This past Friday, September 13, and Saturday, September 14, marked two milestones: The 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords signed on the White House lawn by President Bill Clinton, P.L.O. (Palestinian Liberation Organization) chairman Yasser Arafat, and Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War of 1973 (according to the Jewish calendar). Both events have been mired in controversy, and both cost the Jewish state significant losses. The Oslo Accords are regarded by most Israelis today as a failure. The Yom Kippur War cost Israel nearly 3,000 lives, shocking the country psychologically while underscoring the failure of the Israel Defense Forces intelligence, as well as, perhaps, its arrogance in dismissing Arab (Egypt and Syria) capabilities.
This reporter interviewed PM Yitzhak Rabin before the Oslo process began. PM Rabin expressed a resolute stance against negotiating with Arafat. One will never know whether Rabin changed his mind about negotiating with Arafat or was forced to accept the ongoing, back-door negotiations that were taking place in Oslo. As we reflect on the last 20 years it is easy to conclude that the Oslo Accords, which allowed Arafat’s terrorists to openly operate in the heartland of Israel from the outskirts of Jerusalem to the Gaza Strip, were a “Trojan Horse” and a grave mistake. Rather than fostering the much hoped for understanding and harmony, Israel was faced with terror and horror in the form of suicide bombing, stabbing, and roadside shootings.
Prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords, Arafat relayed a message to Rabin that the P.L.O. was willing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and adhere to UN resolutions 242 and 338. The message also noted that the P.L.O. was willing to commit to finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to relinquish all forms of terror and to revoke the clauses in the Palestinian National Covenant which negate Israel’s right to exist. None of Arafat’s stated “promises” were carried out.
Terror against Israel and Israelis resumed almost immediately after the Accords were signed. Arafat’s Tunis-based terrorist masters arrived in the West Bank and Gaza and, in coordination with the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, went about terrorizing Israel. In the first five years following the signing of the Accords, more Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists than in the previous 15 years. In the period between 1993 and1998, 279 men, women, and children were killed as compared to 254. Seven years later, in September, 2000, Arafat launched the Second Intifada. According to the far left group B’tselem, between September 27, 2000, and January 1, 2005, 1,063 Israelis were murdered.
The Palestinians pretended to change the P.L.O. Charter but did not make even one amendment. They promised to refrain from anti-Jewish, anti-Israel incitement in schools and mosques, and in public political statements. The incitement continued and continues to this day under Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor. Moreover, Oslo failed to bring peace. Instead it divided the people of Israel as well as the land of Israel. It weakened Israel’s deterrence, and empowered Hamas.
The CATO Institute’s suggestions should be considered: “Instead of trying to micromanage the Arab-Israeli peace process, the U.S. should minimize its financial commitment to Israel and the emerging Palestinian entity and encourage economic cooperation between Israel and the Arab states, which could be the foundation for an independent Middle Eastern economy. Regional prosperity will advance peace far more effectively than American payoffs to prop up an artificial pax Americana.” This is particularly significant as the Obama administration goes about orchestrating “peace talks” once again between Israelis and Palestinians. The CATO Institute further noted that “Washington has sought to reestablish a prominent American role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. That would be a mistake.”
The lessons of the Yom Kippur War and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intelligence failure to free itself from the “conceptions” is still relevant today, as Israel’s political leadership holds fast that Assad’s Syria will not attack Israel. The Yom Kippur War was a surprise attack on Israel during the Jewish state’s holiest day. But there were clear signs of the impending attack. Israel’s PM Golda Meir was told by the Nixon administration “not to mobilize the reserves,” and the assessment by Israeli Chief of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Eli Zeira that Egypt and Syria would not attack, despite intelligence to the contrary, doomed almost 3,000 IDF soldiers to an unnecessary death.
“The intelligence failure is generally noted as the main reason for the Yom Kippur 1973 fiasco,” according to a September 16, 2013 posting in the left-leaning Israel daily, Ha’aretz. It charged that “The low probability the Military Intelligence Directorate ascribed on the eve of the war to the possibility of a coordinated Egyptian-Syrian offensive remains a source of eternal disgrace.”
Israel Defense Minister Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon, reflecting on the lessons of the Yom Kippur War said, “One of the seeds of that war’s failure was the great sense of victory of the Six-Day War, which led to excessive self-confidence, arrogance, complacency, and carelessness. Senior officers had a culture then of ‘I am, and there is no other beside me.’ Immediately after I was appointed head of Military Intelligence (MI) Directorate in 1998, I set about reading the report of the Agranat Commission [the post-war inquiry commission, JP] and went to meet its protagonists, too. From them I learned the extent of the tragedy: MI’s leaders in those years were clearly excellent people. They were overcome, and not only they, by arrogance and immodesty. There was no room for another opinion, another view, different thinking.”
It is apparent that the scorn Israel’s military commanders and political leaders had for the Arabs’ ability following the Six-Day War was at the core of the 1973 fiasco. The relevant lesson for 2013 and beyond is to take potential enemies seriously and prepare accordingly.
Israelis in 2013 are in no mood for risk taking. Oslo brought in the “Trojan Horse” of Palestinian terrorists in their midst instead of leaving them in Tunisia. The unilateral withdrawal of Gaza encouraged by the Western powers brought Hamas terrorists to power in Gaza – a mere 38 nautical miles from Tel Aviv. At an AIPAC conference on March 22, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that “the status quo is unsustainable.” That message did not inspire Israeli confidence. To the contrary, it implied that a “piece of paper” such as the Oslo Accords can be a substitute for security.
Israel cannot rely on Barack Obama to ensure its survival. The recent Syrian debacle for Obama and his “red lines” demonstrated the U.S. administration’s reluctance to act militarily. Israel cannot wait for Obama’s “green light” to deal with Iran’s nuclear threat when its very survival is at stake. PM Golda Meir felt compelled to obey the Nixon administration admonition to Israel in 1973, “not to shoot first” or “mobilize reserves.” As a consequence Israel paid a steep price – the lives of almost 3,000 of its best men and women. PM Rabin in 1993 was probably less than enthusiastic about trusting a deal with Arafat. He wanted however to please Clinton, Israel’s most important ally and friend. The lessons from last week’s two painful anniversaries are that Israel can only rely on itself on matters of war and peace.
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