In the long run, damage caused by Arab incitement against Israel may exceed whatever benefits Israel has gained from the Oslo Agreements by far. The main change in Palestinian and Arab policies over the past twenty years has been to try to achieve the political goals they failed to reach by military means – through incitement. Therefore, one of the major developments of the last 20 years has been the increasing efforts to demonize Israel worldwide.

To this end, the Palestinians have gradually succeeded in mobilizing a variety of Western allies. This has led to the slow but steady growth of the BDS (Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions) movement against Israel.

Out of the world of Islam comes far more ideological criminality than out of any other major part of the world. There is no indication whatsoever that the percentage of Palestinians with an extremely criminal ideological mindset is lower than in other Middle Eastern societies such as Syria, Iraq or Egypt. One achievement reached by the Palestinians is that they have succeeded without justification in developing an image which is different from these other violence-permeated cultures.   

Western allies of the Palestinians intentionally ignore the glorification of murderers of Israeli civilians by Mohammed Abbas and other Palestinian Authority leaders. Many of them also close their eyes to the genocidal platform of Hamas. Several of those who collaborate with the extreme Palestinian inciters even falsely hide behind a humanitarian mask.

My book Israel’s New Future – Interviews was published in 1994.[1] It recorded the expectations of 16 prominent Israelis about future developments after the official signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Thereafter, perspectives on Israel’s future changed in a major way. Many forecasts made by several interviewees in the book were correct; a multitude of others were mistaken. Those who were particularly mistaken were the optimists.

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban noted in his interview that, “Israel is engaged in direct negotiations with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon,” and what he termed, “the mainstream Palestinian movement.” He added, “We are desired guests in Morocco and in Tunisia,” as well as, “there are contacts with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Moreover, the Arab boycott is now in the first stage of disintegration.”

Eban remarked that these developments pointed to a total change in the Arab approach: “Never have Israelis and Arabs been meeting in so many ways in Washington, Tokyo, Moscow, Ottawa, Rome and our region. Militarily, the Arabs have been very unsuccessful against Israel. Now they want to be free of the traumas of defeat. Before the collapse of Communism and the Gulf War, the two main developments of the last few years, nobody foresaw that this would happen.”[2]

Political dynamics in the Middle East move rapidly and in several directions. Today’s political situation in the Middle East is very distant from the one Eban perceived a few months after the Oslo Accords were signed. Many major military and political developments have taken place in Israel’s immediate environment in the past twenty years. Israel was directly affected by some, as in the Second Intifada which started in 2000.

Israel also initiated major events e.g., the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Many other important events took place without Israeli involvement, such as the revolutions in Arab countries, falsely labeled as the “Arab Spring.” Israel has only been affected in a marginal way by the Syrian Civil war so far.

Israeli optimists who believed in the Oslo Accords with near-Messianic enthusiasm were radically wrong. The Palestinians have not turned themselves into reformed democrats. The political concept of “land for peace” can also be considered a failure after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and its takeover by Hamas in 2007. Regarding the pessimists who saw the Oslo Accords as “the beginning of the end of Israel,” the jury is still out.

Unrest in the Middle East today exceeds that from the time of the Oslo Accords period by far. Events which cause possible curves and bends in Israel’s future, now take place with much greater frequency than at the end of the previous century. Had I commented today on the actual situation and possible future developments I would already have had to make changes in the introduction I wrote for my book’s new edition Israel’s New Future Revisited[3] which came out last summer.

In such a volatile and rapidly changing reality, is one able to predict Israel’s future at all? What has one learned from the Oslo agreements and developments since? A major lesson is that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is likely to become largely a piece of paper over the years. When this happens, the duplicitous Western humanitarians will again blame Israel as they have done for much of the Palestinians’ own misconduct.

What should Israel strive for? What comes to mind first is that Israel’s domestic situation must be kept under control. Key economic requirements should be studied carefully and internal social discord should be contained within reasonable limits.

Making far-reaching concessions for a true peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world could be justified. Doing so however, for an agreement on paper with diminishing relation to the reality on the ground over the years would be irresponsible. The more so in a quickly changing environment and an unstable, largely unpredictable world.

[1] Israel’s New Future Interviews, (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs 1994).

[2] Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Abba Eban, “Challenges in the Aftermath of Peace.” in Israel’s New Future, 25.

[3] Manfred Gerstenfeld, Israel’s New Future Revisited: Shattered Dreams and Harsh Realities, (New York: RVP Press, 2013).

About the Author
Manfred Gerstenfeld is a Board member and former Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (2000-2012); He is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism