Did Netanyahu Reject the Oslo Accords?

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Peter Beinart, in our dialogue, said he did. Yaacov Lozowick says he didn't. Yaacov is right:

Early 1996 (February, if I remember correctly), Shimon Peres decided to cash in the automatic popularity he had inherited at Rabin's funeral, and moved the elections forward to May. Netanyahu didn't cave in, and set out to reposition the Likud so as to fight for the election. The centerpiece of this was to convene a series of meeting of the Likud leadership and discuss the party's position regarding the Oslo process. The meetings were closed to the media, but they were heavily covered and watched by us all.

Benny Begin was stridently against the Oslo process. Netanyahu initially stated the party had to have an answer to what it would do if it won the elections: would it do what Beinart says it did, namely reject the Oslo process, or would it do something else. I don't remember how many meetings there were. Four, perhaps, or six. The process took weeks, not days. At the end of it Netanyahu had forced the leadership of his party to formulate an acceptance of the Oslo process. It was conditional, demanding for example that Palestinian terror subside and incitement end, but it was an unequivocal acceptance of the fundamental structure of the Oslo process.

When we went to the polls in May 1996, there were parties that were campaigning on platforms of rejection of the Oslo process,but the Likud wasn't one of them. Since Netanyahu won the elections by less than one percent of the vote, it's safe to say that had he not repositioned his party, he'd have lost.

Once he won he never (never: not once) rejected the Oslo process. He slowed it down, he added conditions, he did all sorts of things. But the leader of Likud was elected in 1996 on a platform that explicitly accepted the principle of partition.

14 years later - that's all - a noticeable voice in American Jewry can glibly invent a story about Israel that contradicts the facts, and no-one calls him out on it because no-one knows any better, or if they do they join him in preferring to imagine a fantasy world rather than face reality.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/05/did-netanyahu-reject-the-oslo-accords/57139/