The Oslo Accords made no mention of Israeli “settlements.” Among the sixteen confidence building measures that were discussed verbally, an attenuation of settlement expansion was included. But these measures demanded action from both sides, and the most important demand upon Arafat – a demand he never met --was that he stop the terrorism.
In fact, Arafat never intended that the Oslo Peace Accords would lead to peace with the state of Israel. On the same day that Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, he appeared in a pre-taped interview on Jordan TV. In Arabic he explained to his Palestinian followers: “Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do it in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.”
At a mosque in Johannesburg just a month after the signing, Arafat again declared (not realizing that he was being taped) that the Accords were merely a way to facilitate his jihad against Israel. Later, when challenged about this, he wiggled out of it by declaring that he was using the term jihad in its most positive sense: a struggle against inner negative forces. So Arafat presented himself as a “jihad” fighter for peace.
But, Faisal Husseini (one of the PLO’s highest level spokespersons) clarified the meaning of the Oslo Accords for the world in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper el-Arabi (June 24, 2001): “had the U.S. and Israel realized, before Oslo, that all that was left of the Palestinian National movement and the Pan-Arab movement was a wooden horse called Arafat…they would never have opened their fortified gates and let it inside their walls…The Oslo agreement, or any other agreement, is just a temporary procedure, just a step towards something bigger. ...distinguish the strategic, long-term goals from the political phased goals, which we are compelled to temporarily accept due to international pressure... Our ultimate goal is the liberation of all of historic Palestine, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” – in other words, across the entire existing State of Israel.
The Labor government in Israel and the Clinton Administration chose to ignore these pronouncements. To accept them would have meant putting an end to the process that both hoped would lead to peace. Instead the Accords put a terrorist in charge of a nascent Palestinian state.
The results were predictable (and many had predicted them). There were more terror attacks against Israel in the five years after Oslo than there had been in the previous twenty years. Hamas and Arafat worked together so that Arafat could secretly fund and arm Hamas, as Hamas undertook bus bombings and drive-by shootings; while Arafat shrugged ineffectually and said: “It is Hamas, not PLO. What can I do?” Even after the police force of the Palestinian National Authority was expanded to 42,000 men, armed and trained by the CIA in specialized counter-terror warfare, Arafat still could not find the power to control Hamas. In fact, he actually planned, financed and even directed some of the terror attacks that he blamed on Hamas and other terror groups. Then, at the next series of meetings with Israel and President Clinton, he repeated the commitment to stop terrorism, and got further concessions from Israel.
Whenever any negotiation got too close to some sort of resolution, Arafat would stage a terror attack and claim innocence, knowing that the Israelis would suspend talks while they decided upon some sort of response, and President Clinton would urge them to use moderation and keep in mind that the “cycle of violence” would not lead to peace (see Ross and Brown).
Arafat used the same “terror torpedo” strategy against his own people as well. When the Palestinian National Council pressed him too hard with demands for democratization or for the passage of laws that he did not like, he would create an emergency by launching a terror attack, knowing that with an Israeli retaliation, he could ward off pressure for reform by saying: “Our people are dying in the streets, we are fighting house-to-house with Israeli storm troopers, and you want me to worry about nit-picking legal details?” (See Brown and MEMRI Clip #376.) The tactic worked every time. (See Brown.)
Arafat was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1995, along with Yitzhak Rabin.
We may never know why the Palestinian National Council and other Palestinian groups which hungered for democracy and an end to Arafat’s thugocracy, and which may have wanted peace with Israel as well, could not stand up to Arafat and exercise the legitimate powers that the Oslo Accords and 1996 elections had bestowed upon them. But they did not. (See Brown.) He remained in power as “ra’is” (chief, chairman, president) long after his 5-year term of office ended; and no one in the PNA, or anywhere else for that matter, ever found the courage to point out that he held office illegally from January 2001 until his death.
Training a Nation Of Terrorists
One of the most heinous aspects of Arafat’s rule after Oslo was the education system that the Palestinian National Authority established for the K-8 public school system in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Despite the Oslo obligation to educate children into the anticipation of peace with Israel, in its textbooks, curricula, classroom activities, and even wall decorations, the Palestinian classroom became the assembly line for the production of future terrorists and suicide bombers. From age 5 and up, Palestinian children were fed a steady diet of Israel-hatred and an ideology which proclaimed that the most glorious thing a young Palestinian patriot could do with his life was to die in defense of his country and take as many Jews as possible with him.
Official television programs, in a blood-curdling transmogrification of Sesame Street, had puppets and animals, people, and plants, teaching Palestinian children that Israel must be destroyed, Jews murdered, and Israel obliterated. Wall maps and textbook maps all showed Palestine as a state that extended across the entire surface of Israel, from the Jordan River to the Sea. Playground songs included such lyrics as “we buy paradise with Jewish blood.” School performances, recorded for PA television, included impassioned recitations by 5-year-olds in which they declared in song, dance, verse, and oratory, their ardent desire to emulate the suicide bombers, the “martyr” heroes of their people.
This education in genocide extended to the adult population as well. Adult television, newspaper articles, radio programs, orchestral compositions, and even the embryonic Palestinian cinema industry, focused all creative energy upon generating the message that Israel is evil, hates Islam, occupies the Palestinian homeland (i.e., all of Israel), and must be destroyed.
When the Clinton Administration pressured Arafat about the use of inflammatory hate messages in children’s textbooks in 1996, he had a new series of texts printed, with more moderate anti-Israel messages, but with no education toward peace or the acceptance of the legitimate existence of Israel. Still that might have seemed like a step forward, except that the new textbooks often sat unused on the shelves.
Meanwhile in children’s summer camps Palestinian youth from kindergartners to young teens learned weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, use of the knife and garrote, and other aspects of combat training, along with the emotionally charged songs and chants that proclaimed eagerness for martyrdom and willingness to murder for the sake of the homeland.
It was precisely because the authors of Oslo recognized the need to educate the next generation into the acceptance of peace that the Accords demanded that both sides teach peace. Israel’s schools taught peace. But because Arafat’s ideology was committed to the destruction of the Jewish state, Palestinian schools did not.
Camp David II: Arafat’s Crime against The Palestinian People
Several years into the Oslo “peace” process, despite hundreds of terror attacks, scores dead and hundreds injured, Israel’s official line remained that Arafat was a partner for peace. That was the line the Clinton administration wanted, and whether due to Clinton’s pressure or of their own accord, the Israeli government maintained the charade for years, despite endless intelligence reports that Arafat was orchestrating the terror war, releasing prisoners that Israel had handed over to him (per the Oslo Accords), diverting billions to his personal accounts and to terror forces, and lying through his teeth to Clinton, to the Israelis, and to his own people.
In November 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli fanatic who saw the Oslo process as a betrayal of Israel. In national elections the following May, Benjamin Netanyahu came to power on a hard-line platform by a margin of less than one percent. Despite three years of Arafat-instigated and facilitated terrorism, half the Israeli electorate still believed that Arafat could deliver an end to the terrorism, and supported the Labor Party candidate Shimon Peres.
Netanyahu had declared that he would act independently of the dovish Clinton Administration, and take the steps necessary to protect Israel from Arafat’s terror onslaught. He began retaliatory raids, stepped up anti-Arafat rhetoric, and supported the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He also began to press Arafat for compliance with the provisions of the Oslo Accords, especially regarding the “revolving door prison” that Arafat ran, where a jailed terrorist would be out on the street within a few weeks.
With the hindsight of history, it is seems clear that Netanyahu never understood that his hard-line rhetoric played right into Arafat’s hands. The Israeli hard-line gave Arafat exactly what he needed to keep his Palestinian critics at bay while Netanyahu’s hard-line with Clinton lost him much credibility at home and in the White House, and made it impossible for him to convince Clinton that Arafat was behind the terrorism. (See Ross.) This made it all the easier for Arafat to strengthen his own hand with the American President. In 1996, he convinced a Palestinian National Council convention in Gaza to revoke the clauses in the PLO charter that called for Israel’s destruction. To Clinton, this looked like progress. At the Wye plantation conference in October, 1998, Arafat ran circles around Netanyahu, but never agreed to anything of substance. The conference ended with no agreements; and with a very frustrated President Clinton.
The hard-line was not working, so Israel again voted for compromise with the 1999 elections bringing Ehud Barak, Israel’s most decorated war hero, into the premiership on a peace platform. Barak had credibility with Clinton and pressed his advantage adroitly. Despite Arafat’s remonstrations, Clinton agreed to a major conference in June of 2000, at Camp David.
Barak came with a comprehensive peace plan, maps, diagrams, charts, and a host of aides and adjutants to address every imaginable issue related to what would end up being an almost total Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and from roughly 97% of the West Bank. Israeli settlements would be dismantled and to compensate for the 3% of West Bank land that would remain under Israeli control, Israel would cede kibbutz farm land adjacent to the Gaza Strip. (For a map of the planned Israeli withdrawal and dismantling of Israeli sites, see Gilbert Atlas.)
Barak offered Arafat the best deal that any Palestinian leader could ever hope for. Negotiations dragged on for two weeks in July of 2000. During that time Arafat used all of his manipulative tricks, honed over decades of sham negotiations and faux peace processes, to frustrate and infuriate the Israeli and American contingents. As U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross describes the negotiations in his tantalizing blow-by-blow account, Arafat would agree to something one day, and in doing so accept the Israeli concession that he demanded in exchange for that agreement. Two days later, he would act as though he had never agreed, but also would not relinquish the Israeli concession. Instead, he demanded more concessions in order to re-agree to what he had agreed to earlier. It was a good trick if you could get away with it, and Arafat could…almost.
As the Americans realized what was happening, Clinton became very agitated. Apparently, he had high hopes of a Nobel Peace Prize and he watched those hopes slip away as Arafat became more and more adamant, more and more intractable, even as Barak went farther and farther with his concessions. Barak knew that he needed a victory at the peace table in order to stay in office. In desperation he agreed to things for which he might not have received support from the Israeli Knesset, but to no avail.
Much ink has been spilt on the topic of why Arafat finally said no, and walked out of the talks. Arafat apologists trying to blunt the accusations that Arafat rejected the last best hope for peace, insisted that things were not clear, nothing was in writing, Barak was mean and demanding. Poor Mr. Arafat did not know English well, and in general there was nothing of substance to which Arafat could commit. More objective observers like Dennis Ross have refuted these excuses. In his autobiography, Clinton makes it clear that in his view Barak did all the giving, Arafat did all the taking, and it still was not enough. In an interview with Business Week (on January 21, 2001), Clinton is quoted as saying the same thing to the Palestinian leader himself: “Arafat, it is all your fault!”
A seemingly unimpeachable source appears in Elsa Walsh’s interview with Prince Bandar bin-Sultan (Saudi Arabia’s former Ambassador to Washington). In the interview, Walsh asks the Prince about the Camp David II controversy. Prince Bandar’s answer is unequivocal: during a phone conversation on the eve of the signing, Prince Bandar told Arafat that it was the very best deal any Palestinian leader could hope to get. Then he told Arafat that if he took it there would be peace, and the Saudi royal family would support him. But if he did not take it, he would be committing a crime against the Palestinian people, there would be war, and the Saudis would not support him. Arafat ended the phone conversation with Prince Bandar with his assurance that he would accept Barak’s offer. Then he did not. Prince Bandar concludes by telling Walsh that when he found out that Arafat had rejected Barak’s offer, he was furious. He reported back to his family that Arafat had lied to him, and should not receive further support. (See Walsh.)
President Clinton, Dennis Ross, and Prince Bandar’s observations are all consistent with one another, and consistent as well with the remark from one US diplomatic aide at the end of the negotiations: “the problem was not that Arafat did not go the extra mile: he did not go the extra inch!” In a similar vein, Arafat is on record in a variety of Arab newspapers as boasting proudly to his people upon his return to the West Bank that he refused Barak’s offer, and told both Barak and Clinton to “go to hell”, because: “I went not to negotiate. I went to receive!”
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