With the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War—last Monday on the Jewish calendar, and next week on the Gregorian—Israelis are revisiting the inability of their intelligence agencies to predict an Arab attack. Ze’ev Begin and Yigal Carmon, meanwhile, focus on a different anniversary, and a different lapse. Why they ask, didn’t security officials see the evidence that Yasir Arafat had no intention of ending his conflict with the Jewish state following the signing of the Oslo Accords—despite the fact that he said so publicly on numerous occasions?
At the time, the majority of the Israeli public were in favor of the peace offered by the Oslo Accords, and Israel’s intelligence analysts were not immune to the spirit of the times. . . . Julius Caesar noted that “men are quick to believe that which they wish to be true,” thereby removing certain defense mechanisms. . . . The public discourse about the speeches by Arafat and other top PLO officials was limited, since raising doubts about Arafat’s true intentions was considered to be undermining the great ideal of peace that was supposedly being realized.
Indeed, the misinterpretation of Arafat’s actions and their significance was reinforced socially. Those who publicly raised the issue of the PLO leadership’s incitement against Israel were accused of being motivated only by their political disposition. In addition, a false symmetry emerged in the eyes of the Israeli public between the Israeli side and the Palestinian side: Israeli opponents of Oslo were considered opponents of peace, and the Israeli government a pursuer of peace; therefore, since Hamas was an opponent of peace, it must be that the PLO was also a pursuer of peace, like the Israeli government.
For a long time, . . . as evidence was piling up that Arafat and his group were grossly violating the Accords, the Israeli public was willing to accept the bizarre explanation that these violations were in fact necessary for the sake of peace: Israel signed an agreement with Arafat; in order to implement the agreement Arafat must politically survive among his people; to survive, he must violate the agreements [with anti-Israel incitement and the like]. In other words, the agreement between Israel and the PLO could only be implemented by being violated.