At the United Nations
Dr. Dore Goldis an American who grew up in Connecticut and as an adult madealiyah. From 1987 through 1996, he served as director of the U.S.Foreign and Defense Policy Project at the Jaffe Center for StrategicStudies, Tel Aviv University. When Binyamin Netanyahu was electedprime minister, he took Gold along with him, first as Foreign PolicyAdvisor and, more recently, as Israel’s Permanent Representative tothe United Nations. Below is a speech written and delivered by him tothe members of the U.N. last week. It spells out quite clearly thegovernment’s position on the peace process and on its negotiationswith the PLO.
United Nations, New York
In the last four years the people of Israel witnessed twocontrasting realities in their pursuit of peace with thePalestinians. True, there had been a stunning series of diplomaticbreakthroughs between Israel and the PLO, that was followed by apeace treaty with Jordan and a web of new relationships with a halfdozen Arab states. Israelis were filled with hope that at long lasttheir state of siege had ended and they could look forward to an eraof normalcy and safety.
Yet, the people of Israel witnessed another reality as well. Fromthe 1993 signing of the Declaration of Principles between Israel andthe PLO, until the May 1996 election of the current Israeligovernment, nearly 250 Israelis died in an unprecedented wave ofPalestinian terrorism aimed at the heart of Israel’s cities and intheir vicinity: in Afula, Hadera, Beit-Lid, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.Indeed more Israelis died in these three years from such attacks thenin the previous decade. During 1997, while the frequency of theseattacks was reduced, the bombings continued nonetheless in the MahaneYehuda market and the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in Jerusalem.
Israel had known terrorism before, but these cases reflected acompletely different situation. These were not occasional knifings orindividual drive-by shootings, but highly-lethal suicide bombingsbacked by a vast and expanding organizational infrastructure. Itrecruited and trained personnel, manufactured and stockpiled weaponsmaterials, commanded and financed elaborate operations.Military-grade explosives, that had not been used in such attacks inmore than 10 years, were suddenly available in large quantities withdevastating results. But whether belonging to the Izz-al Din alQassam units of the Hamas or to the Islamic Jihad, thisorganizational infrastructure was growing in the very sameterritories that had been given over to the jurisdiction of thePalestinian Authority of Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Today, there is a common misconception that the peace process wasin an idyllic state until last year and has only just latelydeteriorated. This is completely false. It is as false in thePalestinian negotiating track as it is in the Syrian track, whereIsrael went through two mini-wars in Lebanon and absorbed more than200 Katyusha rocket strikes from Syrian-controlled territory inLebanon. The fact is that the present government of Israel inheriteda peace process that was in a shambles because the core bargain ofthe Oslo agreements had been repeatedly violated: that Israel wouldaddress Palestinian aspirations by creating areas of Palestinianself-government and the Palestinian Authority would assumeresponsibility for security in those very same areas. This bargainhas not been kept. As a result innocent Israelis have paid for thiswith their lives in brutal suicide bombing after suicide bombing inthe heart of our cities.
The government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had manyoptions to contend with this mounting terror. Israel could have letdespair and cynicism overtake diplomacy and declare that the peaceprocess had failed. The Israeli government rejected this option. Thegovernment could have ignored the truth behind these assaults in ourcities and blame only distant adversaries like Iran. This would havefailed to address the fact that the wave of terror attacks in Israelwas emanating from areas under the military control of ournegotiating partners. Only by insisting on their accountability couldwe save the lives of our people. Therefore we chose the option ofmaking an impaired peace process work by adding principles ofpeacemaking that previously had been lacking.
A Code of Conduct
This September, Israel’s Foreign Minister David Levy stood beforethe U.N. General Assembly and suggested a code of conduct forstrengthening negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Thefirst principle of the code of conduct states that violence istotally incompatible with peace and reconciliation. Removing violencefrom the negotiations means that the Palestinian fight againstterrorism be made constant and not be made contingent upon the extentof Israeli concessions, as explicitly demanded by Colonel JabrilRajub. Removing violence from negotiations means that Palestiniansecurity services quell street rioting in Bethlehem and Hebroninstead of inciting it. Removing violence means that Chairman Arafatgives no “green lights” to Hamas to attack Israel, as occurred onMarch 9, 1997. Removing violence means that the masterminds of the1996 Dizingoff Center bombing in Tel Aviv be prosecuted andimprisoned rather than be set free to organize new cells forattacking Israel, as is occurring today.
To make negotiations work, the code of conduct suggested moreover,that the continuity of contacts between Israelis and Palestinians beprotected and not disrupted for short-term gain. Normalizationbetween Israel and the wider region, it was suggested, should not behalted, but increased. And our differences should be resolved inbilateral negotiations and not in international fora. Beyond the codeof conduct, Israel has insisted that the Oslo process be based on theprinciple of reciprocity. On Jan. 15, 1997, both Prime MinisterBinyamin Netanyahu and Chairman Yasser Arafat specifically committedthemselves to implement their mutual obligations on the basis ofreciprocity in the “Note for the Record” that was signed by the U.S.Peace Coordinator, Dennis Ross. To this day, while parts of theinternational community want to place ever-mounting pressure onIsrael to move on with the peace process, not a single Palestiniancommitment that appears in that document, has been implemented:
* the revision of the Palestinian Covenant calling for Israel’sdestruction remains incomplete
* illegal firearms have not been collected
* the language of incitement continues
* not a single terrorist has been extradited
* and most importantly the organizational infrastructure ofterrorism remains intact within the areas of the PalestinianAuthority. And this is only a partial list.
What is Israel supposed to do under such circumstances? MustIsrael continue to pull back without getting anything in return?Israel re-deployed in Hebron, freed prisoners, and offered last Marcha first stage of further re-deployment that would have tripled the”A” area of full Palestinian control from 2.8 percent of the WestBank, which was turned over by Israel’s previous government, to 10.1percent. These are all tangible acts and not just atmospherics.Israel is now proposing a second further re-deployment; it is onlyseeking that the infrastructure of terrorism be finally dismantledand not just spillover automatically into any new areas that arehanded over to Palestinian control. Israel has re-engaged innegotiations on the airport, seaport and safe passage; Israel liftedclosure, more than doubling the number of Palestinian workers earningtheir living from the Israeli economy. Israel has complied with itscommitments to the Interim Agreement; the Palestinian Authority hasnot.
What stands behind the misconception, nonetheless, that Israel hasnot complied? Palestinian spokesmen point to settlement activity,knowing full well that settlement growth is no more a violation ofthe Oslo Agreements than the natural growth of Palestinian towns andvillages. Palestinian spokesmen point to our offer of furtherre-deployment as inadequate, yetthey know full well that accordingto Oslo, further re-deployment is unilaterally decided and executedby Israel. Indeed, Palestinian negotiators in January 1997, like AbuMazen and Saeb Erekat, termed further re-deployment in the Note forthe Record as an “issue for implementation” by Israel and not as”issue for negotiation” between the parties.
Chairman Arafat signed the Oslo II Interim Agreement in Washingtonon Sept. 28, 1995, knowing full well that his negotiators failed intheir attempts to achieve a one sided construction freeze on Israelibuilding. Indeed, our late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin confirmedthis fact when he stated one week later, as Oslo II was ratified bythe Knesset: ” … We made a commitment to the Knesset not to uprootany settlement in the framework of the Interim Agreement nor tofreeze construction and natural growth.” Chairman Arafat signed theInterim Agreement knowing that it left up to Israel alone, to decidethe size of a credible further re-deployment. What is happening todayis that Israel is being asked to make new concessions that go beyondthe Oslo Agreements in order to win Palestinian compliance withsecurity responsibilities that are within the Oslo Agreements. Ratherthan facing sanction for its adoption of violence, the PalestinianAuthority is expecting to be rewarded.
Despite all the difficulties and despite all the risks involved,the government of Israel is determined to make this peace processwork. Rather than become mired in the nuances of the InterimAgreement, Israel has recommended that the parties quickly enter andaccelerate their negotiations over permanent status. To achievesuccess in these negotiations, both Israelis and Palestinians willhave to adjust their expectations. Israel has began to adjust itsexpectations in accordance with Palestinian aspirations; thePalestinian’s need to adjust their expectations in accordance withIsraeli interests and concerns.
For diplomacy must take into account the true context of Israel’ssituation. Fifty years ago, the U.N. General Assembly adopted themajority report of the U.N. Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP)and passed a resolution calling for partition and the creation of aJewish State. Within a half a year, the State of Israel was declared– but was promptly invaded by armies of five Arab states whorejected out of hand the resolution of the General Assembly. Fromthat time onward, no one could talk about the Israel-Palestinianconflict in isolation of this broader context; Israelis andPalestinians were not located on an island in the Indian Ocean. As aresult, any solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict must notrob Israel of its capacity for self-defense in the wider Arab-Israelconflict.
That imperative became clear again when Israel faced a broadcoalition of armies that had massed their forces on our armisticelines during the months of May and early June 1967. In the Six DayWar that ensued, Israel came into control of the West Bank and becamedetermined never to