Ten months ago, I was almost killed in a bus bombing in Gaza. I had arrived at a military checkpoint and was ordered by soldiers to drive my rental car in tandem with a bus going into the local Jewish settlements. But another car and an armed escort arrived at the same time so that I did not have to stay with the bus. We turned left and the bus turned right and it was destroyed in a blast. Seven people were killed.
I spent the afternoon at the site of the carnage. The most shocking thing there was not the deaths but the reactions of the Arabs. The main Gaza highway had been shut down for hours because of the blast. Finally, officials began to route Arab buses around the destruction. As they passed, the Arabs yelled and jeered, celebrating the death of Jews.
Since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, more than 100 innocent civilians have lost their lives to this kind of violence. Prime Minister Shimon Peres lifted the closure of the West Bank on Friday, and on Sunday morning, Israelis suffered terrible carnage again. When I watched Arabs rejoice in the carnage 10 months ago, I asked myself whether there was a chance for peace. Have the Arabs given up their long-stated hope to destroy Israel? Was the Oslo process just a stage in their ultimate goal?
This is the core of the argument between Israel’s left and right. There are not two camps in Israel, one for peace and the other against it. All sides in Israel want peace. The question is not whether this process is going to bring peace or set the stage for additional conflict--a conflict made much riskier because rather than exhorting his West Bank troops to terror from Tunis, Yasser Arafat, as a result of Oslo, is in Ramallah, not 10 miles from Jerusalem, promising to make the city the capital of Palestine.
On Sunday, Arafat gave the politically correct sound bites lamenting the death of Jews killed by bus bombers. And why not sound reasonable to the world press? Look what he got in return: political control of Gaza and a significant portion of the West Bank. A few kind words is little to pay.
What is really important is not the quotes he gives in English. It’s what he says in Arabic to his own people and what he does about terrorism. When the infamous Arab terrorist known as the Engineer was killed eight weeks ago, Arafat shared in the mourning, just as he had eulogized other bus bombers as heroes in the past. Just a few weeks ago, the head of Israel’s military intelligence told a Knesset committee that Arafat was doing nothing to dismantle Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank areas under his control. Jericho and Gaza have become havens to terrorists.
Arafat also has so far refused to modify the Palestinian Covenant’s numerous clauses calling for Israel’s destruction. This document was written in 1964, before Israel controlled the West Bank and Gaza. Peres has been so embarrassed by this that two weeks ago he ordered his cabinet members to stop mentioning it in public. Peres stated that he did not want to offend Arafat. In truth, Peres could ill afford to remind Israelis of yet another broken promise by the PLO leader.
Peres has entered into a peace agreement with a man who cannot or will not fulfill his end of the bargain. If Peres has a greater concern for the security of Israel than for his political future, he will stop the process until Arafat makes three major changes:
* He must bring Hamas under control. He has a police force, really a small army of 30,000, well-armed and definitely capable of doing the job.
* The Palestinian Covenant must be changed.
* The terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank must be extradited to Israel.
According to the Norwegian paper Dagen, Arafat spoke a few weeks ago in Stockholm to a group of Arabs, outlining his strategy for Palestinian takeover of Israel. “We of the PLO will now concentrate on our efforts in splitting Israel psychologically into two camps,” he was quoted as saying. “Within five years we will have 6 or 7 million Arabs in the West Bank. . . . We will replace Israel with a Palestinian Arab state. . . . I have no use for Jews, they are and remain Jews.”
Israel’s left wing has accused the right of inciting the population and creating a violent political environment. The same standard should be brought to bear on Arafat. His words and actions carry great meaning. Judge him by these, not by promises on a piece of paper.