Israel's Worst Case: A "Successful" Agreement with the PLO

Louis Rene Beres - Professor of International Law

Department of Political Science - Purdue University

Date: December 5, 1999



The following article was written by Professor Beres more than five years ago. It appears that no one in Rabin's Government was listening. Today, the Barak Government is still not listening. "Success" is at hand.



August 1995


The Rabin government has again decided to "hang tough" in its negotiations with the PLO. Determined that the "peace talks" will not be derailed by Palestinian terrorism, even by persistent suicide bombings in the country's major cities, this government is bent upon completing a "successful" agreement at all costs. The problem with this reasoning is that such an agreement would represent the absolutely worst case scenario for Israel's security, a condition wherein enlarged opportunities for terrorism against defenseless Israeli citizens would be accompanied by greatly expanded prospects of catastrophic war.


It is true, of course, that a complete cessation of peace talks now would indicate a total failure of the Oslo process - hence, a total policy failure for the Rabin government. But the Oslo process was misconceived from the start, an ill-fated venture based largely upon misguided views of enemy intentions and objectives. This means that Rabin has placed himself and, more importantly, his people, in a lose-lose situation. Should he follow through with the process, as certainly seems to be the case at this moment, he will assent to unendurable territorial vulnerabilities and to consequent expansion of both terrorist killings and enemy state aggressions. Should he recognize the folly of the process, he would concede completely his administration's overwhelming errors and confirm that those hundreds of Israeli victims of Arab terror since Oslo had died in vain.


It is not a pretty or enviable choice. Yet, a conscientious prime minister would have no hesitation at this point. Failure of the Oslo process is now the best case success option for Israel. Understanding that Hamas and PLO are two sides of the same coin, and that "autonomy" is merely a linguistic disguise for another sovereign state in the enemy camp (a Palestinian state will be the certain outcome of Oslo), he would acknowledge that the costs of personal political failure are vastly more bearable than those of national disappearance. Mr. Rabin, however well- intentioned, is no such prime minister, and Foreign Minister Peres, the architect of the mythic "New Middle East," is immobilized by a deadly pride, by what the Greeks called hubris. It follows that Israel has essentially two current choices as a nation: (1) To stand by the Rabin government policies and accept a "successful" conclusion to the Peace Process (i.e., territorial dismemberment, more terrorism and a new round of war); or (2) To choose another government, accept a "failed" conclusion to the Peace Process (i.e., maintain control of essential territories, limit terrorism and reduce the risk of another war.) Naturally, in the short term, "failure" of the Peace Process would likely increase certain forms of terrorism and enemy state belligerence - results that would likely produce many "I told you so" reactions from the Israeli left - but the net benefits of failure would still greatly exceed the net costs.


Time is running short. The People of Israel do not have unlimited time to decide. While thousands of Tel Avivians spend idle hours each evening along the beaches and in the cafes, wishing that Israel would become Los Angeles, their fellow countrymen in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan wonder where they will be in a few years. And, to be sure, what happens to these Israelis on the front line of national surrender will happen next to those who are now prepared to surrender others. There will be no happy endings for a Jewish State that has forgotten why it came into being in the first place.


The current government has no use for memory. Intent upon short term victories, it can produce only monumental defeats. Opposition political figures are well aware of this, but are still unable to coalesce into a viable new force, one that could redirect Israel from the terrible dangers of "success" toward the substantially more promising conditions of "failure." It is now up to these figures to stop "success" while there is still time. As their most immediate task, they must promptly inform the People of Israel that their government has been confusing success with failure, and has been attempting, through the bewitchment of language, to turn defeat into victory.


LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security matters. Despite his long history of involvement with Israel's academic, intelligence and military communities, he is no longer welcomed as a lecturer at Israeli universities or IDF staff colleges. His views on "peace" are not politically correct.

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