This happened on Tuesday: Palestinian terrorists spilled oil on highway 443 between Jerusalem and Modi’in and threw rocks and firebombs at passing vehicles, as they do on a regular basis. The IDF responded and opened fire at what they thought were the terrorists, killing one Palestinian teenager and wounding two others. Although all the facts aren’t available as I write this, it appears that the soldiers were mistaken about their target, and the people they shot were innocent.
Palestinians are understandably enraged, but it’s also understandable that an Israeli might ask, “what do they expect?” Every day they try and sometimes succeed to kill Jews with their rocks and firebombs, their cars and knives, and sometimes their guns and explosives. Of course we are going to fight back, and mistakes happen.
But how did we get here, to the point that our peoples are killing each other?
The Arabs and their supporters will tell you “nakba, occupation, blah blah.” That isn’t true. It is a rationalization but it is not an explanation. Here is the explanation in two words:
In 1979, I drove with my wife and two-year old son from Jerusalem to Afula. I took route 60, through Samaria. Today I doubt that we would survive that trip, but when we got lost near Shechem (Nablus), local Arabs gave us directions to get back on the right road. They treated us like guests.
Later, during the first Lebanon war, I had a conversation with an Arab from Abu Ghosh, a town that had chosen to be loyal to Israel in 1948. What is the solution? I asked him. We need a state of our own, he said, but not run by the PLO. They are killers and they don’t care about Arabs either.
The PLO was created in 1964 by the Arab league as a club to beat Israel with. It was taken over by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction in 1967. Its policy has always been to ‘liberate Palestine by armed struggle’ (although Arafat claimed during the Oslo period to have changed the PLO charter, this was not actually done).
The PLO was funded and armed by the Soviet Union and carried out numerous terrorist actions against Israel during the 1970s, including the massacre of the Olympic athletes in 1972, the Ma’alot massacre in 1974, the Coastal Road massacre of 1978, and many more. The IDF invaded Lebanon in 1982 in order to eliminate the PLO, and at the end of the war had the PLO fighters and leadership trapped in Beirut. But a European/American brokered agreement allowed them to escape. French Foreign Legion troops and US Marines escorted Arafat onto a ship, and the PLO reestablished its headquarters in Tunis. Ariel Sharon later said that one of the things he most regretted was not killing Arafat when he had the chance.
Although it perpetrated a few terror attacks from Tunis (notably the Achille Lauro hijacking in 1985), the PLO became more and more irrelevant in exile. But in 1993, Israel made the greatest political mistake in its history and signed the Oslo Accords, breathing life back into the PLO.
In January 1993 the PLO was outlawed in Israel and it was even illegal for an Israeli to meet with PLO representatives. But Yossi Beilin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs under Shimon Peres, began secret negotiations with the PLO without informing the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin only found out about the meetings in May, and although his conception of an acceptable deal with the Palestinians was very different than that of Peres and Beilin, he had no choice but to embrace the negotiations, especially once the Americans became involved.
The Oslo accords recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians, brought the execrable Arafat and his gangsters back to Israel (first to Gaza and later to Ramallah) and created the Palestinian Authority, a pseudo-government for the territories, run by the PLO.
Arafat immediately proceeded to kill or expel his enemies – including anyone who did not agree with the PLO program to destroy the Jewish state – and to turn the Palestinian Authority into a massive machine, fueled by money from the US, EU and Israel, to train future soldiers and martyrs for the Palestinian cause.
The PA did nothing for ordinary Arabs, stealing literally billions in international aid to enrich PLO big shots. It did not create the infrastructure for a future state.
The PLO has always been ideologically flexible. It was Arab nationalist while its patrons were Egypt and Syria, Marxist when it needed Soviet aid, and today it is pleased to incite Muslims to murder over the alleged plans of Israel to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque. It even pretends to be interested in building a Western-style democracy to impress the Americans.
But the one aspect of its ideology that has always been the same is its commitment to violently ‘liberating’ Palestine from the Jews, and it has turned all of its institutions to this purpose: schools and universities, mosques, media, arts, literature, sport. All of them focus on teaching the lesson that all the land from the river to the sea is ‘Palestinian’, and the Jews have no claim on any of it.
Israel does not appear on their maps, and they name public squares, schools and sports teams after ‘martyrs’ who have died killing Jews. Their TV programs for children encourage young people to die for the cause, while their adult fare repeats blood libels against Jews from the Middle Ages. Although the PLO under Arafat and now Abbas has promised since the early days of Oslo to stop incitement against Jews and Israel, it has never taken even the smallest step to do so.
The PLO created the generation that goes out every day hoping to kill, and left us no choice but to send armed soldiers against them. The PLO made the bloody world that Israelis and Palestinians are living in today.
But apparently neither side has learned the lesson of the last two decades. The Palestinians have not learned that terrorism will not make us leave, but will only cause us to take stronger and stronger measures to protect ourselves.
And the Israelis? Well, a few days ago it was revealed that Yitzhak Herzog, head of the Labor Party (I can’t bring myself to call it the ‘Zionist Union’), following in the treasonous footsteps of Yossi Beilin and Shimon Peres, carried on secret negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas, and proposed a deal in which Israel would transfer all but 4% of Judea and Samaria to the PA/PLO, divide Jerusalem, give the Arabs sovereignty on the Temple Mount, and (my favorite part) ‘fight terrorism’ with a combined force of Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians! Luckily, Herzog lost the election, and recent polls show that the Labor Party is at a historic low in voter approval.
All this is a tragedy. Jews and Arabs can live, if not together, at least in proximity. But not if the Palestinian leadership will continue to be the eliminationist PLO. And certainly not if Israel continues to support and empower the PLO, instead of crushing it for once and for all.