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The root of the problem.

Decades of pessimism about the future for any form of Palestinian self determination within Israel turned almost to widespread incredulity with the signing of a deal between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel in Washington. For almost two years the peace talks have been underway but the flurry of excitement that surrounded the opening of talks in Madrid abated as little if any progress was made. For at least a year it seemed as if the entire process was at a standstill. It now appears that behind the scenes, without the knowledge of powerful interested parties such as the United States, the Arab states or Europe, senior officials from Israel and the PLO were meeting secretly to work towards a settlement.

Reactions to the accords have been mixed. Only two days before the historic White House signing Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinians and wounded 10 in the West Bank during protests against the agreement. The following day eight deaths were reported in bloody clashes in the Gaza Strip.

Only hours before Prime Minister Rabin left Jerusalem three Israeli soldiers were shot dead in Gaza by Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the deal with Israel, reports of stabbings and shootings continue.

Emotions are running high, large numbers of Palestinians and Israelis feel they have been sold out by the terms of the accord. But the majority, on both sides, feel there must be compromise if the long years of terror, war and oppression are to be brought to a close.

And compromise must be at the heart of this deal which looks set to shift the course of politics in the Middle East region if it is to have any chance of lasting success. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was pulling no punches when he declared "I am ready for peaceful compromises. Peace is not made with friends. Peace is made with enemies, some of whom, and I won't names, I loathe very much."

For Israel the deal will mean recognising personalities and ideals generations have grown up learning to hate and fear and relinquishing the right to lands their leaders assured them they would never have to.

For the Palestinians, who have nurtured the same emotions of hate and fear towards their Israeli neighbours, it must seem, as one Arab observer noted this week: "Like watching someone snatch away, the book you are reading and then being grateful when he tears out just a few pages and gives them back to you." The accords cannot be expected to make life-long enemies friends. If they are able to become recognised rivals it will be a step in the right direction.

Political commentator Thomas Friedman summed up the situation when he reported from Washington: "Israel dismissed the Palestinians as either terrorists or individuals, not a nation with legitimate claims on historic Palestine. The Palestinians dismissed the Israelis as either 'colonisers' or members of a religious community, not a nation with rights in the land of Israel.

If there is a reason to be optimistic now, it is not because the two sides have agreed on what the solution is, that will take a lot more time. It is because after all these years they seem to be finally agreeing on what the problem is. It is not a question of who is going to own the whole pie, but what size each side's slice should be.

It is still very possible that Israelis and Palestinians will not be able to answer that question with mutual satisfaction, but the big breakthrough is that both are finally asking the right question. They are finally recognising each other as legitimate enemies that have to be reconciled - not ignored, demonised or defeated."
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Title Annotation:peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Previous Article:Claiming the credit.
Next Article:Deal splits Palestinians.

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