IT TOOK but a fortnight for the murder of Ita and Ephraim Tzur to be rendered meaningless. Just two weeks after the Israeli mother and son were killed by the PLO, the government of Israel is about to give the PLO the world's oldest Jewish city. That, in a nutshell, is the Mideast "peace process": Arabs kill more Jews, Jews give away more land. It was so under Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres; now it will be so under Benjamin Netanyahu.
Ita Tzur and her 12-year-old son Ephraim were murdered by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a faction of the PLO.
The double murder took place on Dec. 11. The Tzur family -- Yoel, Ita, and their five children, ages 6 to 16 -- were driving home to Beth-El to light the seventh Chanukah candle. As their Volkswagen approached an intersection, it was ambushed by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a prominent PLO faction. At least 29 rounds were fired into the Tzurs' vehicle. The terrorists then sped to Ramallah, a town governed by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.
By the time the ambulance arrived, 12-year-old Ephraim was dead from a bullet through the head. Ita was carried to a hospital, where she died on the operating table. One daughter took shrapnel in the neck, but her wounds were not fatal.
The next day, Arafat and the PLO explained that the bloody assault was part of "a strong popular reaction" to "the hardline Israeli government." Their statement contained no word of condolence. Arafat made it clear that he would not permit the two PLO gunmen to be prosecuted by Israel. This despite the explicit mandate of the Oslo Accords, which -- Annex IV, Article 2, Clause 7 -- obligates the Palestinian Authority to arrest and extradite criminal suspects. (Israel has made 27 extradition requests since the accords were signed. The Palestinian Authority has denied them all.)
As he buried his wife and only son, Yoel Tzur implored the Israeli government to retaliate against the terorrists - not with more death, but with more life. "For every Jew who is hurt," he proposed, "let a new Jewish community arise in response." Only when the Arabs realize that murder and threats will not drive the Jews off the land will a lasting peace be possible.
Netanyahu seemed shaken. "Our answer to these murderers ... is that we are staying here," he said. "We are building here. We live here." On Dec. 13, Israel's Cabinet reinstated a prior policy of offering subsidies to Jews who build homes in Judea and Samaria.
Meanwhile, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine swore to keep killing Jewish women and children. To a raucous crowd in Damascus, PFLP leader George Habash declared: "We pledge ... that we will continue our operations and military struggle." At Khan Yunis in Gaza, the Islamic terror group Hamas held its own rally. With Arafat's approval -- for the Palestinian Authority now controls all of Gaza -- thousands of Palestinians cheered as speakers demanded new attacks. Posters of Arafat were prominently displayed; so was a sign announcing, "We worship God by killing the Jew."
Like the refusal to extradite terrorists, the Gaza rally (one of many) was a naked violation of the Oslo Accords. Annex I, Article II, Clause 3 requires Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to prevent incitement to violence in areas they control. But even more egregious -- if anything can be more egregious than "We worship God by killing the Jew" -- has been Arafat's own incitement.
"Are there no stones left in Hebron?" he demanded during a meeting there late in October. "Where are the stones and where are the mobs?" At the Dahaishe camp near Bethlehem, he inveighed: "When we stopped the intifadah, we did not stop the jihad. We know only one word: Jihad, Jihad, Jihad!... War! War! Continue the struggle!" Such incendiary comments -- which have poured from Arafat's lips almost from the day the accords were signed -- are open breaches of Oslo (Article XII). Peacemaking? Warmongering? To Arafat and the PLO, they are one and the same.
Yet on December 15, just 72 hours after Ita and Ephraim Tzur were laid to rest, eight former high-ranking US officials signed a letter warning Israel "not to take unilateral actions that would preclude a meaningful settlement." The State Department piled on, calling Netanyahu's policies "troubling ... complicating ... unhelpful." From President Clinton another turn of the screw: Subsidies to Jewish homesteaders, he pronounced, are an "obstacle to peace."
Surreal. For the sake of peace, Israel has given to Arafat and the PLO not only Gaza, but six of the seven major towns on the West Bank -- Jenin, Kalkilya, Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Tulkarm. The PLO's charter still calls for exterminating Israel (a violation of Article XXXI, Clause 9), yet for the sake of peace, Israel let Arafat form a standing army and provided weapons for his troops. For the sake of peace, Israel poured money into his coffers and turned a deaf ear to his anti-Semitic tirades.
But Israel, says Clinton, is the obstacle to peace. Israel, say the former secretaries of state, must make more concessions.
So now Israel will concede the most ancient of Jewish cities. The Palestinian Authority will take over Hebron -- the place where Abraham dwelt, where Ruth settled, where David was crowned. For 3,500 years, except when pogroms drove them temporarily out, Jews always lived in Hebron. They will not live there much longer. Ita and Ephraim Tzur are moldering in their graves, and Israel -- for the sake of peace -- is rewarding their killers.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
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