WHAT "HEBRON PLUS"
Although Israel and the PLO refer to the agreement on Israeli withdrawal from most of Hebron as the "Hebron accord," an editorial in the Washington Times more accurately described it as "Hebron Plus." Not only did Israel surrender most of Hebron --in accordance with
Prime Minister Netanyahu's erroneous claim that Israel was legally obliged to honor the Labor government's promise to withdraw from the city-- but it went far beyond Hebron, by giving the PLO specific dates in March 1997, September 1997 and March 1998 by which Israel will surrender additional parts of Judea and Samaria.
From the point of view of Israel's strategic interests, further withdrawals from Judea-Samaria make no sense. Widening the territorial scope of PLO autonomy in those areas only hastens the day when the PLO will be able to establish a full-fledged state.
Israel will be reduced to the indefensible 9 miles-wide boundaries of 1967 (for good reason did Abba Eban once call those borders "Auschwitz lines"). The PLO state will invite millions of Arab "refugees" from around the world to "return" to "Palestine."
Iranian "volunteers" and North Korean missiles will soon arrive as well, and Israel, afraid to be blamed for starting a war, will undoubtedly refrain from interfering. The "redeployments" of 1997 and 1998 will set the stage for this awful scenario.
But also from the point of view of simple negotiating tactics, the promise to withdraw further in 1997 and 1998 makes no sense. The withdrawals are not linked to any specific action by the PLO. The principle of "reciprocity" is reduced to meaningless rhetoric, as the Netanyahu government talks tough but does not enforce its words.
The "Hebron Plus" accord lists various PLO promises, but does not specify any dates by which those promises must be fulfilled. Israeli withdrawals are tied to concrete dates; PLO obligations are not.
When the occasional Israeli official complains about the PLO not changing its Covenant, or not extraditing terrorists, or not closing down PLO offices in Jerusalem, the PLO can, with justification, point to the Hebron agreement and reply: "There are no dates; we will get to it when we choose." And how will Israel respond? By
appealing to the State Department, or the United Nations, or Evans & Novak?
The way Israel should respond to PLO violations, of course, is the way that any normal country would respond in such a situation: by refusing to make additional concessions until the PLO meets its obligations.
Such an Israeli position could even gain significant public support. In Congress, for example, there would be substantial sympathy for a concrete Israeli insistence on reciprocity. And a sustained information campaign by the Israeli government --utilizing its embassies,
consulates, and local Jewish and Christian allies--would undoubtedly make major inroads in public opinion. Of course neither the administration nor the media would support such an Israeli stance, but they do not support the current Israeli stance anyway, and ultimately they will never back Israel until Israel succumbs to every Arab demand.
The participation of the PLO police in the September 1996 rioting, and the killing of 15 Israeli soldiers by PLO policemen, was the obvious opportunity for Israel to make its stand. The Israeli government failed to seize the moment.
The renewal of mass rioting and suicide attacks in March 1997, coupled with constant PLO violations of the accords, provides Israel with another golden opportunity to recognize the flaws of Oslo and Hebron Plus, and bury them both, once and for all, before they bury Israel.
Herbert Zweibon is Chairman of Americans For a Safe Israel.