View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Why Oslo Failed

The Jerusalem Post has a series of articles discussing the failure of Oslo, why it happened, and, in some cases, what to do next. Most of the authors argue that the process was essentially doomed from the start, with the two sides' desiderata being by definition irreconcilable. Israel wanted an agreement, the Arabs wanted to destroy Israel. Successive Labor governments either failed to recognize this, or, in the case of Peres, actively worked to cover it up. They are persuasive because they argue from facts, and from theses that fit those facts.

By contrast, the unreconstructed Peaceniks, represented by Laborites Yuli Tamir and Yossi Beilin, and Gush Shalom founder Uri Avinery, argue from hope. All three pieces are terribly flawed. The Left may accuse the Right (and now the Center) of not having a vision for peace. But such a vision would merely be a negotiating position. But judging from these articles, those on the Left are simply disconnected from reality.

Yossi Beilin argues that regardless of why Oslo failed, the basic framework, which is also the basis for the Roadmap, is intact because there is no alternative. That must be the future. And the sooner we get back to a process of negotiation, the sooner we can sign a piece of paper implelenting the Future. Never mind that 10 years of rarely-relenting war by the Palestinians made all such previous papers worthless. This is rather like arguing, in 1916, that we all know that the war's futile. We all know that a future settlement will adjust the Franco-German border a little, mean recognizing central and southern European national aspirations, and we'll figure something out with regards to Russia. It jumps over the nasty little point that one side still thinks it can compel the other side to an agreement against interest. He simply wishes away the problem of getting the Palestinians to live by and enforce any agreement that leaves Israel intact.

Ms. Tamir is rather technical in her criticism. She complains that there was no supervising power, as though Israel needed a third-grade homeroom teacher to act as a restraint on her. She also complains that, essentially, Israel didn't bug out fast enough. Since Israel and the Palestinians were bound to come into daily contact, they were bound to come into daily conflict. One can assume that she wouldn't ask any Palestinians to move, so the only conclusion one can draw is that the Israels simply needed to get out of the Palestinians' way, an argument which I'm sure Arafat would endorse.

Her article contains the by-now-astonishing complaint that, "First, there was no supervision of the process of implementation. Therefore, both sides violated the agreement from the start." I have no idea how high up on Labor's list Ms. Tamir resides. She's still in the Knesset, so given the shrinking number of Labor seats, it must be pretty high up there. That the speaker of such a slander against her own country could continue to serve in that nation's parliament is both a testament to the liberality of that democracy, and a stunning indictment of the party that continues to endorse her.

Last, we come to Mr. Avineri. His article contains this breathtaking comment:

The Palestinians were quite clear about their aim, which has not changed to this very day - a Palestinian state in all the occupied territories, with the Green Line as the border and Jerusalem as a shared capital.

Everything before the dash is quite correct. Everything afterwards is simply a stunning denial of ten years of history and three years of open warfare. The rest of the article isn't much better, basically blaming Rabin for not cutting Israel's throat more quickly. If the subject under discussion were, instead of politics, say, last night's dinner, and Mr. Avineri were to make similarly fanciful claims night after night, very soon the younger relatives would be loathe to let him out in public. He would be like the uncle in Arsenic and Old Lace, confined first to his bedroom, and then to Shady Acres. Personally, I think that's a fine idea.

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