Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Land for Peace !=Death

Down below Lurker seem to be arguing that Oslo CAUSED suicide bombings but the dots aren't connected. How did one lead to the other? What about Oslo led to an eruption of violence? Lurker doesn't say.

He also makes several claims that are not supported by information found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website.

For starters, he says: "The September 1993 Oslo Accords sparked a massive wave of terrorist attacks in Israel, of unprecedented proportions: Immediately following the signing [my emphasis] terrorism skyrocketed to levels that had been previously unknown." This is true, but misleading. Immediately after Oslo, there were many small scale attacks - shootings and stabbings - but almost all of these small scale attacks were carried out by Arafat's enemies in Hamas, or by free agents. The rest, though categorized as terror attacks by the MFA may have been nothing of the sort(1). The first full scale attack - a bombing -wasn't until seven months later - on April 6, 1994, and the first suicide attack came a week later on April 13.

Next, Lurker says "terrorism skyrocketed to levels that had been previously unknown" and this is also misleading. Though it's indisputable that the death toll rose after Oslo, the increase, though lamentable, is not something that can be described with the metaphor of a "skyrocket," as you can see here: 40 Israelis died at the hands of terrorists in 1989; the next year there were 33 murders, followed by 21 in 1991, and 34 in 1992. This death rate is slightly lower, but certainly comparable to the number of deaths during the period Lurker bemoans: 1994: 65; 1995: 29; 1996: 56; 1997:41; 1998:16; 1999: 8. (2)

Lurker also allows himself to get carried away when he says "Giving land to the Palestinians endangers the lives of Jews, and has resulted in the deaths of thousands of them." The MFA totals the casualties on two seperate pages and the true number of terrorist murders during the Oslo years is either 215 --plus however many died in 1993 following Oslo (2) or 269 (I can't explain the discrepancy between this and this)

In his post, Lurker refers to the numbers of deaths, not the number of attacks, and this is also misleading because if we're attempting to measure how terrorists reacted to Oslo an attack which everyone survives is equally significant to an attack that kills 50. He is correct that the number of attacks increased dramatically (and here skyrocket might be the right word) after Oslo, but if we examine how they spread across three distinct post-Oslo eras something interesting emerges.

The MFA reports the number of attacks that occurred between 1993 and 2000 on two different pages. On the first, only major attacks on civilians are listed. On the second, the aforementioned shootings and stabbings are included, as are attacks on soldiers
Between 1993 and 2000 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs counts 24 major attacks, of which 9 occurred between the Oslo signing and Rabin assassination in November 1995. There were fifteen more before the second intifada started in 2000. Of these fifteen, eleven took place during Netanyahu's administration.

If you look at the total number of attacks which includes the small scale attacks you see a similar breakdown: There were 47 between September 1993 and the assassination two years later, 24 during the 7 month interim period prior to Netanyahu's election, and 26 between June 1996 and 2000.

So Lurker is right about the numbers (sort of) and right (sort of) when he says the number of attacks declined under Netanyahu but he draws a baseless conclusion. The lesson is not, as he says, that giving Arabs land results in carnage, nor is the lesson that Netanyahu's hard line obstructionism saved lives. The truth is far more complicated.

According to the MFA's reporting, the attacks, overwhelmingly, were carried out by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and free agents. These are men and organizations who opposed Arafat and his initiatives, and were not under his control. They attacked - first with disorganized and opportunistic shootings and stabbings, then with more carefully planned bombings - because they hoped to undermine Arafat, and derail the peace process. They did this because they were rejectionists, and because they were rejectionists they opposed both Arafat and Israel, and hoped to discredit Arafat's promises. In short, they wanted Israelis to come to the same conclusion that Lurker has drawn .

Their attacks, therefore, are no argument against Oslo, or against the idea the Israel should trade land for peace. It can only be seen as such if you believe in monoliths and a borg like Arab mentality. This is rather like saying Yigal Amir and Boruch Goldstein "prove" something about Rabin and all other Israelis. In his analysis, Lurker forgets the salient detail: The Arabs who attacked Israel after Oslo were not the same Arabs who were attempting to negotiate a settlement.

Lurker, therefore, has not shown us that trading land enrages Arabs who "given an inch" believe they can, through force "grab a mile." He's only shown us that peace is difficult, and likely to be opposed by the angry and the desperate. Netanyahu, I agree, understood this in a way Rabin did not. The lesson I take from the (slight) decline in attacks and deaths during his administration is not that Oslo was a mistake - Netanyahu, after all, never retreated from any promise Rabin made: he didn't cancel the agreement - but that Rabin should have done more to protect Israel from those Arabs who opposed Arafat and his initiatives.

(1) Anatoly Kolisnikov, for instance, is considered a victim of terror, but he was stabbed by unknown parties while working as a night watchman; Moshe Becker, also a victim of terror, per the MFA's list, was killed by his employees.

(2) I exclude 1993 because I can't find a way to determine how many of that year's 45 murders were post Oslo. My best guess is that only 12 of the 45 were killed after Oslo, but I might be way off because I don't know if the 45 deaths include soldiers. You can do your own calculations by comparing this and this.
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