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The Oslo Syndrome by Kenneth Levin

- Abstract

It has long been obvious to all but the incurably or willfully blind that the 1993 agreement signed in Oslo between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization was a horrendous blunder on Israel’s part. Rarely in history has a country so foolishly opened its gates to a Trojan horse as Israel did when it welcomed Yasir Arafat and his PLO brigades, handed over to them most of the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank, and gave them the arms to impose their rule on the local inhabitants. How could such a mistake have been made by experienced political and military leaders, statesmen and generals whose careers had spanned a half-century of managing Israel’s bitter conflict with the Arabs?

A year afterward, when the Oslo agreement was already headed toward its eventual collapse, I found myself musing about this question with a good friend of mine, the Harvard professor of Yiddish literature and fellow COMMENTARY contributor Ruth Wisse. Whereas she had been strongly against the Oslo agreement from the start, I had initially been less certain about it. It had deeply troubled and scared me; but although I did not take part in the delirium of applause that greeted the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn, neither did I immediately join the critics. Surely, I thought, Israel’s leaders must have some idea of what they were doing. I would wait and see—and hope for the best.

About the Author

Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.