September 14, 1998
Since its inception, Israel has had to face an ongoing terrorist war against its citizens. Over the last decades, most of this terrorism has been carried out by Palestinian terrorist groups opposed to peace and compromise. One of the main issues to be addressed in the current Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations is the need to end terrorism, as one step in the establishment of a peaceful relationship between Israel and its Palestinian Arab neighbors.
Although peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been taking place over the last five years, terrorism still remains a major threat. Since the exchange of letters of mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO on September 9, 1993, the threat of terrorism against Israelis has dramatically increased. In fact, more Israelis have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in the 5 years since the Oslo Accord, than in the 15 years preceding it.
Clearly, it is incumbent upon the Government of Israel, first and foremost, to protect the lives of its citizens. While continuing the pursuit of peace is part of this responsibility, Israel must also provide its population with personal security and protection from wanton acts of terrorism. Today, due to the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the two have become interdependent. The continuing use of terrorism by those Palestinians who oppose peace dictates that strong anti-terrorism measures be included in every Israel-Palestinian agreement.
In keeping with the Israeli-Palestinian agreements, a Palestinian Authority (PA) has been created to administer the daily lives of the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza. Many powers and responsibilities have been transferred by Israel to the PA, including the responsibility for public order and internal security in the Palestinian population centers (Area A). The PA is therefore now responsible for preventing terrorist attacks against Israelis from being planned or executed in the areas under its jurisdiction.
While five years have passed since the first agreement was reached with the Palestinians, and the framework of PA responsibilities was adopted, terrorism remains, and the number of its victims has grown. The Israel Government Press Office has recently released figures showing that during this 5-year period, 279 men, women and children have been killed in 92 lethal attacks carried out against Israelis by Palestinian terrorists. This is 50 percent more than the number of Israelis killed in the six years of the Intifada (’87-’93), and surpasses the number of those killed in the entire 15 years preceding the signing of the agreements.
In light of these facts, it should come as no surprise that the Government of Israel remains firm in its expectation that the PA carry out its responsibility to uproot the terrorist infrastructure within the areas under its jurisdiction, and to take direct and decisive action against the terrorist organizations which operate in its midst. Signed agreements must be respected, and peace cannot be achieved as long as terrorism is allowed to continue.
Israel remains both dedicated to the search for peace, and obligated to the agreements it has signed. Furthermore, Israel has expressed its willingness to continue the implementation of the Interim Agreement with the Palestinians and to proceed as quickly as possible with negotiations on the permanent status issues which remain to be solved. Israel cannot, however, be expected to proceed unilaterally, while important elements remain unaddressed on the Palestinian side. The obligation to fight terrorism must be fulfilled. As the statistics sadly show, terrorism will not disappear by itself. If it is left to grow unchecked, the newly sown peace will not survive.