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Historical truth is often obscured in the mists of history. Usually this process requires centuries. In the Middle East, owing to sandstorms, and to the mist-making machinery of Pallywood and others, the process happens before our very eyes. We are privileged to witness the birth of many myths.

Danny Rubinstein offers us two of those myths. The first myth is that the Oslo accords did not benefit the Palestinians. They "recognized Israel" but got nothing in return except settlements and closures and the like. Actually the Palestinians got a great deal from the Oslo accords. They got a government of their own, and they got Israeli withdrawal from about 40% of the area of the West Bank, allowing a measure of self-rule to 97% of the Arab population. They almost got a state too. Too bad that the government that Palestinians chose turned away from peace, resulting in the violence that brought on Israeli counter measures, and too bad that the government they democratically elected now disavows the peace process and is sworn to destroy Israel. Did Israel build settlements during the Oslo period, as Rubinstein points out? Definitely, Israel built settlements. Did the Israeli population of the West Bank and Gaza grow as fast as the Palestinian population? No way. Palestinian population was swelled by illegal immigration from Jordan, recklessly high birthrate encouraged as a matter of policy, fudging of figures by Palestinian authorities to an unknown extent. And Yasser Arafat said he was going to do it. Both sides understood that the Olso accords had started a "race" to determine how the territoriy would be divided.



The last gift of Oslo to the Palestinians was the disengagement. Israeli occupation of Gaza ended. It didn't end very well, because terrorist activities emanating from Gaza make it an act of suicide to grant it all the rights of unoccupied territory. Without Oslo, it is unlikely that Israel would ever have left Gaza.

The second myth, was created by the Hamas as part of their excuse for refusing to recognize the agreements of the previous government. The myth states that the Quartet requires that Hamas reconize Israel and that that would grant legitimacy to the occupation. In fact, nobody is asking for diplomatic recognition of Israel, because formal mutual diplomatic recognition would come only after a peace treaty was ratified. What is demanded of Hamas is that they recognize the right of Israel to exist, in any area, even an area the size of a postage stamp. That is what Hamas is refusing to do. They cannot do it, because their charter declares that all of "Palestine" from the river to the sea, is a holy waqf given to Muslims by Allah, and they can't ever give up a millimeter or sign a peace treaty with Israel. They can sign a "Hudna," a truce that lasts until it is expedient for them to break it, allowing them to gather their forces and organize themselves for confrontation with Israel.

Those who insist that Hamas doesn't have to honor the agreements of previous Palestinian governments should remember that the game can be played both ways. If we take everyone at their word, then Israel can abrogate the agreements too, and send the PA packing to Tunis, lock stock and bombs. If, as Danny Rubinstein insists, the Palestinians got nothing good from Oslo, then it would not be a big loss, would it? But everyone knows that this is just empty talk, Khalam Fahdi, and that the Palestinian Authority are not interested in going back to the time before Oslo.

Ami Isseroff



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