It’s a perplexing fact of our life: anything that remotely and vaguely resembles peace in Israel’s neighborhood is serially shattered once peace negotiations are kick-started. This is how it has invariably been – all the more emphatically so since the advent of Oslo.
According to this unique pattern, unequalled anywhere else, peace overtures are tantamount to harbingers of death and destruction.
Then, once the violence of peace somehow subsides, we briefly luxuriate in the lull of an impasse – the closest we ever get to calm.
But these rare respites inevitably rub do-gooder meddlers the wrong way both in the US and in the EU. With obsessive peevishness they begrudge us our breather. They summon summits, draw road maps, determine deadlines, weave tapestries, formulate fantasies and in short terminate the temporary time-outs.
It’s an inexorable rhythm. After each round of jibber-jabbering about peace comes the carnage.
Sometimes the weapons of choice are rockets from Gaza. Sometimes they comprise rocks, axes, knives, Molotov cocktails, vehicles, guns and suicide bombs from Mahmoud Abbas’s Ramallah realm.
On occasion, if the mayhem lasts long enough, we call it an intifada. There are those among us who already opine that we are now in the preliminary throes of the third intifada. Others shudder to use such terminology.
In truth, it almost doesn’t matter whether the accumulation of apparent acts of Arab terror in recent weeks signals the start of a new intifada, whether the violence was plotted by an unseen mastermind or whether it’s nothing but a meaningless random accrual of unrelated “lone-wolf” felonies.
What matters is that the combination of the Palestinian Authority’s negotiation-stymieing with an implicit terrorist threat isn’t something which – by the light of our past experience and objective observation – can be reasonably ignored.
Whenever the PA appears to engage in talks, a latent but omnipresent intimidation fills the air. In itself, this serves to issue a potent threat to Israel that outright hostilities remain a viable option should Israel not cave in to Ramallah’s demands at the negotiating table, where the PA’s own representatives consistently show zero predisposition to any hint of compromise.
This underlying threat is later implemented in full force – after the PA scuttles yet another bargaining session –for whatever pretext.
Recent history has taught us – with alarming regularity – that the launching of any round of haggling with the PA inevitably brings with it bloodshed. Prattle about peace in our region is consistently accentuated by slaughter. The quest for coexistence is accompanied by casualties.
This was amply apparent already in those first heady post-Oslo days when the nitty-gritty of the accords was being hashed out. The sides conferred while buses exploded in Israel’s cities, while a trip to the supermarket became a mortal risk, as did a meal at a restaurant or a quick bite at a fast-food eatery.
By way of prescribing opiates to dull the pain, the leaders who brought us Oslo sought to sooth our anxieties with assurances that the dismembered corpses and maimed civilians were “victims of peace.” Their reprehensible notion was that peace is a proverbial Moloch which must be repeatedly satiated with human sacrifice and that it is somehow commendable to offer up innocent lives for a worthy cause.
If that weren’t enough, we were treated to a sadistic sequel of the initial Oslo mega-bloodletting spectacle when then-premier Ehud Barak attempted a quick fix for Oslo with the insistent assistance of US President Bill Clinton at Camp David in 2000.
Barak had agreed to give almost everything away to his then peace-partner Yasser Arafat, but with one major hitch. He only asked Arafat to announce that the conflict is thereby concluded – no more demands, irredentist aspirations, or pretexts for forthcoming ferment.
The whole Clinton-enabled deal fell through because Arafat couldn’t abide “end of dispute” phraseology. He couldn’t countenance committing himself to any blueprint that would legally leave Jews a sliver of a toehold in their ancestral homeland (to which, he told an astounded Clinton, the Jews had absolutely no connection and that “there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem”).
It goes without saying that what the mighty Arafat didn’t dare concede would be entirely out of the question for the feeble Abbas. Ramallah’s current figurehead cannot conceivably be more accommodating than his iconic predecessor was.
Since Barak’s earlier unilateral retreat from Lebanon convinced Arafat that Jews could be forced out, he launched his bloody intifada just to avoid the unthinkable pledge of “no more bloodshed.” And so, once more a peace-promoting project was underwritten in blood.
Predictably, the announcement of any peace parley unavoidably brings with it heightened danger. This is an irrefutable reality which no obfuscating words can conceal – not even if they come from the present White House resident, who insinuates that Israel’s existential interests somehow negate harmony in the Arab/Islamic sphere.
The upshot is that PA head-honcho Abbas needn’t necessarily issue explicit orders for an orchestrated intifada as Arafat had fourteen years ago. It’s quite sufficient for Abbas to shift his war against Israel to international forums amid much fanfare and bluster.
Thus, inter alia, this self-styled moderate steadily ramps up already virulent anti-Israel incitement in his official media, his school system and the mosques he controls.
Abbas may be weak and his very survival may depend on Israeli goodwill, but weakness can be bizarrely played as a strong hand. Abbas can unofficially sanction terror and his message therefore is that if the Israeli side relishes calm, it would be wise to pay up.
Abbas may not have explicitly commissioned every single recent atrocity against Israelis and he needn’t have overseen the operative groundwork for the onslaughts. He merely had to free up the reins a bit in order to essentially prepare his fiefdom for a more escalated terror campaign, should he consider it desirable at any point.
That point has now come and what Abbas unleashes is an uncanny replica of how Arafat instigated his 2000 intifada. The only difference between the original and the facsimile is that Arafat took revolutionary pride in facial stubble and was fond of military costumes, while Abbas is clean-shaven and opts for expensive business suits.
Even before Arafat was cajoled to Camp David by Clinton it was no secret to PA henchmen that Arafat’s plans didn’t include a blissful meeting of the minds with his Israeli interlocutors.
A leading member of Arafat’s entourage, Planning and International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath, later confirmed the premeditated nature of Arafat’s terror offensive. Arafat, according to Shaath, considered that “repeating the first intifada in new forms would bring the necessary popular, international and Arab pressure upon Israel.”
Three key ingredients featured in Arafat’s intifada: the resort to the “save al-Aksa from the Jews” pretext, a national unity framework and the synchronization of the disturbances with Arabs residing within Israel proper.
The very same three ingredients used by Arafat were tossed into the bubbling mix by Abbas over the past few months. It’s an old-time recipe.
Arafat had already inflamed passions in 1996 over the opening of the underground tunnels at the Western Wall, which he shrilly warned would bring down the mosques atop the Temple Mount.
Indeed, the motif of dastardly Jewish designs to demolish al-Aksa goes back to the 1920s and Arafat knew the cynical ploy is a surefire rallying call for the fanatic faithful.
Three weeks before Arafat’s 2000 intifada actually got underway, Al-Sabah, the PA’s official organ, printed the following:
“The defense of Jerusalem requires blood. We can only defend Jerusalem with blood. The time of victory and the sacrifice of the martyr has arrived… The battle for Jerusalem will be the mother of all battles… We will go forth and declare an all-encompassing intifada for Jerusalem. The hour of the intifada is here. The hour of the jihad is here. The hour of Jerusalem is here and Jerusalem beckons.”
There was much more such stentorian stimulus in Arafat’s strictly controlled media and in the bombast broadcast by his closest cronies. Nothing here was spontaneous or left to chance.
Mamdouh Nofal, one of Arafat’s senior advisers, owned up in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (March 1, 2001) that “already a few days before [then-MK Ariel] Sharon’s visit to al-Aksa, Arafat asked us to get ready to initiate a conflict.” All else, including Sharon’s short walk on Temple Mount, was no more than a hodgepodge of handy excuses for what had been in the works long beforehand.
To facilitate his intifada, Arafat formed a coordinated front of national and Islamic forces and it incorporated the full gamut of terrorist outfits – from Fatah to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. That front, imperiously commanded by Arafat, orchestrated the countrywide riots which broke out, not coincidentally, in October 2000 inside Israel – just as Arafat’s intifada began to rage.
True to the Arafat precedent, after the talks failed Abbas too formed an ostensible Palestinian unity construct in league with Gaza’s Hamas warlords. That set the ground for escalation and it began with the abduction and murder of the three Israeli schoolboys last June – soon after John Kerry’s ambitious mission came a cropper.
The handwriting was glaringly on the wall – for all who didn’t avert their gaze to avoid the disagreeable message.
Abbas even inflames his volatile masses in eerily the same idiom as Arafat. Moreover, Abbas’s incendiary rhetoric is broadcast again and again – numerous times daily – on PA TV, which, like the rest of the media in his bailiwick, is directly under his thumb.
Echoing Arafat, Abbas hectors: “This is our al-Aksa… They [the Jews] have no right to enter it. They have no right to defile it. We must thwart them. We will defy them with bared chests to safeguard our sanctuaries.”
It was all to be expected. No surprise here. Any Israeli with healthy intuition and functioning memory cells had compelling reasons to worry as soon Barack Obama and Kerry had declared their intention last year to impose blessed peace upon us – in merely nine miraculous months.
As the hubris of Washington’s “can do” duo soared, so grew the perils of peace.
This isn’t by any means to suggest that peace needs by definition be considered perilous. However, in our specific context peace palavers have invariably proven to be triggers of calamitous consequences. Before our watching eyes history repeats itself.