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The recent wave of terrorism and violence is the result of a deliberate Palestinian decision to prefer force over negotiations.
In July 2000, a Middle East Peace Summit was held at Camp David, attended by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and then-Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, and hosted by then-US President Bill Clinton. At the Summit, it became clear to all that a negotiated settlement could only be achieved through a willingness of both sides to show flexibility. While Israel presented proposals demonstrating its willingness to make historic compromises for peace, the Palestinian leadership balked at the prospect and left the talks without offering any historic compromises of its own. Following the Summit, the Palestinian leadership decided to attempt to achieve through violence what they could not achieve through negotiations - a solution without compromise. This is the source of the wave of Palestinian violence and terrorism which began in September 2000 and became known as the Terror Intifada.
The violent events recently witnessed in our region are the result of a clear Palestinian decision to pursue violence as a political tool. Israel seeks to resolve its differences with the Palestinians at the negotiating table, while Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have chosen the path of ongoing confrontation.
This deliberate choice by the Palestinian leadership to pursue violence rather than negotiation was clearly explained in the Palestinian media. On December 6, 2000, the semi-official Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam reported as follows:
"Speaking at a symposium in Gaza, Palestinian Minister of Communications, Imad Al-Falouji, confirmed that the Palestinian Authority had begun preparations for the outbreak of the current intifada from the moment the Camp David talks concluded, this in accordance with instructions given by Chairman Arafat himself. Mr. Falouji went on to state that Arafat launched this intifada as a culminating stage to the immutable Palestinian stance in the negotiations, and was not meant merely as a protest of Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharonís visit to the Temple Mount."
Similar statements have been made by other Palestinian officials, in the Palestinian and Arab press and media.
The Palestinian Authority regards every Palestinian casualty as a victory in its struggle for international sympathy. Consequently, its goal has been to foment violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, and then capitalize on the bloody results.
The IDF has done everything in its power to act with restraint in the face of countless shootings, violent riots and other life-threatening situations. Given the widespread violence engulfing the territories, it has been relatively successful in keeping down the number of casualties.
The first few weeks of the Terror Intifada were characterized by large-scale confrontations. Far from being peaceful demonstrations, most Palestinian street protests can best be described as violent riots with hundreds of Palestinians, some of them armed with lethal weapons, attacking isolated groups of Israeli soldiers. It should be stressed that in order to confront Israeli soldiers, the Palestinian rioters must leave their residential areas and go to the outskirts of their towns and villages. Only there will they find the Israeli military, manning the positions which were designated to them in the Israeli-Palestinian agreements signed by both parties.
Israel rejects the notion that justice can be determined by the relative number of casualties on either side. The main reason there are fewer Israeli casualties is that fewer Israelis involve themselves in the violence. By way of comparison, casualty totals among the allied forces in the Desert Storm campaign in Iraq, and of the NATO forces in Yugoslavia, were much lower than the Iraqi and Serbian casualty totals, which also included innocent civilians tragically caught in the cross-fire of the conflicts. Yet, unlike the civilian casualties in Iraq and Yugoslavia, Palestinian civilians hurt in the violence have deliberately chosen to involve themselves in initiated confrontations with Israeli armed forces.
Why are Palestinian children being wounded in the conflict?
Palestinian children are sent into the streets to throw rocks, firebombs, and even grenades at Israeli soldiers. They are taught in their schools and mosques to hate Israelis and Jews. They are urged by television ads to 'cast down their toys and take up arms'. They are trained in special summer camps to be "holy warriors" in the 'Jihad' against Israel and the Jews. It is no surprise then that the are among the casualties in the wake of violent clashes between Palestinian mobs and Israeli soldiers.
Israeli military positions are only located outside Palestinian population centers, far from the neighborhoods where children live. Yet, understanding the propaganda value of well-publicized child casualties to their political cause, the Palestinian Authority has even taken to providing transportation for children to violent flashpoints. Armed Palestinian policemen and members of the Fatah militia, the Tanzim, often stand just behind this human shield of juvenile "martyrs" and direct gunfire at Israeli soldiers, knowing they can further exploit the children's wounds for their propaganda purposes, should Israeli soldiers choose to defend themselves.
The cynical use of children as pawns in the conflict begins in the Palestinian education system. Palestinian textbooks (many of which have been recently published by the Palestinian Authority itself) openly teach hatred against Israel and Israelis. Palestinian education television programming glorifies martyrdom in the struggle against Israel. Palestinian children are trained in the use of firearms in summer camps and in youth groups. This manipulation of the child, which has been extensively documented by the media, constitutes a reprehensible violation of all existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as all international treaties meant to protect children in situations of armed conflict. The PA's heinous exploitation of children is both immoral and illegal, even under Islamic law.
It should be remembered, however, that Israeli children have also been victims of the violence. They have been deliberately targeted and killed by Palestinian sniper fire, or in machine-gun ambushes while riding in their parents' car. Palestinian road-side bombs have maimed children in school busses and mortar shells have injured them in youth clubs. Israeli boys have been bludgeoned and stoned to death by terrorists while hiking near their homes. Suicide bombers have murdered dozens of Israel youths at shopping malls, bus stops and discos.
Although the suffering of every child is tragic and regretful, a basic difference exists between the two sides. Most Palestinian children have been hurt due to their direct participation in violent confrontations, and a minority of the casualties were the unfortunate result of cross-fire or return fire directed towards terrorist targets. By contrast, Israeli child victims were the deliberate choice of their terrorist attackers -- the intended and preferred target of the Palestinian bombers, snipers and gunmen.
War is Not a Game and Children are not Puppets - Dr. Issac Kadman, Nov 5, 2000
What about the claims regarding the desecration of holy sites?
The Palestinian leadership is attempting to present the conflict as a religious one, thus hoping to achieve wider international support.
When the Terror Intifada broke out in late September 2000, the Arab world blamed then-Opposition leader Ariel Sharon, for having provoked the violence by visiting Jerusalem's Temple Mount - the most holy site to Judaism and the third most holy site to Islam - in what was purported to be a show of disrespect for Muslim sensitivities. The Mitchell Fact-Finding Committee has since determined that this visit was not the cause of the violence, which had political, not religious motivation.
Recent history has shown that freedom of worship and the sanctity of Islamic, Christian and Jewish sites in the Holy Land has been guaranteed only when these sites have been under Israeli control. Even during the present wave of violence, the Temple Mount has remained open for Muslim worship, despite the fact that prayers there have become a forum for incitement and rioting. Muslims have even used the Temple Mount courtyard as a location from which to hurl rocks down on Jewish worshippers gathered beneath at Judaism's most revered place of prayer - the Western Wall plaza.
The forced closure of the Western Wall plaza due to the Palestinian stoning of Jewish worshippers on the eve of the Rosh Hashanah High Holiday and again on the solemn fast day of Tisha B'Av is tantamount to the evacuation of St. Peter's Square on Christmas, or the shutdown of Mecca's Qabaa during the height of the Muslim Haj. And yet, various Arab spokesmen continue to maintain that the grossest violation of a sacred site, and the most unforgivable provocation, was that brief visit by an Israeli leader to Judaism's most holy site.
Part and parcel of the Terror Intifada, a campaign of destruction and desecration has been carried out by Palestinians against Jewish holy sites. The most blatant example occurred when a Palestinian mob sacked, demolished and then torched Joseph's Tomb in Shechem (Nablus). This was perpetrated just after the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the shrine as part of an agreement under which the Palestinian Authority undertook to protect the Jewish holy site from harm. Following the attack, Palestinians seized the site, destroyed the Jewish artifacts, burned the interior and rededicated the structure as a mosque. Subsequently, there have been further Palestinian attacks on Jewish synagogues, including the ancient synagogue of Jericho, which was severely damaged by arson, Rachel's Tomb, which has been subjected to repeated Palestinian machine-gun fire, and a synagogue in the town of Efrat which was almost destroyed.Christian sites have also been dragged into the fray by the Palestinian militants. The frequent gunfire attacks against the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo have been launched from the adjacent Christian Arab village of Beit Jala, by Palestinian terrorists have deliberately chosen to open fire from positions close to churchs or schools. These attacks are a wanton attempt to draw the Christian world into the conflict by provoking Israeli return fire which would damage the village's many Christian shrines. For its part, Israel has done its utmost to respond to these unprovoked attacks with the greatest possible restraint, pinpointing only those terrorist positions from which the attacks have been launched.
What is Israel's position on the Palestinian claim to a 'right of return'?
The Palestinian demand to unconditionally exercise a self-declared 'Right of Return' is nothing less than a demand to eliminate of the State of Israel.
The Palestinian refugee problem did not spring from a vacuum. Its immediate cause was the refusal of the Arab world to accept UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan) in 1947 and, the subsequent Arab invasion of the new State of Israel. During that war, many Arabs living in the battle zones abandoned their homes, whether following calls from the Arab leaders, out of fear of the fighting, or in apprehension over their future in a Jewish state. If the war had not been forced upon Israel by the various Arab countries and the local Arab population, the refugee problem would not exist.
The Arab states (with the exception of Jordan) were determined to perpetuate the refugee problem and to exploit it in their struggle to destroy Israel. From 1948 to the present day, the refugees have been confined to crowded camps, where they live in poverty and despair, and as a deliberate policy, no attempt has been made to absorb them into society or to provide for their welfare. This policy was pursued in order to engender international sympathy for the Palestinian cause, at the expense of the Palestinians themselves.
As a first step to the realization of the Palestinian claim to a so-called 'Right of Return' for all descendants of the Arab refugees, it has been demanded that Israel admit its responsibility for the refugee problem. Since Israel is neither responsible for the creation of the refugee problem nor for its perpetuation, it cannot take upon itself, even as a gesture, responsibility for this problem. Such a declaration of reponsiblity would have far-reaching implications. Primarily, it would lend an air of false legitimacy to the historically unprecedented Palestinian demand for an unconditional "right" to "return" to areas that are part of the State of Israel. The arrival of millions of Palestinians in Israel (whose present Jewish and Arab population is just over 6 million) would in effect end Israel's existence as the modern political embodiment of the ancient Jewish nation.
It should be noted that hundreds of thousands of Jews were forced out of Arab countries, leaving behind vast property and wealth for which they were never compensated. The number of Jews displaced as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict is roughly equal to the number of Arabs, and in effect, this parallel displacement constitutes an exchange of population similar to those which have taken place in many other instances of regional conflict in the 20th century (India-Pakistan, Greece-Turkey, etc.). Israel took these Jews in and integrated them into Israeli society, despite the burden on its developing economy. Israel has never renounced its right to submit claims regarding these Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
What is Israel's position on the Jewish settlements in the territories?
While the future status of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza is subject to negotiation, Israel's historic and legal claim to these territories is no less valid than that of the Palestinians.
Jewish settlement in West Bank and Gaza Strip territory has existed from time immemorial and was expressly recognised as legitimate in the Mandate for Palestine adopted in 1922 by the League of Nations, which provided for the establishment of a Jewish state in the Jewish people's ancient homeland. Indeed, Article 6 of the Mandate provided as follows:
"The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands not required for public use".
Some Jewish settlements, such as in Hebron, existed throughout the centuries of Ottoman rule, while settlements such as Neve Ya'acov, north of Jerusalem, the Gush Etzion bloc in Judea, the communities north of the Dead Sea and Kfar Darom in the Gaza region, were established under British Mandatory administration prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. To be sure, many Israeli settlements have been established on sites which were home to Jewish communities in previous generations, in an expression of the Jewish people's deep historic and religious connection with the land.
For more than a thousand years, the only administration which has prohibited Jewish settlement was that of the Jordanian occupation, which during the nineteen years of its rule (1948-1967) declared the sale of land to Jews a capital offense. The right of Jews to establish homes in these areas, and the legal titles to the land which had been acquired, could not be legally invalidated by the Jordanian or Egyptian occupation which resulted from their armed invasion of Israel in 1948, and such rights and titles remain valid to this day.
The principle of international humanitarian law which prohibits the forcible transfer of segments of the population of a state to the territory of another state which it has occupied as a result of the resort to armed force is not relevant to the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. This principle, which is reflected in Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, was drafted immediately following the Second World War. As International Red Cross' authoritative commentary to the Convention confirms, the principle was intended to protect the local population from displacement, including endangering its separate existence as a race, as occurred with respect to the forced population transfers in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary before and during the war. This is clearly not the case with regard to the West Bank and Gaza. The attempt to present Israeli settlements as a violation of this principle is clearly untenable. As Professor Eugene Rostow, former US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs has written: "the Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the local population to live there" (AJIL, 1990, vol. 84,p.72)
The provisions of the Geneva Convention regarding forced population transfer to occupied sovereign territory cannot be viewed as prohibiting the voluntary return of individuals to the towns and villages from which they, or their ancestors, had been ousted. Nor does it prohibit the movement of individuals to land which was neither under the legitimate sovereignty of any other state nor owned by other individual. In this regard, Israeli settlements have been established only after an exhaustive investigation process, under the supervision of the Supreme Court of Israel, designed to ensure that no communities are established on private Arab land.
It should be emphasised that the movement of individual Israelis to the territories is entirely voluntary, while the settlements themselves are not intended to displace Arab inhabitants, nor do they do so in practice. Repeated charges regarding the illegality of Israeli settlements must therefore be regarded as politically motivated, without foundation in international law.
Similarly, as Israeli settlements cannot be considered illegal, they cannot constitute a "grave violation" of the Geneva Convention, and hence any claim that they constitute a "war crime" is also without any legal basis. Such political charges cannot justify in any way Palestinian acts of terrorism and violence against innocent Israelis - especially in light of the fact that Israel and the Palestinians agreed to negotiate the settlement issue only following Arafat's declaration renouncing terrorism and violence.
Politically, the West Bank and Gaza Strip is best regarded as territory over which there are competing claims which should be resolved in peace process negotiations. Israel has valid claims to title in this territory based not only on its historic and religious connection to the land, and its recognized security needs, but also on the fact that the territory was not under the sovereignty of any state and came under Israeli control in a war of self-defense, imposed upon Israel. At the same time, Israel recognizes that the Palestinians also entertain legitimate claims to the area. Indeed, the very fact that the parties have agreed to conduct negotiations on settlements indicated that they envisage a compromise on this issue.
The agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinians contain no prohibition whatsoever on the building or expansion of settlements. On the contrary, it is specifically provided that the issue of settlements is reserved for permanent status negotiations, which are to take place in the concluding stage of the peace talks. Indeed, the parties expressly agreed that the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction or control over settlements or Israelis, pending the conclusion of a permanent status agreement. It has been charged that the prohibition on unilateral steps which alter the "status" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which is contained in the Interim Agreement and in subsequent agreements between the parties, implies a ban on settlement activity. This position is disingenuous. The building of homes has no effect on the status of the area. The prohibition on unilateral measures was agreed upon in order to ensure that neither side take steps to change the legal status of this territory (such as by annexation or unilateral declaration of statehood), pending the outcome of permanent status negotiations. Were this prohibition to be applied to building, it would lead to the unreasonable interpretation that neither side is permitted to build homes to accommodate for the needs of their respective communities.
It is important to note that, in the spirit of compromise and in an attempt to take constructive confidence building measures in the peace process, successive Israeli governments have expressly recognized the need for territorial compromise in West Bank and Gaza Strip territory and have voluntary adopted a freeze on the building of new settlements. In this regard, the present National Unity Government, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has officially declared that it will not build any new settlements, while remaining committed to the basic needs of the existing settlement communities (Government of Israel, Policy Guidelines, March 2001).
The Palestinian leadership's choice to turn to violence has sabotaged Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation, causing a sharp decline in the economic well-being of the Palestinian population.
Israel has made substantial efforts since the signing of the Oslo accords to facilitate Palestinian-Israeli economic cooperation in the context of the peace process. As a result, there has been a marked expansion of Palestinian trade and employment in Israel, as well as other forms of economic cooperation from 1994 until the outbreak of the present violence.
Israel, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, has taken a broad range of actions since 1994 in order to promote and improve the free movement of goods and labor from the Palestinian Authority into Israel. In addition, industrial parks have been set up in the Palestinian Authority, involving substantial Israeli investment and economic incentives. These measures have had a significant, positive impact on the Palestinian economy.
Unfortunately, the recent events have led to a sharp decline in economic activity in the area, with economic repercussions for both the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
The Government of Israel is seeking to stabilize the situation in the territories, and to ease conditions for those living there. Israel has no desire to burden the Palestinian civilian population not involved in terrorism and violence. However, the acute security threat presented by Palestinian terrorism makes some measure unavoidable, if Israel is to fulfil its duty as a sovereign state to safeguard the lives of its citizens. Travel restrictions have been put into effect, in order to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens in the West Bank and Gaza, protecting them from indiscriminate terrorism on the roads. The passage of Palestinians from the territories into Israel has also been limited, so as to prevent the spillover of violence and terrorism into Israeli cities. Exceptions have made for the movement of commercial goods, food, medicine, ambulances and medical crews, which continue to circulate freely. Moreover, procedures have been simplified to enable speedy delivery to the Palestinian Authority of humanitarian goods, such as medical supplies.
Israel has recently issued working permits for thousands of Palestinians, who seek work in Israel.
It must be stressed that the purpose of these security precautions is to ensure the security of Israeli citizens in these trying times. It is Israel's policy to differentiate as much as possible between those perpetrating, aiding and directing terrorist activities, and the civilian population which is uninvolved in terrorism. If calm prevails in particular areas, improvements can be implemented there independently of other areas. Consequently, the impact of the events on the local civilian population is dependent, more than any other factor, on the degree to which they participate in terrorism and violence.
What is the connection between the 'terror intifada' and the rise in anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incidents in the region and throughout the world?
The vehement campaign of Palestinian incitement is generating violence, destroying regional peace efforts and giving rise to anti-Semitism throughout the world.
The Palestinian Authority's institutionalized campaign of incitement constitutes the driving force of the Terror Intifada, and the main instrument for mobilizing public participation in the violence and to recruit new terrorists and suicide bombers. The PA television stations and official daily newspapers present distorted accounts of Palestinian casualties, praise the 'martyred' Palestinian suicide terrorists, stir up anti-Jewish fervor, and urge the public to take to the street for well-orchestrated and violent confrontations with Israelis. PA-financed clergy use the pulpit to preach hate of Jews and praise of Jihad (holy war). Senior Palestinian leaders and spokesman fabricate and repeat inflammatory lies about non-existent Israeli 'atrocities', 'massacres', or 'religious desecrations'. Palestinian education television airs programs glorifying the murder of Jews, praising child Jihad martyrdom, teaching nursery rhymes of hate and revenge and calling on children to "drop the toys and take up arms".
Extensive media coverage is given to rallies and protests in which mock-up Jewish schoolbuses or villages are destroyed, leaders urge the crowd to intensify the confrontation and violence, and religious authorities extoll the virtues of self-immolation and suicide bombings in the name of Allah. In the face of the overwhelming campaign of incitement, it is no wonder that the Palestinian public has been swept up in an ultimately self-destructive vortex of violence which has been chosen as the preferable course of action by the irresponsible Palestinian leadership.
The vehement Palestinian anti-Israeli rhetoric has also had a crippling impact on the support for Arab-Israeli peace and reconciliation efforts throughout the region. The intense coverage of the Palestinian perspective of the events, the incitement of Palestinian spokesmen and the political pressure of radical Arab regimes has given rise to an anti-Israeli ground-swell among the Arab public in general, influencing many pro-peace Arab states to downgrade their ties with Israel. Morocco, Tunisia and Oman have frozen their relations with Israel, while Jordan and Egypt have recalled their ambassadors. At a time when all parties in the Middle East should be working to contain the conflict and to restore calm to the region, it is of utmost importance to keep all possible lines of direct communication and co-operation open. In this light, the limiting of relations between states runs counter to the interests of the region and is particularly unfortunate.
Recent Arab press commentary and political dialogue have revealed a growing frustration in the Arab world. A realization is dawning that the Terror Intifada is ultimately counterproductive to the greater Arab cause, as it has only served to reinforce negative stereotypes of the Arab world as posing a threat to world peace and stability.
Unfortunately, the effects of the Terror Intifada's campaign of hate have not been limited to the Middle East. Israel is gravely concerned by the recent, significant rise in anti-Semitism, directed against Jewish communities in Europe and elsewhere that has been engendered by the virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric and anti-Jewish violence taking place in the region. These anti-Semitic attacks have included bombings of synagogues, death threats and violence against Jews, unprovoked assaults including murder, desecration of Jewish cemeteries and other forms of hate-vandalism. These incidents should arouse the deep concern of all civilized peoples. Israel calls on the governments of countries where the scourge of anti-Semitism is spreading to take all measures necessary to ensure the security of Jewish communities - and to bring the perpetrators of these deplorable attacks to justice.
Special Report on Anti-Semitic Incidents - October 2000
Throughout the Terror Intifada, Israel's goal has remained constant: halting the violence, and returning to peace negotiations, in order to achieve a permanent resolution of the conflict.
Israel remains committed to a finding a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict in general and the Palestinian issue in particular. Israel has already achieved peace agreements with Egypt, the largest Arab state, and with Jordan, with whom Israel shares the longest common border. Since the PLO's declared renunciation of terrorism in 1993, Israel has completed a series of interim agreements with the Palestinians, all meant to move the parties towards a permanent peace between them. Before the outbreak of the Terror Intifada, Israel and the Palestinians were well advanced in permanent status negotiations, and Israel had put forward far-reaching compromise proposals in order to achieve a mutually acceptable agreement. Unfortunately, the Palestinian choice to go back on their 1993 commitments and to pursue violence rather than negotiation rendered the continuation of these talks impossible.
With this goal in mind, Israel pressed last October at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit for the formation of a Fact-Finding Committee to investigate the causes of the violence and to recommend ways to prevent their recurrence. The Committee, headed by Former US Senator George Mitchell, presented its findings on April 30, 2001, emphasizing that the crucial factor in any progress is an unconditional cessation of violence and a condemnation of terrorism.
Israel considers the Fact-Finding Committee's report to be a constructive and positive document, and accepted the four-stage outline recommended in the report - a) the cessation of violence; b) a period of calm c) confidence building measures by both sides and d) the renewal of negotiations. Israel feels that the report's approach can serve as an important mechanism to bring about the cessation of violence and thereby create the necessary conditions for the renewal of the peace process on the basis of reciprocity. Immediately following the publication of the report, and as a means of promoting its implementation, Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire - even in the face of a renewed wave of outrageous terrorist atrocities which included the massacre of 21 Israeli teenagers at a Tel Aviv sea-side disco. Israel called upon the Palestinian Authority to join the cease-fire, to put an immediate end to the violence and to return to the negotiations in order to resolve the dispute by peaceful means, as both sides had committed themselves to do in the Oslo Accords. This call remained unheeded.
In the midst of the particularly savage wave of Palestinian suicide terrorism following publication of the Fact-Finding Committee's report, US Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet was dispatched to the region in order to work with the parties on a specific workplan to implement the report's recommended outline. Israel accepted this workplan and began to carry out is provisions. Regretably, beyond lip-service, the Palestinian leadership did nothing to implement the workplan, cease the violence, arrest the terrorists or end their institutionalized incitement to hatred.
Today, Israel continues to concentrate its efforts on finding ways to stop the violence in order to return to the negotiating table. Israel calls upon the Palestinians to carry out their obligations under the Oslo agreements and the Sharm el-Sheikh report, to renounce terrorism and rededicate themselves to the pursuit of a negotiated resolution of the conflict.
Israel is also working with the international community to bring pressure to bear on the Palestinian leadership to end the violence. The world community has a very important stake in the outcome of these efforts - primarily because terrorism is a global scourge, and should not be rewarded with political gains. It must be clear to all players in the regional and international arena that violence and terrorism don't pay. If this fundamental principle is disregarded, the stability of region and the globe will be threatened. Furthermore, Yasser Arafat has obligated himself, in signed agreements, to renounce terrorism, cooperate with Israel on security matters and peacefully negotiate a solution to outstanding issues between the parties. The underpinning of international law rests upon the principle that signed agreements must be respected. The international community must therefore hold the Palestinian leadership to account for their wholesale violation of their obligations. To sanction such disregard for signed agreements would undermine a fundamental principle of international legitimacy.
Peace can only be built through mutual dialogue, not unilateral violence. When the violence is halted, the talking can resume. It is clear that building peace requires historic compromises on the part of all sides. Israel has already demonstrated its willingness to make far-reaching compromises in the service of peace, and expects the Palestinian leadership can do the same. It is the hope of the Government of Israel that the violence will soon end, and the efforts to build peace will soon begin again.
There are those, mostly in the Arab world, who have tried to somehow draw a connection between the terrorist attacks in the United States and America's support for Israel. This claim is not only morally reprehensible, it is based upon a fundamental misconception.
The terrorist attacks of September 11 can only be understood in light of Osama bin Laden's previous terrorist activities against American interests, as well as a number of serious terrorist attacks against "secular" Muslim regimes for which he was responsible. All were designed to advance bin Laden's plans to pursue a holy war (jihad) in order to rebuild the world in accordance with his extremist interpretation of Islam. One of bin Laden's fundamental objectives is to cause the downfall of secular governments in Muslim countries, and to replace them with regimes that adhere to strict Islamic law. Clearly, this basic goal is entirely unconnected with Israel. Indeed, in the last will and testament of one of the terrorist hijackers, Mohamed Atta, there was no reference whatsoever to Israel, underscoring the fact that the attacks were solely of a religious-extremist nature.
The freedoms and values that form the foundation of western society are anathema to bin Laden, and his stated aim is to destroy western civilization and everything it represents. It is for this reason that his attacks were specifically directed against the United States per se, and against everything that it represents.
An ideological turning point in bin Laden's outlook occurred during the Gulf War period and thereafter, when the United States deployed military forces in Saudi Arabia, where the most holy Islamic sites are located. A few years later, bin Laden issued a fatwa - an Islamic religious ruling - denouncing the United States, due to the American "infidel" presence which he considered to be defiling the dominion of the Prophet Mohammed. In his June 1999 interview to al-Jazeera television, bin Laden called for a holy war against the United States and stated: "We view every American man as our enemy."
For the same reasons that Osama bin Laden hates the United States, he desires nothing less than the destruction of the State of Israel, and consequently, no peace agreement in the Middle East could ever satisfy him. As he stated in an August 2000 interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, bin Laden is even opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza except as an interim stage in the disappearance of Israel.
According to this world-view, any progress in the Arab-Israeli peace process actually constitutes a threat to the success of the 'jihad'. Indeed, the radical Islamic terrorist organizations of the Palestinian camp (i.e. the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad) carried out an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks against Israel in the years 1995-1996, a time when the Israel-Palestinian peace process was at its height, in an attempt to torpedo any reconciliation.
Evidence that the September 11 terrorist attacks have nothing to do with this past year's violence can also be found in the planning stages of the attacks in the United States. Preparations for the recent wave of terrorist attacks (specifically the flight training) had begun no later than June 2000 - before the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian summit at Camp David - at a time when the peace negotiations between the sides showed great promise.
Recent statements issued by al-Qaeda leaders citing Israel's responsibility for the terrorist attacks are yet another transparent exercise by those who blame the West in general, and Israel in particular, for all the ills of the Middle East. Bin Laden has clearly learned the lessons of the early 1990s, when one Arab state (Iraq) invaded another (Kuwait) and then diverted the Islamic world's criticism by promptly attacking Israel.
The 'linkage' that some are trying to draw between the terrorist attacks on the United States and America's long-standing support of Israel is not only inaccurate, it is reprehensible and manipulative. If Israel were indeed the true motivation, bin Laden would have attacked Israel directly. The attack against the United States was meant not as a protest of a particular policy, but as an attack against the ideals of democracy and liberty that the United States represents. Furthermore, even if such a 'linkage' would indeed exist, it could never justify the indiscriminate murder of over six thousand innocent Americans.
Any attempt to show understanding or sympathy for terrorism of any kind is deplorable. To rationalize terrorism by associating it with the Arab-Israeli conflict, is merely an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. The terrorist organizations and their supporters have a long history of such "justification", which has taking the form of blaming the terrorism on their victims.
Furthermore, exhibiting understanding for the motives of terrorists is liable to be extremely damaging to the efforts to fight the terrorists and their sponsors. Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of motivation or justification. Any expression of understanding for terrorist motivations merely justifies and encourages further terrorism.
As a country that has experienced terrorism first-hand, Israel is acutely aware of the American suffering, and therefore strongly identifies with the American people. Israel is not the cause of international terrorism - indeed, it has been the victim of international terrorism, as has the United States. It is unconscionable that the suffering of the American people be thus exploited by certain parties for political gain in the Middle East conflict.
Israel continues to support both the uncompromising fight against terrorism and the ideals of freedom and democracy. Israel will continue to play a role as a natural participant in the coalition against terrorism, as it has been fighting terrorism for more than fifty years. While not all states in the coalition participate in the same manner. Israel contributes of its experience and expertise in the fight against terrorism, and does so in accordance with the requests that it receives from the United States and its allies in this collective campaign against terrorism in all its forms.