[ Editor's note: Uri takes us once again on an Alice and Wonderland trip through the Byzantine maze of Israeli politics to show that while Oslo was not a useless effort, Israel never feels itself bound to live up to any agreement that it signs.
It is a peculiarity of their people, a supremacist thing in my opinion, that they are “above” that obligation.
To be concerned about obligations is something for the other side who cares about its international reputation. For Israel, that is the least of their concerns. As long as the US keeps vetoing UN resolutions against Israel they have been for all practicality an officially protected rogue nation, and a terrorist one to boot.
But the winds of change are in the air with the steadily growing call for stronger sanctions on Israel. This makes the Zionists even more dangerous as they will be looking for "game changer" event to turn that all around.
Would the Likuds orchestrate a huge terrorist attack against there own people if they thought it would nix the growing boycott movement? You bet your booties they would...in a New York minute.
But for today Uri gives us a good refresher course from the Oslo Accords forward to the peace talks time warp in which we find ourselves today. He does this with all the details and personal vignettes that only someone who had a front row seat to it all can share. We have him here, despite our differences, because we learn a lot from Uri, a good reason to have him around... Jim W. Dean ]
The death of Ron Pundak, one of the original Israeli architects of the 1993 Oslo agreement, brought that historic event back into the public eye.
Gideon Levy reminded us that the Rightist rabble-rousers, in their furious onslaught on the agreement, called the initiators “Oslo criminals” – a conscious echo of one of Adolf Hitler’s main slogans on his way to power.
Nazi propaganda applied the term “November criminals” to the German statesmen who signed the 1918 armistice agreement that put an end to World War I – by the way, at the request of the army General Staff who had lost the war.
In his book, Mein Kampf (which is about to lose its copyright, so that anyone can print it again), Hitler also revealed another insight: that a lie will be believed if it is big enough, and if it is repeated often enough.
That, too, applies to the Oslo agreement. For more than 20 years now the Israel right-wing has relentlessly repeated the lie that the Oslo agreement was not only an act of treason, but also a total failure.
Oslo is dead, we are told. It actually died at birth. And by extension, this will be the lot of every peace agreement in the future. A large part of the Israeli public has come to believe this. The main achievement of the Oslo agreement, an act of history-changing dimensions, bears the date of September 10, 1993, which happened to be my 70th birthday.
On that day, the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel exchanged letters of mutual recognition. Yasser Arafat recognized Israel, Yitzhak Rabin recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Today’s younger generation (on both sides) cannot realize the huge significance of these twin acts.
From its inception almost a hundred years earlier, the Zionist movement had denied the very existence of a Palestinian people.
I myself have spent many hundreds of hours of my life in trying to convince Israeli audiences that a Palestinian nation really exists.
Golda Meir famously declared: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people.”
I am rather proud of my reply to her, in a Knesset debate: “Mrs. Prime Minister, perhaps you are right. Perhaps a Palestinian people really does not exist. But if millions of people mistakenly believe that they are a people and act like a people, they are a people!”
The Zionist denial was not an arbitrary quirk. The basic Zionist aim was to take hold of Palestine, all of it. This necessitated the displacement of the inhabitants of the country. But Zionism was an idealistic movement. Many of its East European activists were deeply imbued with the ideas of Lev Tolstoy and other utopian moralists. They could not face the fact that their utopia could only be realized on the ruins of another people. Therefore the denial was an absolute moral necessity.
Recognizing the existence of the Palestinian people was, therefore, a revolutionary act. On the other side, recognition was even harder.
From the first day of the conflict, practically all Palestinians, and indeed almost all Arabs, looked upon the Zionists as an invading tribe that was out to rob them of their homeland, drive them out and build a robber-state on their ruins.
The aim of the Palestinian national movement was therefore to demolish the Zionist state and throw the Jews into the sea, as their forefathers had thrown the last of the Crusaders quite literally from the quay of Acre.
And here came their revered leader, Yasser Arafat, and recognized the legality of Israel, reversing the ideology of a hundred years of struggle, in which the Palestinian people had lost most of their country and most of their homesteads.
In the Oslo agreement, signed three days later on the White House lawn, Arafat did something else, which has been completely ignored in Israel: he gave up 78% of historical Palestine.
The man who actually signed the agreement was Mahmoud Abbas. I wonder if his hand shook when he signed this momentous concession, minutes before Rabin and Arafat shook hands.
Oslo did not die. In spite of the glaring faults of the agreement (“the best possible agreement in the worst possible situation,” as Arafat put it), it changed the nature of the conflict, though it did not change the conflict itself. The Palestinian Authority, the basic structure of the Palestinian State-in-the-Making, is a reality.
Palestine is recognized by most countries and, at least partly, by the UN. The Two-State Solution, once the idea of a crazy fringe group, is today a world consensus. A quiet but real cooperation between Israel and Palestine is going on in many fields.
But, all this is far from the reality of peace which many of us, including Ron Pundak, envisioned on that happily optimistic day, September 13, 1993.
Just over twenty years later, the flames of conflict are blazing, and most people don’t dare to even utter the word “peace,” as if it were a pornographic abomination.
What went wrong? Many Palestinians believe that Arafat’s historic concessions were premature, that he should not have made them before Israel had recognized the State of Palestine as the final aim…