Oslo Accord Update:
A Middle East Christmas Carolby John Loeffler World Affairs Editor
Oslo was dead, to begin with. "There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner..."1 Old Oslo was as dead as a doornail. The yearlong wake called an "intifada" began in September 2000, coupled with Israeli reprisals and assassinations, during which it was rumored the peace process might be made alive again. But September 2001 seemed to confirm what everyone had suspected: there would be no resurrection. The precedent-setting assassination of an Israeli Minister, 2 Rehavam Zeevi, in October stiffened Israeli resolve to fight the intifada. And so, Oslo was dead.
The Ghost of Oslo Past
During the 1990s the Middle East enjoyed a decade of "no-war" (neither peace nor war) while the Oslo Peace Process ground forward, providing the illusion that there would be "peace in our time." Terrorism subsided. However, no matter what glowing terms were used to describe the peace process by the politicians and media, serious observers knew that it was bound to rupture once issues such as control of an undivided Jerusalem, final borders, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees were addressed. At that point the old terrorist demons of the past were expected to reemerge from the hell where they had been biding their time.
The Ghost of Oslo Present
As the U.S. began its global war against terrorism in response to the horrific 9/11 attacks, it began seeking support throughout the Muslim world for a coalition to fight against Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and the al-Qaida terror network. This has resulted in strong international pressure on Israel to behave itself and stop reacting to terrorist attacks with reprisals inside Palestinian territories, especially assassinations of suspected Palestinian terrorists. Instead of being the U.S.'s prime Middle East focus, the Israel/Palestinian "spat" has become an unwelcome distraction that threatens to undo the prosecution of the War on Terror. Immediately after 9/11, the U.S. indicated it viewed with favor the creation of a Palestinian state. While this was always a part of the peace plan, the timing of the statement and the pressure on Israel to conform was not well received in Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon angered President Bush by publicly stating that Israel would not become the U.S.'s "Czechoslovakia." He was referring to Czechoslovakia's pre-World War II betrayal at the hands of Britain's Prime Minister Chamberlain and his French counterpart Daladier as they caved to Hitler's demands that parts of Czechoslovakia be turned over to Germany. Britain and France simply dictated to Czechoslovakia what its fate would be in the name of preserving peace in their time. It worked so well that no peace came to Europe and we all fought World War II, where millions died.
Between Iraq and a Hard Place
As Iraq was being fingered as terrorist suspect #1 for anthrax distribution, speculation about the nature of Sharon's reaction ran deeper than most media were reporting. Some intelligence sources were indicating the U.S. and EU (or the U.K. acting for the EU?) were quietly preparing a deal Israel and the Palestinians couldn't refuse-a new peace arrangement, which would be imposed upon them "or-else"; like it or not. It's hard to tell who is speaking for the EU because most of the dealings on Mideastern terrorism have been between the U.S. and the U.K.
There was some speculation that Sharon might try to short circuit a mandate by restarting the peace talks, but even if the Israeli government does come forward with new proposals, there is little prospect they will be acceptable to the Palestinians, intense pressure from President Bush and Prime Minister Blair notwithstanding. Last year's failed negotiations led by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, coupled with his landslide defeat in the February elections, clearly demonstrate how gaping a chasm remains between both sides. A year of violence has done nothing to rebuild confidence.3 The pressure on Yasser Arafat is no less intense. Many Islamics still reject the concept of an Israeli state, and U.S. support for Israel threatens the anti-terror coalition. Arafat's leadership among Palestinians is weaker than ever, but if he wishes to maintain the goodwill of the West, he will be expected to prosecute the politically unpopular (and impossible) task of tough crackdowns on Palestinian terrorist militants, particularly members of the Hamas Islamic Resistance Movement, Islamic Jihad, and even members of Arafat's own Fatah group.
Even the declaration of a Palestinian state would destabilize the situation. Palestine is economically unstable and governed by an already corrupt government. Declaring East Jerusalem as the new state's capital would only further undermine Arafat's authority and the infant state's stability. Arafat would be unable to eliminate militant Palestinian factions, who would most likely rebel and cause some kind of civil war, possibly requiring a UN international peacekeeping force to just keep the deal intact and Arafat in power. Terrorist attacks on Israel would continue from the new Palestinian state and Israel would be under horrific international pressure to respect the infant state's territorial integrity and not strike back by invading parts of Palestine.
The bottom line is that a forced deal will unacceptably compromise both Israeli and Palestinian security. Israel will be forced to accept terms that will compromise its ability to defend itself against future attacks not only from Palestinians but other Islamic states. Meanwhile, the Palestinian state will face civil war from within as militant groups reject the "peace" deal.
The Ghost of Oslo Yet to Come
Exactly what the future portends is uncertain, but we can be sure that a forced relationship between Palestinians and Israelis will not provide a satisfactory outcome. There are far too many pressures acting on either side to allow for stability. Any future change in world affairs could easily upset such a delicate arrangement, which would then erupt into more violence. No real satisfactory outcome will be achieved until the return of Israel's Messiah, as foretold by the Bible. Indeed, at some point in the future, all the nations of the world will gather to force their will on Israel. Whether that final assault is preceded by an interim period of genuine or forced peace remains to be seen.
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