It was in November of 1991, after all — more than 15 years ago — that the actual "initial discussions" between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs took place, at the Madrid Conference during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. That conference proceeded on ground rules that were insisted upon by one of the finest and longest-serving prime ministers of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir, who would not negotiate with Palestinian Arabs connected with the Palestine Liberation Organization, a terrorist group, or with Palestinian Arabs from Israel's capital of Jerusalem.
Those were sound principles then and, by our lights, still are. In any event, it was the abandonment of those principles that was the central act of Oslo, an abandonment of principle that was soon being touted as the breakthrough to peace, although it turned out to be the road to war. It has been more than 13 years since the Rabin-Arafat handshake hosted by President Clinton in September of 1993 on the White House lawn. And then there were the meetings at what is called Camp David II, where a lameduck Clinton administration signed on to the notion of dividing Jerusalem only to usher in not peace but the second intifada.First as tragedy, then as farce. . .