Nine years have passed since the signing of the Oslo accords on the White House lawn. Is Israel better off or worse off as a result of Oslo?
During the first seven years following the accords, more than 300 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists -- far more than the number killed during the seven years before Oslo. Since October 2000, when the Palestinian Authority launched its all-out war against Israel, another 600 Israelis have been murdered -- a total of nearly 1,000 fatalities since the Oslo agreement. From the standpoint of personal security, Israelis are far worse off today than before Oslo.
The terrorism has caused a drastic deterioration in the quality of life. People are afraid to go into shopping centers, nightclubs, movie theaters and restaurants. They are afraid to ride buses. If they attend a wedding, a bar mitzvah, even a Passover seder, they know they could be risking their lives. Israelis are frightened and demoralized.
And who can imagine what life is like for the wounded -- the thousands of Israelis who have been left permanently maimed as a result of terrorist attacks. After a bombing, the media report on the fatalities, but little is heard about the many more people who suffer injuries that literally shatter their lives. They are truly the forgotten victims of Oslo -- the ordinary Israelis who now must struggle through life without a limb or without sight or hearing, with faces and bodies burned or deeply scarred.
The Oslo accords created the conditions that led to this increased terrorism. As part of the agreement, Israel set free thousands of imprisoned terrorists; many of them quickly returned to their terrorist ways.
Oslo gave Yasser Arafat his own territory and his own autonomous governing agency, the Palestinian Authority (PA). That made it possible for him to shelter groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to shield them from Israeli capture. In the PA territories, these groups have been able to set up training camps and bomb factories and improve their techniques. They never would have been able to become as lethal and effective if Israeli forces had remained in control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Oslo even put guns in the terrorists' hands. As part of the agreement, Israel supplied the PA security forces with thousands of rifles that were supposed to be used to fight against terrorists. Instead, they have been used to murder Israelis.
The Oslo accords also facilitated the creation of the Palestinian Arabs' culture of hatred and violence. Before Oslo, when Israel controlled the territories, it could control the curriculum in Palestinian Arab schools, and it could prevent hate-mongering clergymen from preaching in the mosques. But with Arafat and the PA in charge, anti-Jewish hatred and violence were actively promulgated in the official PA schools, media, mosques and summer camps.
Today, every child in the PA's schools reads the textbook, "Our Country Palestine," with a banner headline on its title page that says: "There is no alternative to destroying Israel." Similar hatred is featured prominently in speeches by PA officials and sermons by PA-appointed religious preachers, such as the sermon given by Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya in a mosque in Gaza (and broadcast repeatedly on PA television) in which he declared: "Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them."
Thanks to Oslo, an entire generation of young Palestinian Arabs is being raised to hate and murder Jews. Reform Judaism's leader, Rabbi Eric Yoffee, was right on the mark when he called the PA "murderous" and "bloodthirsty," and said its media use "neo-Nazi language" to foster "a culture of hatred" against Jews and Israel.
A recent Israeli government report noted that "slitting the throats of Israelis is a rehearsed drill taught to Palestinian children at summer camps organized by Arafat's Palestinian Authority." Would such a thing have been possible if Israel still controlled the territories?
Jewish religious sites have also been victimized as a result of the Oslo process. The PA was given control of the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem (Nablus) and the ancient Shalom al-Yisrael synagogue in Jericho. It burned down both of them.
The Tomb of Joseph is now a mosque. The Tomb of Rachel is now within easy shooting range of PA-controlled Bethlehem, and the result is that Jewish worshippers are constantly the targets of shooting attacks. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron -- burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- is now situated in a city that is almost entirely under PA control, meaning that Jews now literally risk their lives if they want to pray in the cave, which is one of Judaism's holiest sites.
The Oslo agreements also made possible the emergence of what the Forward once called "the world's smallest police state." With Arafat in charge and the West turning a blind eye, the PA routinely shuts down dissident newspapers, arrests and tortures Arafat's critics and abuses women and Christians.
The Oslo process has also promoted the appeasement of terrorists. Soon after the Oslo accords were signed, it became clear that the PA was aiding and abetting Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Yet the U.S. State Department pressured Israel to make more concessions to appease the terrorists and their helpers.
Even after the PA launched its terrorist war against Israel in October 2000, the State Department continued pressing Israel to give up land, to ease up its counterterror actions, and more. Then last autumn, at the very height of PA terrorism, the U.S. rewarded and appeased the terrorists by offering them a sovereign state that would leave Israel behind borders just nine miles wide.
Elsewhere, America fights terrorists; in the Mideast, it appeases them. This, too, is the result of the Oslo process, and it seriously undermines America's war against terrorism. Terrorists everywhere see the change in U.S. policy in favor of Palestinian Arab statehood, and inevitably conclude that terrorism pays.
The new chief of staff of the Israeli army, Moshe Ya'alon, said recently that the Oslo process has brought Israel to the point that the Palestinian Arabs now "constitute an existential threat to Israel," and are "mobilizing the Palestinian people for war with the goal of bringing about Israel's collapse. What they are after is not to arrive at the end of the conflict, but to turn Israel into a Palestinian state."
The Oslo accords have left Israel with a graveyard full of fatalities; thousands of orphans and widows; a demoralized populace; a strong, heavily armed dictatorship in its backyard, and an alarming U.S. tilt in favor of Palestinian Arab statehood. The pre-Oslo years were far from idyllic, but they were much better than this.