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The Oslo Agreement Signing Ceremony: The beginning of my political activism

On September 13, 1993 the signing ceremony of the Oslo Agreement took place on the White House lawn with President Clinton hosting Israeli Prime Minster Yithak Rabin and PLO Chairman Arafat.

During the ceremony, which I watched while visiting my family in Israel, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas signed the Declaration of Principles, which outlined the process and timing of self rule for the Palestinians in areas from which the Israelis would withdraw. The declaration established ” a Palestinian Interim Self Government Authority“, which would manage the self rule in the vacated territories first in the Gaza Strip and the city of Jericho. Additional withdrawals would take place throughout the interim period. Key issues such as the future status of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, security arrangements, and water would be discussed through negotiations at the final status talks in a few years.

At the signing ceremony, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, stood next to each other on the lawn of the White House. In their speeches, both men referred to John Lennon’s song” Give peace a chance”. Rabin said “We, who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today in a loud and clear voice; Enough of blood and tears , enough. We are today giving peace a chance and saying to you enough”.

Then Arafat declared, ” Our two people are awaiting this historic hope, and they want to give peace a chance”. After the speech making , there was a pause in the proceedings. President Clinton gently nudged Arafat and Rabin toward one another. Arafat smiled broadly and extended his hand. For few seconds, Rabin hesitated, a marked and deliberate response, but finally he reached out and shook the extended hand

Unlike the rest of the world, I watched the ceremony as if I were in a horror movie. I saw a reluctant and tense Rabin, one of the most decorated war heroes of Israel who had fought terrorism for many years of his life , standing next to Arafat who had been ordering and sponsoring terrorism against Israel for the last 25 years.

I saw Arafat, who haunted my nightmares since I was a kid, talking about the “peace of the brave” ,while still wearing the same military uniform he had been wearing all those years while ordering terrorist attacks against us. I saw the attempt by President Clinton to lighten the moment with smiles, trying to grab a reluctant Rabin’s hand to shake the hand of Arafat.

I saw a charade beyond all charades. I couldn’t understand why Rabin acted as a reluctant bride in front of the media while he had already signed the prenuptial agreement to get into a long term marriage with Arafat. I couldn’t understand why Rabin had this look of revulsion standing next to Arafat, while­ for months , since May, he had been negotiating to bring Arafat and his armies into the heart of Israel.

I did understand why Arafat was all smiles. He felt he had won at least a partial victory. He had been on the verge of political extinction by his own people. He was publicly abused and written off by many of his former friends and supporters as well as the local Palestinian leadership. Important officials had resigned or withdrew from his organization and the PLO institutions were financially bankrupt and could no longer meet their commitments. But Rabin and Peres brought him back from the dead and gave him international legitimacy.

Stunned , beside myself with grief, I couldn’t grasp why any Jewish leader, aware of our history of sufferings by hands of evil, would be willing to save a man who epitomized evil. I simply couldn’t understand the naiveté of my leader who thought that saving Arafat would bring a true change in the long time terrorist, and the notion, that if he really had not changed, that he would be harmless because Israel was so strong.

I felt my world crashing down on me, and I felt the pain in my heart for my country’ future returning. For 13 years I had led a peaceful life in Kansas City . True, I had always wondered when I would return back to Israel and why I was here while my heart was still there.

Now the burning images of my country’s future sufferings rolled through my mind and the dread in my heart was back. I couldn’t believe that the Israeli government intended to negotiate peace with a terrorist organization which was responsible for murdering and terrorizing innocent children and women for 25 years.

While most Israelis were ecstatic and euphoric about the future, I saw the blood of the coming terrorist attacks. I saw Jerusalem divided and a hostile Palestinian entity terrorizing Israel’s commercial and population centers. I saw a divided nation. I saw the coming wars of terror. I couldn’t understand why so few people could see what I saw so clearly.

I remember wandering aimlessly in the streets in Israel, in a daze ,wondering what I should do.. I knew that telling the truth to people yearning for peace and tired of wars would be a difficult task. But I knew that I could not go on with my comfortable life when I sensed so strongly the terror to come.

On September 28, 1993 I returned back to the US with a heavy heart but also with energized determination about my mission to warn my people about the dangers to Israel.