A one-way Mideast peace

July 10, 1996|By MONA CHAREN

WASHINGTON -- To hear the U.S. press tell it, Israel's recent election was a defeat for the forces of enlightenment and peace and a victory for ancient antagonism and war.

The buildup to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the United States was reported skeptically by newspapers like the New York Times. A front-page story noted that Mr. Netanyahu has said he intends to continue negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, ''but he has couched this with conditions that leave unclear whether the Palestinians will find any reason to keep talking.''

This is typical of the treatment Mr. Netanyahu has received from the American press. The assumption is that peace or war lies in Israel's hands and depends only on Israeli willingness to give up land. Let's consider that notion.

The Palestinians may find little reason to keep talking? All the Palestinians have done to date is talk. They have talked to the Americans, the Europeans and the Israelis. And when it comes to fulfilling terms of the Oslo agreements, the Palestine Liberation Organization has produced more talk. Since the famous ''handshake'' on the White House lawn three years ago, more Israeli civilians have died at the hands of Arab terrorists than in the whole history of the Israeli state.

This is what the Clinton administration has been pleased to call ''peace.'' And, as Charles Krauthammer has noted in the Weekly Standard, more important than the attacks themselves -- mostly bombings of innocent men, women and children on city buses -- was the reaction of the Palestinian people to them.

If the bombings had been met with outrage and remorse -- the way Israel reacted when an Israeli gunman, Baruch Goldstein, massacred more than a score of Palestinians at prayer several years ago -- it would have signified that the Palestinian people were truly ready for peace with Israel.

But the Palestinians did not react that way. When ''The Engineer,'' the mastermind of the bus bombings that killed 35 Israeli civilians, was buried, it sparked the largest rally in the history of the Palestinian people. Yasser Arafat hailed him as a ''martyr.''

The ''peace process'' cannot be a one-way street. There must be give and take. So far, the Israelis have done all the giving. The Oslo accords required Israel to give up the Gaza Strip, grant political recognition to the PLO and give autonomy to the PLO on the West Bank. All of these Israel has done.

Two requirements

The Palestinians were required to do only two things: cease terrorism against Israel and alter the PLO charter to change the words calling for Israel's destruction.

Terrorism obviously has not ceased, nor has the PLO demonstrated good faith about curbing it. According to the Jerusalem Times, a pro-PLO Arab newspaper, ''scores'' of Hamas terrorists have been released from PLO jails since April. According to Israeli Army Radio, Mr. Arafat has recently reiterated his refusal to ''hand over anyone to Israel or any other country.'' The Oslo accords specifically require the Palestinian Authority to honor Israeli extradition requests.

The Clinton administration, more fond of the Oslo process than the parties themselves, guarantees $500 million in annual aid to the PLO -- if the PLO keeps its promise to stamp out terrorism.

Not only has the PLO not kept its word about controlling terrorists who kill Israelis, it has even declined to help the United States find and punish those who kill Americans.

The government of Saudi Arabia is taking some well-deserved heat for declining American requests to upgrade security around the housing for our soldiers. The Saudis also declined to let the FBI interrogate the four terrorists who were executed for a bombing last November. The PLO is doing the identical thing.

In April 1995, an American citizen, Alissa Flatow, was murdered by Arab terrorists in the PLO-controlled Gaza Strip. But when the FBI expressed a desire to send agents to investigate the murder, Rashid Abu-Shibak, deputy commander of the PLO security service, said the PLO would not permit the FBI into Gaza.

As for changing its charter, the PLO has played games, sending the matter to a committee and generally dodging and weaving.

Those are the realities that confront the new prime minister as he searches for peace -- not the recalcitrance of the Israeli people.

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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