The Magazine

Arafat's War

How to end it.

Sep 3, 2001, Vol. 6, No. 47 • By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
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"I don’t believe that Arafat ever really gave up violence as a tool to achieving his objectives," outgoing ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk confessed in his parting interview with the Jerusalem Post, published on July 6. It took Indyk and the rest of the American "peace team" eight years—and oceans of blood—to figure this out. This is diplomatic malpractice that verges on manslaughter. Nonetheless, the fact that these congenital Panglosses have themselves finally come to this conclusion—after constantly, vociferously, belligerently maintaining otherwise—makes it unanimous: That pledge of nonviolence, made in Arafat’s famous September 1993 letter to Yitzhak Rabin in the Oslo accords, the foundation of the whole "peace process," was a fraud and deception from the very beginning.

Oslo’s basic premise was even more fundamentally violated. After all, it was not "land for cease-fire"; it was "land for peace." Meaning, not just nonviolence, but recognition by the Palestinians and the Arab world of the legitimacy of Israel.

We now know, eight sorry years later, that the PLO’s recognition of Israel was just paper, without an ounce of true intent—a token to be withdrawn as soon as Israel had exhausted its grant of extraordinary and irreversible concessions. Having outlived its usefulness, the "recognition" has been openly and boldly repudiated.

Not only do the Palestinians speak candidly to their own public and the world of taking all of Palestine and destroying Israel; not only has the Arab world broken the few low-level relations it opened during the Oslo interlude; not only does the Arab League threaten to revive the Arab boycott; not only do even pro-Western Arab states, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, talk of making war on Israel again; but even the basest of anti-Semitic calumnies, the "Zionism is racism" canard, has been resurrected—at a U.N. conference on racism, no less. The mask of "recognition" is off.

Again, the self-deception by Israeli doves and American foreign policy elites is, in retrospect, simply staggering. From the very beginning, Palestinian officials flaunted their nonacceptance of Israel and their disdain for the "peace" they had signed. Within months of Oslo, in a speech in South Africa, Arafat analogized Oslo to the treaty that Mohammed signed with the Quraysh. It proved very temporary and soon led to the tribe’s final conquest by Mohammed’s forces. At every opportunity, Arafat insisted that the Oslo peace accords were only a means, and that if they did not get him what he wanted, he would revert to "other means."

By the end of the eight years, the Palestinians were no longer speaking in code or by analogy. At a conference earlier this year in Lebanon, that much-celebrated Palestinian "moderate" Faisal Husseini (who died of a heart attack shortly thereafter) explained why the Palestinians had accepted only a relatively small amount of land with Oslo. Not in order to make peace with Israel, but, on the contrary, in order to establish a territorial base from which to fight and destroy Israel. The objective, he said openly, has always been "Palestine from the river to the sea." Meaning from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean: no Israel.

The irony is that there is nothing new here. This is precisely the program laid out by the Palestinians in the 1974 Cairo "Phased Plan." In it, the Palestine National Council decided to accept any piece of land within Greater Palestine as Phase One, from which to carry on Phase Two, the war for the extinction of Israel.

III. ARAFAT’S WAR

WE ARE NOW AT PHASE TWO. This is the war Arafat has coveted all his life: the war against Israel from within Palestine. He tried first to make war from Jordan and was expelled in 1970. He then tried to make war from Lebanon and was expelled in 1982. And then in 1993, the miracle: Israel itself, in a fit of reckless high-mindedness unparalleled in the annals of diplomacy, brought him back to Palestine, gave him control of 98 percent of the Palestinian population, armed his 40,000 "police" (i.e. army), and granted him international legitimacy, foreign aid, and the territorial base of every city in the West Bank and Gaza.

Yet there are still observers in the West who remain puzzled by Arafat’s war. Taken in by Oslo for the entire eight years, the New York Times’s Tom Friedman, for example, now rationalizes the collapse of his illusions by characterizing Arafat’s war as senseless and self-defeating, "a grievous error" and an "idiotic uprising."

This analysis is sheer nonsense. The war is the war Arafat always wanted. He has just seen Israel, facing guerrilla war in Lebanon, abjectly surrender and withdraw unilaterally. And now, after a year of his own guerrilla war within Palestine, the balance of forces with Israel has shifted dramatically in his favor.