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.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at BESA Center

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

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war