Reprinted from Ha'aretz. Thursday, September 17, 1998


By Israel Harel

A close look at the five years following the Oslo agreement - the start of the Jewish New Year encourages us to bring out our personal and national balance-sheets - must lead us to the conclusion that the agreement, with all the concessions it has already led to (27 percent of the West Bank or about a quarter of a million acres) and will lead to (an additional 13 percent or about 188,000 acres), has, in fact, distanced us from the peace that we long for. Peace has not come any closer, despite the slogan "Land for Peace."Although we have made painful territorial concessions, we are still very far removed from the dream of "peace and security" - the phrase Labor loves so much - or from the dream of a "secure peace," which is the Likud's favorite rallying cry. The Oslo process has caused considerable damage, which, from the national security standpoint, far outweighs the failure to purchase peace in return for territory. The most significant areas of damage are:

(a) further deterioration in national solidarity;

(b) the initial formation of a Jewish-Arab coalition against other Jews;

(c) a general state of disorientation and weakness, which is being experienced by the entire country, its citizens and its institutions, especially the security forces.

Although our two major political coalitions, the one headed by Labor and the other by the Likud, agree that progress must be made toward implementing the next withdrawal and that further concessions will be inevitable in the permanent settlement, the split in our society is not narrowing. Quite the contrary. Although both these coalitions are marching (almost in unison) toward the same concessions, feelings of hatred and alienation, instead of subsiding, are only increasing. As examples that represent only the tip of the iceberg, we can regard the harsh words that were spoken or written by Jews in the wake of the murderous events in Yitzhar and Hebron. Other examples are the claims that provocations by Jews had preceded these acts. Yet other examples are the incredibly extremist declarations that were uttered by various speakers (especially, Meretz leader Yossi Sarid) last Saturday night at the Peace Now rally in Tel Aviv.

Thus, Oslo is not just tearing out huge chunks of our ancestral homeland and is not just causing more deaths than the period in which we were fighting a real war, the Intifada. Oslo is the devil who is making the flames of hatred and dispute dance ever higher, flames that could lay waste the entire building in which we live. The fact is that, although a large number of the apartments in the building will soon be registered under the names of Palestinians, the Jews are still not satisfied and are becoming more and more extreme. What is even more serious is that a number of Jewish homeowners in the building have banded together with the new Palestinian owners and have created a united front (which, at this stage, is only theoretical, or is it?) against the other Jewish apartment owners.

While our enemies are busy rewriting history in order to justify their claims to this land, we are also doing a rewrite job, but in the reverse - we are abandoning the truth and embracing lies. The Oslo period is unprecedented in the way it has undermined the moral grounds that are the basis of our claim to the Land of Israel. The architects of Oslo turned their back of our deep historical and religious ties to this land and instead focused all their attention on claims based on security considerations or real estate arguments. Thanks to Oslo, the worm of doubt, which began to eat away at the outer fringes of our historical and religious claims to the Land of Israel, is fast approaching the very nerve center of the nation and is threatening to bring us to our knees.

The erosion in our belief that we are justified in claiming that the land belongs to us is the chief factor causing our present state of disorientation and undermining our collective motivation. The government is standing by, utterly powerless, and is unable, even in this era of Netanyahu's concessions on behalf of a secure peace, to carry out what is the most basic of functions of any state: to protect the lives and property of its citizens. Israel's long arm has, in the past, been able to hit out at our enemies almost anywhere on the face of this planet; however, here, at home, that hand is too short to offer any salvation, because we ourselves have done a monstrous thing: the Jewish state, which (even according to those who prefer to avoid defining its goals) was established to provide a safe refuge for all Jews, has, in fact, created a safe refuge for the murderers of Jews and for those who steal our cars and loot our property.

Paraphrasing the prophet Amos, we can forgive the three sins of Oslo, but we cannot forgive the fourth: brothers persecuting brothers while forgetting the obligation of fraternal compassion, venting their passions without restraint, bearing unquenchable hatred, abominating this sweet land and believing in lies.

copyright 1998 Ha'aretz

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