stage, until the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem. Only a state like that can then continue the struggle to remove the enemy from all Palestinian lands."

There is one promise Arafat has constantly, down the years, committed himself to keep. It was voiced by him in the Washington Post on March 29, 1970:

"The goal of our struggle is the end of Israel, and there can be no compromise."

It was affirmed ten years later, as reported in the Venezuelan El Mundo on February 11, 1980:

"Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war, a war which will last for generations."

It was reaffirmed again, during a reception held in his honour in Gaza last September, two years after signing Oslo 1:

"Be blessed, O Gaza, and celebrate, for your sons are returning after a long celebration. O Gaza, your sons are returning. O Jaffa, O Lod, O Haifa, O Jerusalem, you are returning, you are returning."

And Arafat repeated it on the Voice of Palestine last November 11:

"The struggle will continue until all of Palestine is liberated."

Let us remember how, on January 8 this year, Arafat praised all those Palestinian "martyrs" who had given their lives for the "liberation of Palestine", from Mohammed Ashraf, the first Fatah casualty in 1965 (when the only "Palestine" not under Arab rule was "green-line" Israel), "to the last among them, the sanctified Yihye Ayyash". Ayyash, whose suicide bombs had taken the lives of so many, many Israelis after all the agreements, land concessions and IDF withdrawals had taken place.

And addressing Stockholm-based Arab diplomats on January 30 this year, Arafat said the PLO planned "to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion; Jews won't want to live among us Arabs."

This is what we must remember, and what Israel dare not forget:

That the only commitment Arafat has again and again sworn to uphold, is the one which remains in his Covenant, and which appears regularly in his utterances his commitment to destroy Israel, stage-by-stage.

And, in exchange for this fraud, Netanyahu is expected to keep Israel's promise on Hebron?

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