The Boston Globe
April 4, 2002

You cannot make sense of the Israeli-Palestinian war without first making sense of 1993.

That year found Israel in reasonably good shape. Its economy was the most powerful in the Middle East. Its military power was respected and feared throughout the region. Its enemies in the Arab and Muslim world, who for so long had dreamt of wiping Israel off the map, were at last coming to accept that the Jewish state was here to stay. To be sure, Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization still plotted to "liberate" Israel from the Jews, but they were in exile in Tunisia and their political and moral capital were close to nil.

Things were not perfect, of course. The Palestinian intifada of the late 1980s had petered out, but violence still flared in the West Bank and Gaza, where Israel's military presence -- the result of the Arabs' 1967 war of aggression -- was resented. In Israel proper, Arab terrorism sometimes sent innocent civilians to terrible deaths. Israelis longed for a more normal existence, one that didn't involve such a heavy burden of military service or the hostility of their neighbors or the onus of ruling over another people.

Israelis longed for a more normal existence, one that didn't involve the hostility of their neighbors.

If these conditions weren't ideal, they were stable. Israel could have continued to shun the PLO as long as its charter called for Israel's extermination. It could have maintained indefinitely its tough-minded policy of deterring hostility by retaliating fiercely when attacked.

But Israel chose a different course. In 1993, following secret negotiations in Oslo, Norway, it embarked on a "peace process" designed to elevate Arafat and the PLO to heights of power, wealth, and respect they had never before known. In exchange for Arafat's promise of peace -- "the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence," he had pledged in writing -- Israel agreed to forget the PLO's long history of mass murder and terror and to treat it as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians. The deal was sealed at the White House on Sept. 13, 1993, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin gave Arafat his hand and affirmed his new status as Israel's partner in peace.

Israel transferred virtually every Arab city to Arafat's control and supplied the militia with weapons.

What followed was unprecedented in the history of statecraft. Arafat and thousands of PLO killers, now reconstituted as the "Palestinian Authority," entered Gaza and the West Bank in triumph. In short order, Israel transferred virtually every Arab city and town in the territories to Arafat's control. It allowed the Palestinian Authority to assume total control over the Palestinian people. It not only agreed to the creation of an armed Palestinian militia, it supplied that militia with weapons. It began paying Arafat a multimillion-dollar monthly allowance and lobbied internationally for additional financial support. It permitted the PA to build an airport, to operate radio and television networks, and to deal with other countries as a sovereign power.

This was appeasement on a scale far beyond Neville Chamberlain's infamous 1938 land-for-peace agreement in Munich. For when it became clear that Hitler's intentions were not peaceful, Britain abandoned appeasement and went to war. But even after Israel saw that Arafat's hostility was undimmed, it went on making one concession after another.

Literally from the day the Oslo accord was signed, Arafat made it plain that his lifelong goal -- Israel's liquidation -- had not changed. He reaffirmed the PLO's "Plan of Phases," its 1974 program of eliminating Israel by stages. He repeatedly called for jihad and extolled Palestinian terrorists as "martyrs" and heroes.

The foundation of the Oslo process was the Palestinians' unequivocal renunciation of terror and violence.

The starting point of the Oslo peace process, the foundation on which everything else had been conditioned, was the Palestinians' unequivocal renunciation of terror and violence. But instead of ending, the terror and violence accelerated. The Israeli death toll soared. Arab snipers and bombers, many from Arafat's own wing of the PLO, murdered Jews at a faster pace than ever before. And each new atrocity was hailed by the Palestinian media, which poured out a flood of anti-Semitic venom and bloodlust....

Desperate for peace, the Israelis kept overlooking Palestinian violations and upping the price they were willing to pay for a final settlement. With every new concession, the Palestinians grew more certain that the Israelis were weak and on the run -- and that hitting them even harder would bring even greater returns. When Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat nearly everything he had demanded, including a state with Jerusalem as its capital, Arafat's reply was to unleash a second intifada, more furious and lethal than the first.

Israel is at war today because it refused to see that dictators bent on conquest can never be appeased, only defeated... In so doing, it emboldened the murderers -- and achieved not peace, but its opposite.


By Jeff Jacoby

April 14, 2002

If the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, Secretary of State Powell's mission to the Middle East is crazy. "However long the Israeli incursions continue," he said on Thursday, "the problem will still be there. We will still need to go to a negotiating process that will lead to peace." Even for Powell, with his long history of strategic misjudgments, this is insane.

How can Powell still imagine that a "negotiating process" with Yasser Arafat can ever lead to peace? For Arafat and his Palestinian Authority, negotiations are a tool of war -- a mechanism for harvesting their gains from terror and violence. They don't seek negotiations in order to stop the killing, they kill in order to make their negotiations more fruitful. After eight years of a "peace process" that has slaughtered more Israelis than the 1967 war did, it should be clear even to Powell that negotiating with Arafat leads only to bloodshed.

And forcing Israel to back away from its current war will lead only to bloodshed, too. Last Tuesday, yielding to Bush administration pressure, Israel pulled its troops out of the West Bank cities of Tulkarm and Qalqilya. Forty-eight hours later, eight Israelis were murdered and 22 were wounded when a suicide bomber exploded a bus near Haifa. The terrorist had entered Israel by way of -- Tulkarm.

Powell is not alone, of course, in demanding an Israeli pullback. "The whole world is demanding that Israel withdraw," lectures Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general. "I don't think the whole world, including the friends of the Israeli people and government, can be wrong."

But the whole world can be wrong. It was wrong in 1981, when Israel bombed Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons reactor in Osirak. The death toll Israel prevented with that daring mission is incalculable, yet the unanimous reaction was one of outrage and scorn.

Well, this is another Osirak moment. Far from being an impediment to the war against international terrorism, the battle in the West Bank is a frontline in that war. Unless Israel demolishes Arafat's mass-murder machine, unless his hellish "martyrdom" cult is shut down, it will only be a matter of time before suicide bombers are detonating themselves in the markets and cafes of the West.

The United States did not spend eight years negotiating with Mullah Omar and the Taliban. President Bush gave them one chance to cooperate and hand over Osama bin Laden; when they refused, they were destroyed. Arafat and his lieutenants, by contrast, have been given chance after chance to prove their peaceful bona fides. What they have proven instead is that they are liars and conscienceless killers. If America after Sept. 11 had the right to obliterate the Taliban, Israel has the right to obliterate the Palestinian Authority.

The history of this conflict is long and complicated, but its moral dimensions now are clear-cut.

One side sends its soldiers to wipe out suicide bombers. The other side sends suicide bombers to wipe out diners at a Passover seder.

One side publishes maps showing how Israel and a Palestinian state can coexist. The other side publishes maps on which Israel doesn't exist.

One side apologizes when its explosives kill the wives and children of the terrorists it targeted. The other side targets wives and children.

One side was grief-stricken on Sept. 11 and declared a national day of mourning. The other side danced in the streets and distributed candies in celebration.

One side has never deployed a suicide bomber in its 54 years of existence. The other side has deployed more than 40 in the past 12 months alone.

One side developed a mandatory "peace curriculum" to prepare its children to live in peace next to a Palestinian state. The other side steeps its children in hate, extolling suicide bombers as "martyrs" they should emulate and operating summer camps to train them for jihad.

One side is an unshakable ally of the United States and fully backs our war against global terrorism. The other side is armed and financed by Iraq, Iran, and Syria, three of the world's most notorious terrorist states.

One side repeatedly gave up land for peace. The other side took the land and made war.

This is not the time for peace missions and negotiations. The way to end the war in the West Bank is not to make Israel retreat but to let it fight its way to a decisive victory. The "peace process" was the cause of this war; now it will take a war to bring peace. Israel should be encouraged to crush the Palestinians' terrorist network, destroy the Palestinian Authority, demilitarize the territories, and banish Arafat forever. Only then will the Palestinians be free. And only then will it be possible for them to detoxify their poisoned society, choose decent and responsible leaders, and join with Israel in crafting, at long last, a genuine and lasting peace.