Why the Oslo Peace Process Succeeded in Coopting Israeli Leaders https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/israel-zionism/2018/09/why-the-oslo-peace-process-succeeded-in-coopting-israeli-leaders/

September 5, 2018 | Efraim Karsh
About the author: Efraim Karsh is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London, and editor of the Middle East Quarterly. He is the author most recently of The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2015).

The practical and toughminded Yitzḥak Rabin, who was neither a starry-eyed idealist like Shimon Peres nor a hard leftist like the negotiators Yossi Beilin and Uri Savir, nonetheless, as Israel’s prime minister, went along with the Oslo peace process. Efraim Karsh tells the story of how Rabin came repeatedly to put aside his perceptive doubts about negotiations with Yasir Arafat:

Had it been up to Rabin, he would have avoided Oslo altogether in favor of an Israeli-Syrian agreement, and in its absence, a deal with the [local] West Bank and Gaza leadership [rather than the Tunis-based PLO]. As it was, not only did he not view the process in anything remotely reminiscent of the posthumous idealism misattributed to him, but the farther he walked down that path, the greater his disdain for his “peace” partner became—and the lesser his inclination for concessions. He repeatedly lamented that had he known in advance Yasir Arafat’s real intentions, he would have never signed the Oslo Accords, telling confidants and subordinates (including Henry Kissinger, the Tel Aviv mayor and his former comrade in arms, Shlomo Lahat, and then-head of military intelligence Moshe Yaalon) of his intention to revisit, if not abandon, the process after the 1996 elections. . . .

When, in late October and early November of 1993, three Israelis were murdered in terror attacks—one of them by Arafat’s Fatah group—Rabin stated that he did not consider the PLO leader responsible for preventing terror attacks by “dissenting” Palestinian groups. The following month, Rabin announced that the IDF would preempt terror attacks from the Gaza Strip and Jericho after the evacuation of these territories, only to back down in the face of Palestinian protest and to assert that “there will be no thwarting of terrorist actions.” A few months later, he took this concession a big step forward by telling the Knesset that terrorism was a natural outcome of the Oslo Accords. He similarly excused, as an understandable negotiating ploy, the PLO’s open pleading with the Arab states to sustain their economic boycott of Israel.

This is not to ignore Rabin’s occasional berating of Arafat, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and PLO more generally, for failing to fight terrorism and/or meet other contractual obligations, notably the amendment of the Palestinian covenant. Yet these warnings made no perceptible impact on the Palestinian leadership, not least since they were not followed by any meaningful sanctions. . . . On October 20, 1994, a week after delivering his toughest reprimand of Arafat following the murder of twenty-one people in a suicide bombing on a Tel Aviv bus, Rabin stated that it would be a mistake to blame the PA for the rampaging terrorism. . . .

This approach probably makes the Oslo process the only case in diplomatic history where a party to a peace accord was a-priori amenable to its wholesale violation by its cosignatory.

Read more on Middle East Quarterly: https://www.meforum.org/articles/2018/why-did-rabin-fall-for-the-oslo-process

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