September 10, NEW YORK — On 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s National President Morton A. Klein has issued the following statement:
“The Oslo Accords, as we have said on many occasions, was the greatest blunder and self-inflicted wound Israel has made in the 65-year history of the State. Yet at the time, virtually the whole American Jewish communal world supported Oslo, praised the so-called ‘peace process’ and believed there was peace at hand, while condemning those, such as the ZOA, who warned of its potential disasters, as warmongers, extremists and enemies of peace. We were called attack dogs of the Zionist thought police, McCarthyites, and other choice epithets.
“The ZOA, virtually alone among the American Jewish organizations, was opposed to the Oslo Accords from the beginning, for straightforward and plain reasons: Yasser Arafat had not first revised the PLO Charter, or the Fatah Constitution, both calling for terrorism and the elimination of Israel; he had not spoken to his people about accepting Israel; he had not placed Israel on Palestinian maps; and he had not stopped promoting Israel’s destruction and the murder of Jews, which he had spent his adult life preaching.
“Five months after the Oslo Accords were signed, twenty years ago, I asked the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a meeting with American Jewish leaders how he could transfer weaponry to the new Palestinian Authority regime when it hadn’t fulfilled any of its obligations in the intervening period — i.e., to end incitement to hatred and murder, outlaw terrorist groups, arrest and extradite terrorists, and confiscate illegal weaponry. The aim at the time was that the PA would use Israeli weapons to fight terrorist groups that were still fighting Israel. While that idea has been shown to be tragically nonsensical today, it was widely accepted at the time. Nonetheless, I asked Prime Minister Rabin why he hadn’t chosen to wait at least a year to test Yasser Arafat and the intentions of the new Palestinian regime before arming him. He waved his hand dismissively and replied with a look of disgust, ‘Mr. Klein, of which army were you a general?’ That non-answer, refusing to deal with the truth of the Palestinians’ continuing war against Israel, is symptomatic of the Oslo process.
“Even though Arafat fulfilled none of his obligations, continued to make speeches viciously attacking Israel and Jews, it was all ignored by Israel, America, the world and by most of the major American Jewish groups. That’s how we ended up with the unpleasant spectacle of American Jewish leaders, like the ADL’s Abe Foxman, welcoming the bestowal of the Nobel Peace Prize on Yasser Arafat, saying that Arafat had “earned the award.” Foxman went further, and said that Arafat’s call for jihad was simply a “jihad for peace.” That’s how I ended up debating with Christopher Hitchens on CNN, arguing that the Arafat Nobel Prize was “repugnant and revolting,” that “he hadn’t reformed himself of his brutal past” and that the award was an “insult to other genuine Nobel Peace Prize recipients.”
“Since the Oslo Accords, over 1,500 Israelis have been murdered and many thousands more wounded and maimed by Palestinian terrorists operating from Palestinian-controlled areas. In fact, more Israelis were murdered by terrorists since Oslo than in the entire 45 years of Israel’s existence that preceded it. Oslo gave legitimacy, respectability and influence to Arafat and the PLO which they had previously failed to obtain. Since Oslo, despite Israel having made major land concessions, Israel has lost respect in the world and is enduring a major campaign of delegitimizing its very existence.Israel is widely regarded in many countries today as posing the greatest danger to world peace. Additionally, much of Europe agrees with the outrageous, false statement that ‘Israel is carrying out a war of extermination against the Palestinians.’
“Oslo caused such terrible damage because it was based on a lie — that Palestinians were an oppressed people who had accepted Israel and wanted only a sovereign state which they lacked falsely claiming that Israel had stolen their land and refused to give it back. The Arabs however, have never wanted a state alongside Israel and have rejected that offer every time it has been proposed, including the 1937 Peel Commission plan, the 1947 UN partition plan, the 1968 ‘three noes’ at Khartoum (no peace, no recognition, no negotiations with Israel), the 1974 PLO phased plan for seeking elimination of Israel through diplomacy and violence in installments. All these objections were shunted aside and forgotten. More recently, in 2000 and again in 2008, they were offered virtually all of the disputed territories which they publicly claim for a state, yet rejected both offers without counter-offer.
“By entering into the Oslo process before Palestinians had truly changed and reformed their society and institutions and accepted Israel as a Jewish state, Israel sent a message to the world that there was no peace because there was no Palestinian state; that the issue was a question of territory, not the Palestinian Arabs’ hatred of Jews and non-acceptance of Israel’s existence within any borders.
“If Arafat and the PLO had changed their ways by fulfilling their written agreements and spoken loudly and clearly to the people about the need to make peace with a Jewish state, changed their school textbooks and curricula, maps and stationary to include Israel, changed their Charter, ceased glorifying Jew-killing terrorists, ended incitement to hatred and murder for a significant period of time and honored the rest of their pledges for a significant period of time that would have shown seriousness on their part. Israel could have worked with such a Palestinian leadership and society. But that has never happened, not even after twenty years of Israeli concessions.
“Quite the contrary, the very night Arafat signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, he went on Jordanian TV and told fellow Arabs not to worry, nothing had changed — the Oslo Accords were simply a different avenue for realizing the phased plan for destroying Israel, to get as much land as possible from Israel, set up their state and then use it to destroy Israel. Almost the entire Western media, the Israeli leadership, and American Jewish groups, ignored this speech and the numerous similar ones that followed. Their turning a blind eye was shocking.
“Ignoring Arafat and the Palestinians anti-peace, pro-terror actions ensured that real peace would not be attained under Oslo. It showed that there was to be no accountability for the Palestinians. Some denied this. Israeli writer Amos Oz wrote that, with the Oslo Accords, Israel would resolutely insist on strict compliance by the Palestinians or the process would stop. That turned out to be nonsense as one violation after another has been ignored by successive Israeli governments.
U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross also said in a television interview that, if Arafat doesn’t comply, the process will be stopped immediately. A year or so later, when I confronted Ross with the fact that the Palestinians had not fulfilled any of their obligations, he told me that Israel should proceed and reach a final agreement anyway because, once the Palestinians had a state, their extremism and radicalism would end. In response, I asked him if he would similarly advise his daughter to marry an abusive fiancée on the assumption that, once they married, the fiancée’s behavior would become gentle and kind. I received no substantive reply.
“But Israel proceeded anyway, under both Labor and Likud-led governments, making more and more concessions — giving away half of Judea and Samaria, unilaterally leaving all of Gaza and forcing 10,000 Jews out of their lawful homes, freeing terrorists as ‘confidence-building measures’ and so on. With each concession, each withdrawal, Israel telegraphed the message around the world that the issue was land, not Israel’s existence; that it was the lack of a Palestinian state, not Arab and Muslim anti-Jewish hatred that was preventing peace.
“Which brings us to the great paradox: those who claimed to fervently support Oslo really didn’t. Oslo required Palestinians to truly accept Israel, to arrest and extradite terrorists, to dismantle terrorist groups, to confiscate illegal weaponry, to cease incitement to hatred and murder against Jews and Israel. Those who claimed to support Oslo never insisted on these things, they only supported unilateral concessions by Israel.
“Additionally, we must proclaim that it is high time to stop acting as if so-called ‘settlements’ are the issue. Not only do the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria comprise a mere 2-3% of the land in question, but Israel has not authorized the building of even a single new Jewish community since Oslo began; building only continues within the boundaries of communities that were existing in 1993. In fact, Arafat signed the Oslo agreements which permit continued Jewish residence and building in the territories. If Palestinians were supposedly so concerned about Jews building there, the first thing they would do is come quickly to an agreement with Israel, define borders and thereby stop Jews building upon beyond those agreed-upon borders. But it is Israel’s existence which they abhor, not only ‘settlements.’ They do not accept Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba being in Jewish hands, in addition to Efrat, Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel.
“We must cease accepting the damaging lie that Palestinians want peace with Israel. We must finally, even at this late date, stop all concessions to the Palestinians until they fulfill their 20-year old obligations. And we have to stop screaming only about security and start asserting established Jewish rights to the land — legal, political, historical and religious — which our leaders rarely mention. Israel is the sovereign home of the Jewish people. (If it was merely a matter of Jewish security, than we should start promoting that Israelis leave and move to America, where it is safer. Israel must assert its rights, not merely beg for security).”
“Despite all these difficulties, we can feel comforted, gratified and blessed to note the following: in 1948, only 6% of world Jewry lived in Israel; today it is almost 50%. Israel has gone from a largely agrarian society to one of the world’s greatest hi-tech countries, its economy buzzing along while much of the world remains in recession. Israel publishes more books, scientific papers, has more orchestras and musicians and more university educated people per capita than any other country in the world. In fact, its universities are ranked among the best in the world. It has more students studying in yeshivot than at any time in history. Israel has one of the most powerful armies in the world. All of Jerusalem is united under Israeli sovereignty. Recent polls show that Israelis, despite all its problems and challenges, are one of the happiest people in the world. Despite the tragic mistake of Oslo and the immense challenges that have flowed from it, the Jewish people will overcome this tragic error as we have overcome all the horrors and tragedies throughout Jewish history.
“In addition to the Jewish people’s historic resourcefulness, perseverance and talent, G-d has promised us this land and that we would be an eternal people. For all these reasons, we remain optimistic about the future of Israel and the Jewish people.”