When Israel and Palestine signed the Oslo agreement in 1993 the two factions were to share land between them, yet they still adhere to a one-state solution. But Morton Klein, president of the Zionists Organization of America, said the issue is not land in Israel, but rather that Palestinians refuse to accept a non-Muslim authority.
Klein and Ido Aharoni, consul for communications and public affairs for Israel in the Consulate General's Office in Los Angeles, were featured speakers Thursday at a Jewish studies symposium sponsored by Utah Valley State College and the Center for Jewish Studies.Klein said he hopes for a lasting peace but expressed concerns about another Jewish-Arab war. Jews are tired of violence and terrorism that plagues Israel, he said. Aharoni, on the other hand, leaned more toward an economic solution.
Despite the Oslo agreement, Klein railed against Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, saying he refused to live by the accords and had continued hate speeches against Israel and supported terrorism against the Jews. In the 21/2 years since the pact was signed, 160 Jews and 40 to 50 Palestinians have been murdered, Klein said.
He said Arafat's intent, despite his signing the Oslo agreement and earlier accords, is to destroy Israel. Signing the peace accords was only a trick, Klein said.
Arafat refuses to send a message to his followers condemning violence and terrorism, Klein said. Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has threatened to break off peace talks if Arafat doesn't begin to live by the Oslo pact, he said.
Klein also cited human rights and open booth voting violations, and noted that three Palestinian newspapers closed down in the past year because Arafat didn't like what they were reporting. He also railed against the election process in Palestine, saying that Arafat gave jobs to potential candidates so they wouldn't run against him.
A recent poll among Palestinians showed 26 percent favoring Israel's right to exist as a nation, while 65 percent disapproved, Klein said. Half the Palestinian gross national product goes to buy arms, he added.
While Klein condemned Arafat, Aharoni praised the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. "He could see what you and I couldn't see," he said.
Rabin saw the danger in the 900,000 Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and their 70 percent unemployment, with a median age of 16. He said Rabin also saw the threat in the 5.7 children each Palestinian woman bore, compared with 2.6 children for the average Israeli woman. Since 1967 the Palestinian population has tripled.
"This is not a process for the sake of the Palestinians," said Aharoni, "We are in the business of saving Israel."
He said peace is necessary to defend Israel. Knowledge, he said, is a new commodity that has joined Israel with a select group of industrial nations and made the tiny country the 19th strongest economy in the world. He said Rabin understood that if Israel remained strong it could withstand the challenges of peace.