Skip to comments.Editorial: Happy birthday, Shimon Peres
Posted on 09/23/2003 7:00:31 AM PDT by IsraelBeach
Editorial: Happy birthday, Shimon
"Opposition," said William Blake, "is true friendship." We think of that line in the afterglow of Shimon Peres's 80th birthday party, which brought together, among other celebrity mismatches, Moshe Katsav, Bill Clinton, Terje Roed-Larson, and Ariel Sharon for what turned out to be a moving event. If little else, these men share an admiration for Peres in which we join.
Outside the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, where the day's formal festivities were held, protesters called for bringing the "Oslo criminals" to justice.
No Israeli newspaper has been more steadfast in its opposition to the Oslo Accords than The Jerusalem Post. But we do not join in the protesters' sentiments.
Surely the "Oslo criminals" did not build the reactor at Dimona, or Israel Aircraft Industries, or many of the settlements. Surely the "Oslo criminals" did not organize the Entebbe rescue, or rescue Israel's economy from hyperinflation, or arrange our peace with Jordan. These are the foundation stones upon which the modern Jewish state is built. The man who did so much to put them there deserves, at the very least, a more intelligent opposition.
That opposition begins with the assumption that whatever Peres is, he is not a criminal. That his motives are honorable. That his methods are honest. That his ideas are intelligent. If we, his political opponents, cannot grant him this, we are not fit for democratic politics. It's that simple.
In our view, the Oslo process was based on a series of mistaken assumptions. Israel was wrong to choose Yasser Arafat and the PLO as its negotiating partner. It was wrong not to insist on full Palestinian compliance with every aspect of the accord. It was wrong to think by creating the right atmosphere, the fundamental issues of refugees and Jerusalem would vanish in the mist. It was particularly wrong to continue to hold out the hope of a negotiated settlement after the onset of hostilities three years ago.
At the same time, we are cognizant that from the perspective of 1993, Oslo might plausibly have been seen as a gamble worth taking. It demonstrated that Israelis were a people ready to take great risks for the sake of peace and to ensure that Israel would forever remain a democratic and Jewish state. Ultimately, Oslo also demonstrated that the Palestinians were not so honorably intentioned.
Of course, if the best Oslo would accomplish was further proof of our goodness and the malevolence of our enemies, then perhaps we could have done without it. But other Israelis, fearful of international isolation, of becoming the next pariah state, did need such proof. We know where we stand. Reasonable people will disagree.
Terrible things have happened to Israel over the past decade. In our view, many of them were brought on by the policies so consistently advocated, and never reconsidered or renounced, by Peres. This does him little credit.
Then again, Peres has already paid a price: Electoral defeat in 1996; failure to win the presidency in 2000; Sharon's ascendancy; the near-collapse of the Labor Party he now lamely chairs. Most of all, Peres knows as well as anyone else that the peace he promised Israelis, and upon which he staked his reputation and his legacy, never materialized.
This young lion of Israel will go down in history as a failed leader.
It would be easy for us to write that Peres's lavish birthday celebrations amounted to a costly exercise in narcissism. Indeed, Peres is the first to acknowledge his own vanity. But this would not explain what moved Ariel Sharon to honor his oldest political rival with such obvious warmth. He, too, knows that this old man, so hated in some quarters, deserves Israel's gratitude. All honor to Sharon for showing his.