PEACE PROCESS


PAST TO PRESENT

The relationship between the United States and Israel has jumped back and fourth over the years but since the 1993 Oslo process there has been some stability.

The unstated idea behind the 1993 Oslo agreement was that both peoples would ultimately gain. Palestinians would achieve independence; Israelis could live, within internationally recognized borders, in peace with their neighbors. The deal rested on two premises: first, that Israel would be prepared to relinquish its control over Palestinian land and lives; and, second, that the Palestinian leadership would be willing to attain its independence through negotiations alone. The deep compromises Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered at the Camp David summit proved the first assumption correct. The second premise, however, has now been shattered.

There is no alternative-negotiating partner to Mr. Arafat, and the possibility of reverting to the pre-Oslo days of occupation and day-to-day violence is almost unthinkable. Mr. Arafat's walking away from a deal at Camp David, his stoking of the recent violence and his persistent refusal to call that violence off force Israel to begin contemplating alternative futures, no matter how dismaying. After Mr. Arafat's failure to protect Joseph's Tomb, and its nearly immediate destruction by a mob, the Israeli government will think more than twice before handing him the sovereignty he demands over the Temple Mount.

The Clinton administration has been reluctant to acknowledge that one side is sabotaging the process. Full honesty, the administration fears, would impair its role as peace broker, reduce its chances of persuading the Palestinians to tamp down the violence and render U.S. embassies targets in Arab nations. But the failure to make clear that--at this stage, anyway--one side is chiefly to blame permits a false equivalence between Israel's sometimes excessive efforts to quell the violence and the cultivation of that violence for tactical gain by Mr. Arafat. Such a failure to speak the truth brings no honor to the United States, nor does it ultimately strengthen its position in Arab capitals or anywhere else.

It is still too soon to write the peace process's obituary. Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity, violence abated yesterday, though it did not cease. The process has withstood violence before: Hamas bombings, massive riots following the opening of an archeological tunnel in Jerusalem's Old City during the Likud government that preceded Mr. Barak's, the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. That extremes on both sides would seek to derail the process has always been known. But the peace process cannot survive if one of the parties at its center will not renounce violence or negotiate in good faith.

The Peace Process is not actually a process at all, but yet a diplomatic triumph, if Clinton gets the job done. People must realize that this is not a two party agreement but a three party one with the U.S. being the major decider. Yes, the Israelis and the Palestinians must agree on terms, but most likely it will be because the Clinton Administration pushed one side over the fence with its large diplomatic hand.

So, is the peace process being pushed so Clinton will be thought of as the Middle East Peace Broker or is it a bilateral diplomatic move to: One, secure peace and once again show the world that the U.S. is the most powerful nation. Or Two, Make Clinton look like one of the most unforgettable presidents, not because of his ability to stay in office after Monica, but his ability to be a good leader?

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