There is no peace process, Benny Begin tells S.F. crowd

Likening the Irish Republican Army to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Ze'ev "Benny" Begin said last week that Israel can expect to see the sort of violence from the PLO that London has seen from the IRA in past weeks.

"The IRA signed an agreement and declared a cease-fire and it held for 17 months," the Israeli Knesset member said in San Francisco. "There were road blocks and the IRA detonated a bomb. That is what will happen once the PLO realizes it is not going to have its way."

The son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin and a leading member of the right-wing Likud party, Begin spoke at the Fairmont Hotel Friday of last week at an event co-sponsored by the Commonwealth Club, the American Jewish Committee and the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council.

Later, over a cup of tea in the hotel lobby, Begin elaborated on his lecture, "The Oslo Agreement — 30 Months Down the Road."

Having just arrived that morning, Begin was jet-lagged and fighting the flu. But the bug did nothing to weaken his assaults on the Oslo Accords that led to the September 1993 signing of the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn.

Those principles, he maintains, have already been reversed by the PLO and its chairman Yasser Arafat, who Begin said has failed to deliver on its vow to abolish terrorism. "There is no peace process," he said.

The PLO leader has also supported terror by repeatedly calling for jihad, or holy war, and by using Arabic words that clearly connote belligerence against Israel.

"He praises time and time again the martyrs who committed suicide while killing Israelis," Begin said.

While Begin supports the peace treaty with Jordan ("It's peace for peace, not peace for terror,") he believes the Oslo agreement is fatally flawed and should be stopped. Territories now under Palestinian control, he said, are being used as havens of impunity for terrorists.

"I come out strongly against the Oslo agreement because I think it is the opposite of peace and will lead to a lot of violence," added Begin, chair of the Knesset Subcommittee on National Security Policy.

Again he returned to the example of the IRA, saying that the British government wisely halted negotiations with the organization immediately after the first bombing.

Begin's calls for stopping negotiations with the PLO makes him a hardliner, even among fellow Likudniks.

With elections approaching in May and polls showing a majority of young Israelis supporting the Labor party, it would appear that Begin's tough stance might not be the most politically expedient position.

Begin, however, said he assigns limited significance to polls. "It comes. It goes. We'll have to wait for the real poll," elections, he said.

Begin, however, will not discuss Prime Minister Shimon Peres' setting a date for early elections, which some have criticized as an attempt to ride into power on the coattails of sympathy over Yitzhak Rabin's assassination.

"I have never fallen into the habit of criticizing my government or fellow Israelis while abroad," he said. "While in Israel, I use my criticism for domestic consumption. I never criticize my government in English for foreign consumption."

The Knesset member even declined to discuss the impact the Rabin assassination has had on his politics. Instead, he once again referred back to the PLO.

"Nothing, including the assassination of my Prime Minister, changed the views of the PLO," he said. "The last phase of their long-term phased strategy [would be] the disappearance of a sovereign Jewish entity in Palestine. This is the issue."