Book: Arafat’s War

Professor Efraim Karsh is the Director of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, University of London. He has held academic posts at the Sorbonne, the London School of Economics, Columbia University, Tel-Aviv University, and Harvard University. Professor Karsh is a regular commentator on current events who often appears in the media in the United States and United Kingdom. He has been published in many periodicals including the Middle East Quarterly He spoke to the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia on December 2, 2003.

In recent months, several well-publicized proposals designed to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have gained enormous attention and praise. The Geneva Accords, in particular, made world headlines. Yet all of these well-intentioned schemes fail to grasp a central reality: Yasser Arafat and his PLO have no desire to end their war against Israel. It is plain to many that the Oslo peace process was an abject failure. In the twenty years prior to the accords, approximately 400 Israelis were killed by terrorists while in the post-Oslo years, four times this number have been slaughtered by terror. This calamity was of Yasser Arafat’s making.

If one simply reads what Arafat and his lieutenants have said over the past ten years, discovering the roots of anti-Israeli terrorism becomes obvious. From the beginning, Arafat declared Oslo to be a great deception; a political stepping-stone to achieve what the PLO has always struggled for – the end of Israel. This strategy of deception and terror was adopted decades before the principles and architects of the peace process were assembled. Shortly before he assumed the leadership of the PLO, Arafat gave an interview to a German magazine stating his clear objective: to move his “resistance forces” (seasoned terrorists) to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to wage a devastating war against Israel, to undermine Israel’s security, economy, and confidence. However, in the late 1960s, due to the efficiency of the Israeli security services and the reluctance of the Palestinians living in the Territories, Arafat was forced to revise his course of action. This rethinking spawned the 1974 Phased Plan, which called for the PLO to use violence as well as political means (i.e., negotiations) to extract concessions and ultimately destroy Israel. Therefore, Oslo emerged as the perfect means by which the PLO could apply the Phased Plan.

On the very same day, when Arafat signed the Oslo Accords, he broadcast to the Palestinians inflammatory anti-Israeli speeches, which invoked the Phased Plan. For the next decade, he continued to go on record with talk of “liberating” the “territories of 1948” not 1967 and recapturing the whole of Jerusalem. Before a Muslim audience in South Africa, he spoke of jihad for Jerusalem and likening the peace process to the temporary agreement reached between the Prophet Muhammad and the rulers of Mecca. It was this very agreement that allowed Muhammad to increase his military strength, then terminate the pact and conquer Mecca.

Arafat cleverly used Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount as a pretext to unleashing a campaign of organized terror against Israel. He opened up the jails, armed the militias, and incited mobs to engage in violence. Months after the outbreak of war, top Palestinian officials like Marwan Barghouti admitted that intense preparations were made long before 2000 to launch a terrorist offensive. To this day, the poisonous incitement of terror remains a serious problem within the Territories. The Palestinian Authority continues to promote the most venomous anti-Semitic broadcasts, writings, and literature. Palestinian textbooks, newspapers, television programs, and religious sermons all glorify the annihilation of Israel and the killing of Jews.

Where do we go from here? Israel will find no security and peace as long as Arafat and his thuggish PLO remain in power. These veteran murderers are committed to the destruction of Israel. Israel must end Arafat’s reign of terror, remove the 20,000 to 30,000 PLO terrorists in its midst, and disarm militant Islamist groups like Hamas. It will take time and it will be bloody, yet Israel must persevere.

This summary account was written by Zachary Constantino research assistant at the Middle East Forum.


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