Media pundits spend a lot of time “explaining” to the rest of us why some political or social development just occurred. Last week, The New York Times presented what it claimed are the real reasons behind the controversy over Israeli judicial reform. The recent election results, which brought Israel a new government—and the judicial reform plan—are part of a “rightward drift” that goes back a number of years, according to the Times’ Jerusalem Bureau Chief Patrick Kingsley.
“The failure of peace negotiations with the Palestinians in the 1990s led some Israelis to lose faith in the centrist and leftist leaders who had championed the process,” Kingsley said.
Think about that. Kingsley and the Times described the most widely-acclaimed Mideast peace agreement of the 20th century as “the failure of peace negotiations with the Palestinians.”
The signing of Oslo I on the White House lawn, with a dramatic handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat and the Oslo II agreement, with Israel’s withdrawal from the territories where 98% of the Palestinian Arabs live—both are, in the eyes of the Times, “the failure of peace negotiations with the Palestinians.”
Back in the 1990s, however, the Times considered the Oslo Accords a tremendous success. Its lead editorial on Sept. 14, 1993—the day after the signing at the White House—declared that after decades of “warfare and only a few moments of promise,” the signing of the agreement “brought the brightest promise of all: reconciliation between the two main parties to the conflict, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.”
The editors of the Times were ecstatic that “these old enemies came together to recognize each other’s right to exist.” It also heaped praise on Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for saying “what seemed to be on everyone’s mind: ‘Enough of blood and tears. Enough!’”
But—and here’s the kicker—the Times also noted that Oslo “commits the Palestinians to the principle that their Israeli neighbors are on the land to stay, and are to be lived with in peace.”
Therein lies the problem.
The New York Times and those who share its views loved the Oslo Accords because Israel was surrendering to many of the demands of the Palestinian Arabs. Therefore, it was, in their eyes, a triumph, not a “failure.”
At the time, most Israelis cautiously supported Oslo because they hoped that the Palestinian leadership would keep its promise. They hoped it was sincerely “committed,” as the Times editorial put it, “to the principle that their Israeli neighbors are on the land to stay, and are to be lived with in peace.”
But Palestinian leaders didn’t adhere to that principle. On the contrary, the bombings (one of which took the life of my daughter Alisa in 1995), shootings and stabbings continued. Terrorist groups were not disarmed or even outlawed. Israel’s dozens of extradition requests for terrorists were ignored. An entire generation of young Palestinian Arabs were raised to hate Jews and Israel—not to embrace the principle “that their Israeli neighbors are on the land to stay, and are to be lived with in peace.”
That’s why the Times never talks about Oslo. That’s why Kingsley could not even bring himself to say the words “Oslo Accords.” That’s why he now calls them “failed peace negotiations,” not negotiations that produced an agreement to which the Palestinians are bound. Acknowledging Oslo would mean admitting that the Palestinians have violated their obligations every single day since the accords were signed.
Telling the truth about Oslo would mean confronting the Palestinian Authority and demanding it take steps that everyone knows it will never take.
Telling the truth about Oslo would mean giving up the illusion that surrendering territory to the P.A. will lead to peace.
Telling the truth about Oslo would mean acknowledging the painful truth that the accords do not contain a single word prohibiting Israel from building Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria.
It would also mean acknowledging another painful truth—that Israel’s 1995 withdrawal from the areas where 98% of the Palestinian Arabs reside means that, for all intents and purposes, Israel’s “occupation of the Palestinians” ended 28 years ago.
So, what can Kingsley and the Times do, except bury Oslo, airbrush it out of descriptions of recent Israeli-Arab history, deep-six those old Times editorials calling the negotiations a success and declare them a failure, and pretend the Oslo Accords were never signed and the P.A. has no obligations that it still must honor.
Otherwise, the public would realize that Palestinian Arab leaders’ promises are worthless and any future agreement with them will be another sham for which Israel will again pay in blood.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.