Small steps

No euphoria greeted the painstakingly arrived at agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, hammered out late last month under U.S. auspices at Wye Mills, Maryland. None of the parties involved is under any illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead or the potential consequences, should the peace process begun in Oslo five years ago break down completely. Because of the persistence of terrorist bombings against Israel and the belligerence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud government, little trust exists between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That explains the crucial and expanded role played by the United States over the last year-and-a-half. Moreover, both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat face severe and even potentially violent opposition within their own ranks. As many observers note, the price for making peace in the Middle East, for both Israelis and Palestinians, is often violent death. In short, despite the modest nature of what Netanyahu and Arafat agreed to in what is called the Wye Memorandum, much was on the line.

News reports detailing the volatile and contentious nine-day negotiation confirm the obvious: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu committed his right-wing government to Oslo’s fundamental principle of land-for-peace only after making what seemed like every effort to scuttle the process. Netanyahu’s last-minute attempt at blackmail in...

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