Begin decries peace process, says bloodshed inevitable

Ze'ev "Benny" Begin wants to scrap the current peace process — and doesn't mind enduring the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he believes inevitably will follow.

Begin, son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin and a leading member of the right-wing Likud Party in Israel's Knesset, acknowledges that the ensuing conflict would be "ugly."

But, he added: "I can think of something more ugly — to sit pretty and let evil guys use force on you without proper response."

Begin, who spoke on Wednesday of last week at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel, has consistently condemned the Oslo accords that led to the September 1993 signing of the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn.

"The alternative [to the current peace process] is going to be very difficult indeed," said Begin, a Knesset member since 1988. "We have to expect a lot of violence and loss of life — on both sides."

With the possibility growing ever stronger that Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu will win next year's national elections, Begin already has begun planning for the demise of the Oslo accords.

He refused to specify what a Likud-led government would do regarding the peace process, saying too much could change over the next year. But Begin outlined in general terms his goal of ending Palestinian autonomy and reasserting Jewish control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip — using force if necessary.

"We have to stand on the Jewish right to self-defense," he said.

The 52-year-old politician spoke at the World Affairs Council, at Temple Beth Sholom, and at the Fairmont to the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council during a two-day stop last week in San Francisco. The visit, his second here in six months, was part of a nationwide tour to raise money for the College of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank town of Ariel.

Begin considers the next few weeks the most crucial period in Israel's history. After having weathered several postponements, the Israelis and Palestinians are scheduled to agree on the next stage of the peace process by July 1.

The agreement is expected to include the withdrawal of Israeli troops from additional Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, as well as a date for Palestinian elections.

Begin fears the Labor-led government is planning to relinquish control of more areas in the West Bank without first demonstrating any benefits of the troop withdrawals that have already taken place in the Gaza Strip and Jericho.

Despite opposition to the current peace process, Begin says he is no opponent of peace. In fact, his analysis of the peace process rests on a belief that the Oslo accords are "one of the most severe blows dealt to the cause of peace in the Middle East in recent years."

So far, suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks during the first phase of talks following the Oslo accords have convinced Begin that Israel can't depend on the Palestine Liberation Organization or its chairman, Yasser Arafat.

"The PLO has proven it is not the right partner to bring about peace," he said.

The Palestinians have violated most of the articles in the Oslo accords and the later Cairo agreements, Begin said, including the promise to abolish the PLO covenant calling for the destruction of Israel.

In addition, Begin asserted, the PLO and Islamic fundamentalist Hamas are working together despite outward appearances to the contrary.

Begin doesn't believe Arafat, who was long considered a terrorist by most Jews, has transformed himself into a peace-loving statesman.

"He was clever enough to disguise himself," Begin said.

Though many Israelis still cling to the Oslo accords as the only path towards peace, Begin considers such a position unrealistic.

"You might describe my analysis as…pessimistic," he said.

However, he added, even Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin now considers Gaza and Jericho havens for terrorists.

Begin does not even believe the peace treaty with Jordan is worth the injuries and deaths of hundreds of Israelis in terrorist attacks since the Oslo accords.

"It's a very nice treaty," he said. But Begin added that he and many other Israelis would sacrifice the treaty with Jordan in order to reverse the Oslo accords.

During the speech, Begin poked fun at the left-wing view that he belongs to "the bad guys."

Despite the fact that "nice guys are in power, not the bad guys like my colleagues," he said, the Oslo accords have not produced a peace treaty with Syria.

Begin doesn't expect any breakthroughs on that front, even though the Israeli government has announced new talks with the Syrians will start this month.

He did not say how or when Israel might attempt another peace process with the Palestinians if Likud takes power.

However, Begin made it clear that he wouldn't negotiate with the current Palestinian players because he does not believe they want peace.

"You make peace with an enemy that wants to make peace with you," he said.