The prerequisite for negotiations
By Moshe Arens, former Likud foreign minister of Israel.
Ha’aretz, March 8, 2003
Speculations are rife about the possibility of negotiations with the Palestinians
after the impending American operation in Iraq.
Presumably, Israel will be presented with a road map by the Bush
administration and asked to begin its implementation. But one is likely to forget
the major lesson drawn from the Al-Qaida attack on the United States on
September 11, 2001. Negotiations are possible only with an opponent who has
limited objectives – objectives that can be met, or regarding which he is
prepared to compromise.
An enemy who has unlimited objectives can only be fought and defeated
– there is nothing to negotiate. That was the conclusion drawn by President
George Bush when he decided to launch a worldwide war against terrorism
after the Al-Qaida attack on the Twin Towers in Manhattan and on the
Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Israel at this time is also facing an enemy with unlimited objectives – Hamas,
the Islamic Jihad, the terrorist groups associated with Arafat, and the Hezbollah
aim for the destruction of the State of Israel. There is no room for negotiations
The Oslo process was based on two mistaken assumptions.
First, that Yasser Arafat was prepared to abandon the Palestine
Liberation Organization’s announced goal of the destruction of Israel.
And second, that Arafat after signing the Oslo Accords would suppress
the terrorist groups operating in the areas that came under his control. The late
Yitzhak Rabin was convinced that Arafat, unencumbered by civil rights
organizations and court orders, would be more successful in carrying out this
task than the Israel Defense Forces. For this purpose, he was handed 20,000
assault rifles to equip his “police force.”
It turned out to be an illusion. Arafat did not abandon the original goal of
the PLO and showed that he had no desire to do away with the terrorist groups
that operated in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. On the
contrary, he encouraged them to carry out acts of terrorism against Israeli
civilians in the hope of breaking Israel’s will to resist.
Despite the heavy losses sustained by Israel during the past two-and-a-half
years, Israel continues to pursue the war against Palestinian terror relentlessly.
If the Palestinians cannot or will not suppress the network of terrorism, then the
IDF has to do the job.
Some who contest this conclusion insist that the motivation of Palestinians to
carry out acts of terror is a function of Israel’s readiness to compromise on
some of the Palestinian claims. Give them a “political horizon” (whatever that
means) and the motivation will lessen. Go after the terrorists and the motivation
This is a specious argument with little relevance to the facts on the
ground. Nobody could have painted a brighter horizon for the Palestinians than
former prime minister Ehud Barak at the Camp David summit with Yasser Arafat
and Bill Clinton. It seems that it was just this “horizon” that brought the suicide
bombers into our streets, buses, and family celebrations.
Does anybody really think that we can sweet-talk Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
and his gang of assassins, or the terrorists of the Islamic Jihad? And are the
chances any better with the members of the Al Aqsa Brigades? They are all
motivated by goals with which no compromise is possible.
As a matter of fact, as the period after Camp David so clearly
demonstrated, a readiness to compromise is seen by them as a sign of
weakness and serves to increase rather than decrease their motivation to carry
out acts of terror against Israelis.
This is why there is nothing to be gained and much to be lost when Israel’s
leaders hold out the promise of a Palestinian state at this time.
The fence presently being built will in some places make it more difficult for
suicide bombers to enter Israel’s towns and villages. But let there be no mistake
about it, the fence by itself is not going to keep us safe from Palestinian
terrorism. It is a delusion to visualize us sitting safely behind the fence while
terrorists run rampant on their side. Unless terrorism is stamped out, Israel will
not live at peace.
A successful American campaign in Iraq has a good chance of triggering some
beneficial changes in the Arab world. If they come, they will probably come
slowly. So don’t hold your breath. It is the IDF and the security services that
have to put an end to terrorism. The past few months are a good indication of
their capability to suppress Palestinian terror. They must continue with the job
relentlessly. This is the instruction that the new Israeli government should hand
down to them.