WASHINGTON - This is peace? "Israelis Unnerved by Peace That Kills," Washington Post headline, March 5. Peace that kills? This is an absurd oxymoron. If peace means anything, it means at its very minimum an absence of violence. "Armistice" and "truce" - lesser forms of peace - mean cease-fire. Peace must mean at least that.
This Orwellian conjunction of peace and violence demonstrates the state of hypnosis that Americans and Israelis have placed themselves under since the September 1993 handshake on the White House lawn. What followed has been called a peace process. It has been nothing of the kind. The Palestinian war on Israel has been unrelenting. More Israeli civilians have been massacred since that handshake than at any time in the entire history of the country.
The "peace process" is in fact nothing more than a unilateral Israeli withdrawal. The Palestinians have gotten Gaza, West Bank autonomy, huge influxes of foreign aid, international recognition, their own police force, their first free elections ever.
In return, Israel has gotten what? Pats on the head from the United States. The occasional trade mission from Tunisia. And, from the Palestinians, death. This is peace?
The Labor Party's idea was that it would give up the territories and contract out anti-terrorism to Yasser Arafat. From the beginning it was obvious that Arafat was either unable or unwilling to control Hamas. If unable, the peace process was an illusion; if unwilling, it was a deception.
Deception is more likely. Arafat's occasional denunciations of terrorism are tactical, not moral. He is upset because these bombings interrupt the "peace process," i.e., the Israeli handover to him of territory and power.
Moral objections to terror? Arafat is the father of Palestinian terrorism. Twenty years ago, his men were murdering Israeli athletes at the Olympics, civilians in the cities of Israel, even the American ambassador in Sudan. That was then, you say. Then? Ever since returning to Gaza under the Israel-PLO accords he has (in Arabic, of course, not English) lauded the "martyrs" - suicide murderers - and called for Jihad. He publicly mourned and praised the Hamas terrorist and master bomb-maker responsible for the deaths of dozens of Jews.
When too many Jews are killed at once, however, Arafat rounds up the usual suspects, low-level nobodies, and then lets them go a few days later. Israel, America and the world go along with the charade.
Israel's defense theology has always been forward defense. Fight the enemy on his territory. Why? Because Israel's territory is so small and its population so concentrated that any battle within Israel would prove catastrophic both to civilian life and civilian morale. As we are seeing today.
That was the reason for Israel's 25-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Not because Israelis hungered for "Greater Israel" but because it was the only way to safely surveil and harass and disrupt and fight Palestinians bent on killing Jews and destroying the Jewish state.
It was a classic defensive occupation. Which is why a majority of Israelis were so delighted to give it up when they deceived themselves into believing that Arafat would take over their defense.
Now they know. Israel has instead created a Trojan horse, inviting armed Palestinians within commuting distance of its major cities. It is as if the U.S. had invited the most murderous Peruvian Maoists into the suburbs of D.C., granted them autonomy and sanctuary, and then was surprised when buses blew up on Pennsylvania Avenue.
What to do?
1. Seal the borders between Israel and the Palestinian territories. No commerce, no intercourse. Infiltration will not be completely stopped, but it will be harder.
2. Stop the peace process. Up to now the Palestinians have gotten everything promised in Oslo: recognition, territory, financing, legitimacy. Israel asked for only one thing in return - peace - and has gotten the worst bloodshed in its history. No peace, no peace process.
3. Hot pursuit. Subcontracting one's national defense is over. Israel will need to send armed units to either seize or destroy the Hamas terrorist networks that plan and direct these atrocities.
The Palestinians and other Arabs will then, of course, go running to the U.N. Security Council to get Israel denounced for these elementary acts of self-defense. This is where the United States comes in. It should declare unequivocally that these terrorist attacks on Israel are acts of war, that every country has the right to self-defense, and that the U.S. will therefore veto any attempt to condemn Israel for exercising that right.
American fingerprints are all over the Oslo accords. This is the least we can do for a people that have suffered so terribly in its name.
(Copyright, 1996, Washington Post Writers Group)
Charles Krauthammer's column appears Monday on editorial pages of The Times.