Schlomo Avineri on Oslo

Based on a pointer on Facebook, I saw this piece about how left wing Shlomo Avineri had admitted that he and his compatriots were mistaken about Oslo and the Palestinian desire for peace. He writes:

The initiators of Oslo and the process’ supporters saw the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a conflict between two national movements, and believed – as I believed – that in direct negotiations between Israel and the PLO, a solution could be found to the territorial and strategic issues that are the source of the dispute between the two movements.

But the basis of this concept had a mistake. All of those who supported the Oslo process believed that we were talking about a dispute between two national movements, and that the other side felt the same way.

We were mistaken.

The Palestinian side does not believe that we are talking about a dispute between two national movements: It believes that we are talking about a dispute between one national movement – the Palestinian – and a colonial imperialistic entity that will eventually die off. Therefore, the parallel that appears in the Palestinian textbooks is Algeria. It isn’t the Israeli presence on the West Bank that is Algeria, but rather the entire Israel is Algeria, and the Israelis will disappear one way or the other, just like the French settlers were expelled from Algeria.

It is nice to see someone admit their mistakes. (I am planning a post for the near future admitting some of mine.) His comments reminded me of what I had written in 2001 about why it is a mistake to establish a Palestinian State will full sovereignty, which of course has only been confirmed by Gaza:

Although advocates of pressuring Israel may be right that an agreement [establishing a Palestinian State] is now possible, they are surely mistaken that it would further Middle Eastern peace and the fight against terrorism. Unless there are dramatic changes made in Palestinian society, a Palestinian state would do little to address the Palestinian people’s grievances and only enhance their ability to wage war against Israel. . . .

To begin with, the mere establishment of a Palestinian state cannot be expected to significantly improve conditions for Palestinians. Based on the behavior of the Palestinian Authority and other Arab states in the region, we can confidently predict a Palestinian state would be an authoritarian regime, lacking democracy and other political freedoms, and at best would be run by a “moderate” strongman like Yasser Arafat or Hosni Mubarak.

We can also predict that it would be a poor country without the basic preconditions for wealth — free markets, the rule of law and government accountability. Finally, a Palestinian state would have a significant minority of Islamic extremists, and there would always be a risk that they would seize power.

There is also little doubt that most Palestinians would continue to despise Israel, since virtually all of the sources of their hostility would persist. Palestine would be poor and Muslim; Israel would be rich and primarily Jewish. To the Palestinians, Israel would still represent a Western imperialist creation occupying the bulk of their land. Israel, no doubt, would also have at least joint control over the Temple Mount, denying to the Palestinians their role as exclusive custodians of an Islamic holy site. For the ordinary Palestinian, then, the creation of a Palestinian state would mean mainly that they are ruled exclusively by unelected Palestinian leaders rather than by both unelected Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

The Palestinian government would also have an incentive to nourish this animosity toward Israel. To deflect responsibility for poor conditions at home, the government could use its media to place the blame on an external enemy. Even more ominously, Yasser Arafat could turn a blind eye toward Islamic extremists who might practice terrorism from within Palestine’s borders — in exchange for the extremists refraining from attacking the government. These tactics are standard operating procedures for maintaining power in many Arab states.