Israel must never again withdraw from Judea and Samaria - opinion

Reading of Oslo Accords shows Israel has territorial claims against the PA

 RESCUE WORKERS search the wreckage of a bus destroyed in a Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem, 2003.  (photo credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)
RESCUE WORKERS search the wreckage of a bus destroyed in a Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem, 2003.
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)

This past week marked the 29th anniversary of the signing of the first in a series of agreements between Israel and the PLO commonly known as the Oslo Accords

Article 1 of the first agreement, the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, states twice that the goal is not to supersede or replace UN Security Council Resolution 242 that was agreed upon following the 1967 Six Day War, but to implement it: “The aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations... [is] to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority (i.e., Palestinian Authority)... leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338...”

UN Resolution 338 likewise calls for “the implementation of Security Council Resolution 242.” Significantly, the Palestinian Authority is “interim” and implementation of 242 was and remains the permanent goal of the political process with the Palestinians.

One of the most misrepresented components of Resolution 242 is that it obligated Israel to withdraw from all territories that came under Israeli administration during the war. Rather, Israel was obligated to withdraw from unspecified territories but with a critical qualification: Israel had to be assured “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

By signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, Israel’s leaders had decided to “take a chance for peace,” agreeing to withdraw, cautiously and slowly, from some of the territories of Judea and Samaria, to what they hoped would be more “secure boundaries,” that would be “free from threats or acts of force.” Certainly, Israeli political leaders at the time were proud Zionists and cared about Israel and Israelis. They never would have agreed to knowingly withdraw to “insecure borders” that would endanger Israeli lives.

US PRESIDENT Bill Clinton watches prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat shake hands after signing the Oslo I Accord, at the White House in Washington on September 13, 1993. (credit: GARY HERSHORN/REUTERS)US PRESIDENT Bill Clinton watches prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat shake hands after signing the Oslo I Accord, at the White House in Washington on September 13, 1993. (credit: GARY HERSHORN/REUTERS)

Tragically, the Oslo gamble backfired. Already in 1994, five suicide bombers attacked Israeli civilian targets, one murdering 22 civilians on a bus in Tel Aviv, merely months after Israel started withdrawing. And the terror has never ended. The land Israel gave away was used as a terror base in 2000 to launch a five-year terror campaign.

Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian terror organizations launched more than 300 suicide terror attacks as well as hundreds of shooting attacks, which murdered 1,100 Israelis, and which the PA until this very day calls the “glorious” al-Aqsa Intifada. Since Israel started withdrawals, Palestinian terrorists have murdered more than 2,000 Israelis, mostly civilians.

The Israeli withdrawals to boundaries that are lethally insecure were caused by mistakes in judgment by the political and military leaders. Had Israel’s leaders known or suspected that giving the PLO land would bring about the murder of 2,000 Israelis and ongoing terror, there never would have been any Oslo Accords.

Accordingly, the Israeli government must now state loud and clear: Israel’s withdrawals have already fulfilled all the obligations under international law. Indeed, Israel has withdrawn far beyond “secure boundaries,” far beyond the requirements of UN 242, and therefore far beyond the requirements of the Oslo Accords. Israel does not have the obligation today and will never have an obligation under international law to make another withdrawal. Should an Israeli leader choose to make a further withdrawal, it will be completely voluntary.

Because of this direct link between withdrawals and terror, former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the agreements, almost brought the Oslo process to a halt. Dalia Rabin, Rabin’s daughter, told Yediot Ahronot in 2011 that her father recognized the unfolding tragedy and “he considered stopping the Oslo process.”

“Many people who were close to Father told me that on the eve of his murder he considered stopping the Oslo process because of the terror that was running rampant in the streets and that Arafat wasn’t delivering the goods. Father after all wasn’t a blind man running forward without thought. I don’t rule out the possibility that he considered also doing a reverse on our side. After all, he was someone for whom the security of the state was sacrosanct.”

The tragic murder of Rabin before he had announced his plans, enabled the withdrawals, the Oslo gamble and the tragedies to continue. Israeli withdrawals, which were to welcome a new era in which Israel would be “free from threats or acts of force,” instead ushered in a new era in which Israel is constantly facing new terror attacks.

When the Western democracies that are attacking Israel politically claim that the regions of Judea and Samaria called “Area C” are “occupied” they are making a shameful legal misrepresentation. The Oslo Accords affirm Israel’s legal administration over all of Area C. While the Oslo Accords include text anticipating Israeli withdrawals from Area C, UN Resolution 242 and therefore the Oslo Accords do not require Israel to withdraw to even more dangerous borders than the current ones, which have proven to be lethally insecure.

In fact, a careful reading of the Oslo Accords shows something significant: It is actually Israel that has territorial claims against the PA, and it is Israel that can demand the PA return the lands to Israel that have proven to be staging grounds for terror. Article 5(4) of the Declaration of Principles states: “The outcome of the permanent status negotiations should not be prejudiced or preempted by agreements reached for the interim period.” Meaning that Israel’s past withdrawals to insecure boundaries during the “interim period” do not erase Israel’s legal right to demand that the PA return the land that it used for terror.

If permanent status negotiations ever resume, one of Israel’s demands to counter any Palestinian territorial demand must be that it is the PA that should withdraw from land adjacent to Area C that has been used by terrorists, thus granting Israel its rightful “secure boundaries,” under international law.

Possibly Israel’s greatest diplomatic failure has been its inability to say these words in international forums: Israel has fulfilled its obligations under international law and there will be no more Israeli withdrawals. It is time for us to say this publicly, unabashedly, and definitively to ourselves and to the international community, and then to start developing Area C of Judea and Samaria earnestly since we are here to stay.

The writer is director of Palestinian Media Watch. His book Deception, co-authored with Nan Jacques Zilberdik, was acclaimed by Robert Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch, as “one of the most important books you may handle in your lives.”