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Those who embraced these Oslo-era delusions included many current and former high-ranking IDF officers, among them – to no small degree – Ehud Barak. Barak had earlier initiated and presided over Israel’s full withdrawal from its long-held “security zone” in southern Lebanon. One could muster good arguments in favor of Israel’s withdrawal, but what is noteworthy is that Barak failed to secure the handover of Israeli positions close to the border to UN or other international forces, even though there were opportunities to arrange such a handover. He allowed Hezbollah to move into those positions. He did so apparently convinced that – as various Israeli leaders claimed at the time, based on little but wishful thinking – with Israel’s full withdrawal Hezbollah would dismantle its military wing and become a purely political party focused on competing in the Lebanese political arena.
Barak’s territorial concessions at Camp David were a dramatic departure from Rabin’s vision and also from all earlier Labor Party platforms concerning territorial compromise. President Clinton responded positively to Barak’s position and, in the face of Arafat’s rejection, advocated additional Israeli concessions. The self-destructive delusions that underlay many Israelis’ embrace of the Oslo process and pursuit of an imaginary peace via dangerous concessions were of Israel’s own making and cannot be blamed on Clinton. But he can be faulted for his willingness to play Dr. Kevorkian to those Israelis’ suicidal delusions.
The terror war launched by Arafat in the wake of Camp David left, in the ensuing several years, close to a thousand Israelis dead and thousands more horribly maimed. The carnage choreographed by the nation’s “peace partner” awakened many Israelis from their Oslo reveries. The events that have followed from Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 – the dramatic increase in attacks on Israel from Gazan territory, and still further escalation in rocket and mortar bombardment and other assaults following Hamas’s seizing control of Gaza – have led yet more Israelis to abandon their long-held wishful fantasies. The 2006 war with Lebanon triggered by murderous Hezbollah incursions also figured in an awakening for some.
Yet there are Israelis who remain convinced – despite all evidence to the contrary; despite everything the other side says and does – that sufficient Israeli concessions will win peace, indeed a peace that will render defensible borders unnecessary. Ehud Olmert is among them. In 2005, as vice prime minister, Olmert assured Israelis that the impending withdrawal from Gaza would result in a dramatic decrease in the violence emanating from Gaza. In 2008, apparently unfazed by his prognostic deficiencies vis-a-vis Gaza, he offered Abbas even more concessions regarding the West Bank and Jerusalem than Barak had offered Arafat. Abbas, contrary to Clinton’s gloss, turned his back on them, again not wanting to enter into any accord, whatever the Israeli concessions, that entailed Palestinian agreement to an end of the conflict.
Clinton, too, has not been moved by events since 2000 to change his views on the desirability of Israel’s returning essentially to its pre-1967 armistice lines. What accounts for his persistent cavalier attitude regarding Israel’s security, and his rejection of Rabin’s parameters for defensible borders, even as he repeats his devotion to Rabin’s vision and urges continuation on Rabin’s path?
Part of the answer may be that those Israelis he is closest to are among the ever-dwindling minority that remains enamored of the delusions of Oslo. The American Jews he is closest to seem also to be largely dedicated believers in those delusions.
In addition, ego appears to play a prominent role in Clinton’s stance. In his September comments in which he, absurdly, tars Netanyahu as the obstacle to peace, he refers to the proposals made in 2000 and rejected by Arafat – as “my deal” and “the deal I put together.” His continued pushing for an agreement along the lines offered then seems to reflect in part his wish to see consummation of a deal he can construe as a jewel of his legacy.
But that deal, as is obvious now to a great majority of Israelis, would entail unacceptable, unconscionable existential risks for the Jewish state. Clinton ignores this reality, whitewashes Palestinian rejectionism and ongoing dedication to Israel’s destruction, labels Netanyahu and those Israelis who share his concerns as the barrier to a settlement of the conflict, and dismisses Israel’s need for and right to defensible borders. His doing so demonstrates that, for all his averments to the contrary, he is no friend of Rabin, and no true friend of Israel.
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People under Siege (Smith and Kraus Global, 2005; paperback 2006).
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