THE WHEREFORES OF WYE.

Author:Darwish, Adel
 
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The international community have describe the Wye agreement as an historic breakthrough, but both Israelis and Palestinians see it as a betrayal by their respective leaders.

It was a big show on a typical American scale, with world media attention focused on the White House to witness, yet another historic Middle East deal signed. And it was indeed a breakthrough.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used their previous three meetings (two in London and one in Washington over the last six months) to blame the 'other party' for the failure of the talks.

Everyone went to bed on 23 Friday October claiming victory. Bibi Netanyahu waved the paper promising security. Arafat got an acceptance of his de facto state. Both leaders were promised American aid by President Bill Clinton, who was the focus of world attention as he clambered in and out of helicopters, receiving military salutes with no word about Monica, blue dresses or impeachment printed.

In Israel/Palestine, however, brutal reality prevailed. The business-as-usual violence went on as commentators on both sides talked about civil war in their respective communities (see page 6 Report from Ramallah).

The Israelis and Palestinians, who feel their leaders let them down by signing the Wye deal, found different ways of expressing their bitterness, both equally alarming.

The real victory that Arafat scored -- which, in the opinion of Israeli historians, was much bigger than Oslo -- was also Bibi Netanyahu's dilemma.

"To give one inch of the land which is the Eretz Yisrael -- 'biblical greater Israel' -- is an ideological metamorphosis," said one Likud ideologue. He recalled how in 1922, the Zionists accused Britain of betraying the Jews and going back on its promise to create a Jewish homeland because Transjordan was created. The Likud believes Israel extends from the Litani River in south Lebanon to the Red Sea, and includes most of Jordan.

But, it would appear, the Likud now accepts the idea of a Palestinian state on the 'biblical' Eretz Yisrael. This ideological turn explains Netanyahu's insistence on an ideological trade-off, namely that the Palestine National Council (PNC), the nearest thing to a parliament-in-exile, should formally revoke clauses in the 1964 Palestine National Covenant that call for Israel's destruction. President Clinton said he will address members of the PNC in a grand assembly in Gaza, midway through the implementation period, where officials will "reaffirm their support for the peace process" and for various previous pronouncements nullifying the clauses Israel finds offensive.

Mr Arafat, it was noted, was reluctant to pledge a formal revocation by the PNC, fearing he might fail to get the required two-thirds majority.

In Israel, the stormy outpourings of the far right, who called Mr Netanyahu a traitor -- he was eventually given extra police protection -- illustrate the change the Wye memorandum has wrought in Israel's political alignments.

The terms right and left have become inadequate to distinguish between the populist Likud and the largely middle-class Labour Party. Likud is a movement created as opposition to the secular Zionist idea of sharing the land with the Arabs, and it remained in opposition from 1948 until the 1977 election. This is causing an identity crisis for the Labour Party, which enjoyed uninterrupted rule from 1948 to 1977: How can it be in opposition to the idea of peace?

To the settlers and their political hinterland, Mr Netanyahu has become more contemptible than the most cooing dove. "I'd rather have Ehud Barak," said Yisrael Harel, a settler ideologue, referring to Labour's leader. "At least he talks straight."

Mr Barak is currently finding it hard to talk. He is torn between Labour's support for the Wye memorandum and the temptation to make common cause with hardline coalition...

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