Two years ago the world was electrified by "the handshake" and the mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO. In order to attain that recognition, the Israeli government promised the PLO control, initially over the Gaza strip and the city of Jericho, with autonomy over all of the "West Bank," with possible future statehood, and "final status" discussions on Jerusalem to follow. With two years of experience behind us, one wonders where all of this is going to lead.
What are the facts?
What is the PLO and who is Yassir Arafat? The Palestinian state to be formed will not be limited to the "West Bank" and the Gaza Strip. It specifically includes all of the state of Israel and that means all of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Negev, and the Galilee the whole country. Any deviation from that goal is only a temporary tactical maneuver. The aim is and has always been the notorious "phased plan:" to eliminate Israel in two stages first by creating a Palestinian state in any territory vacated by Israel and then using that state to foment an allied Arab assault against the truncated and critically vulnerable Jewish state.
Since the signing of the Oslo agreement two years ago, Arafat has not fulfilled any of the promises that he had made and the assurances that he has given. Terror has increased; more Israelis have been murdered and maimed by the Palestinians than in any previous comparable period. Until the "handshake," Arafat was officially declared a terrorist by the United States government and was not allowed entry into our country. He is personally responsible for hundreds of assassinations and terrorist attacks. He is the author of the hijacking of an Air Egypt plane, which cost 57 lives; for the coordinated shootouts at the Rome and Vienna airports (17 dead); the attack on pilgrims and passengers at the Ben Gurion International Airport (76 dead); the attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics (17 dead); the attack on the Ma'alot School (62 dead, mostly children); the attack on a passenger bus on the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway (82 dead) and many, many more. The fact that such a man could appear on the White House lawn, that he could shake hands with the President of the United States, and, above all, that he could be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace is truly astonishing.
A mortal danger to Israel. Turning over control of the Gaza strip and any part of the "West Bank" to the Arabs puts Israel in mortal peril. The basic conflict is not between Israel and the "Palestinians." It is with the Arab nations, most of which, with the exception of Egypt and Jordan, are still in a state of war with Israel. They are armed to the teeth, not just with "conventional" weapons, but with missiles that even today can reach any part of Israel, and with weapons of mass destruction chemical, biological and nuclear.
With the "West Bank" in Arab hands, missiles will not be needed. Mortars, Katyushas and shoulder-held Stingers would suffice to threaten every commercial and military flight into and out of Israel, and to threaten and rain destruction on the principal cities of Israel and its most important industrial, commercial and military installations. If it yielded the "West Bank," Israel would be only nine miles wide at its narrow waist it would take no major military effort to slice it in half and to destroy it. No country should be expected to expose itself to such peril. Israel's natural eastern boundary is the Jordan valley, because any invading army would have to ascend the Judean ridges. But with those heights in enemy hands, and without the elaborate warning systems on them, Israel would be totally indefensible and at the mercy of its enemies. That is the considered opinion of 100 United States generals and admirals who so reported to the President and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
We all want peace and, surely, besieged Israel, which has been under constant attack since the day of its creation, wants peace more than anybody. And it is likely that such a fervent wish for peace had led Israel into making fateful concessions to Yassir Arafat and the PLO. It will be almost impossible to reverse what has been done. The process of empowering the Palestinians will almost certainly result in a Palestinian state. Will it, as we are told, be "democratic" and peaceful? Not likely! Every one of the 22 Arab states is totalitarian, ruled autocratically, and is ruthlessly abusive of human rights. Another Lebanon, carved on Israel's back, with never-ending strife and bloodshed is much more likely, a source of constant terrorist attacks against Israel and ultimately the source of a new Mid East war, in which Israel's ability to defend itself and to prevail would be seriously compromised.
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Gerardo Joffe, President