The Process Begun at Oslo Was Never about Peace, Only about Israeli Concessions

Sept. 14 2018

Having worked to craft Middle East policy in both the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, Douglas Feith saw up close much of the unfolding negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords and those that followed. From early on, he concluded that the term “peace process” really described nothing of the sort, but rather a framework by which Israel withdrew unilaterally from territories and hoped for the best. Feith writes:

[A]t the end of August 1993, the first Oslo agreement—known as the Declaration of Principles (DOP) —was published. There were a few vague words in the preamble about striving for peaceful coexistence, but in the operative sections there were no actual peace promises. The DOP said simply that Israel would withdraw from parts of the territories and transfer responsibilities to the Arab party. The Arab party, labeled “the Arab team representing the Palestinian people,” said only that it would take over whatever Israel relinquished.

The DOP was an exchange of land for nothing. But immediately after it became public, Yasir Arafat wanted Israel to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Rabin said he would do that only if Arafat promised peace and renounced terrorism, commitments that were absent from the DOP.

The PLO and the Israeli government then spent a week-and-a-half negotiating side letters on peace and recognition. During those days, journalists asked Israeli officials what would happen if there were no agreement on the side letters. The officials said the DOP would be implemented anyway. That was revealing. It showed that the Israeli government was determined to make territorial withdrawals whether or not Arafat made a commitment to peace. . . .

The second President Bush brought a different attitude to the subject, Feith continues, even if his administration didn’t necessarily translate that attitude into policy:

In National Security Council meetings [in 2001, Secretary of State Colin] Powell made his case for why the president should meet with Arafat to revive the Oslo process. The vice-president [Richard Cheney] opposed Powell, arguing that 9/11 required the U.S. government to take a principled position against terrorism. The second intifada was underway. Not only was Arafat failing to prevent terrorism against Israelis, but his security forces were themselves often the perpetrators.

Then, in January 2002, the Israeli navy captured the Karine A, [a vessel on its way to Palestinian Authority territory], and briefed U.S. officials on its cargo of Iranian arms. Israel’s defense minister said the shipment violated Oslo. This was the very month when President Bush spoke about the special danger of countries that both support terrorism and pursue weapons of mass destruction. He called those countries the “axis of evil” and named Iran as one of them. . . . That put the final nail in the coffin of Arafat’s reputation as a statesman and peace partner.

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More about: George W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Oslo Accords, Peace Process, Richard Cheney, Yasir Arafat

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat