Old Suspicions Surface as Israelis and Palestinians Struggle to Find Peace

Article excerpt

Gaza and Jericho are under Palestinian rule now. But hope for a general settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is clouded by events that have renewed old suspicions, among them the Hebron massacre, other deaths on both sides and Yasser Arafat's talk of a jihad for Jerusalem.

In Israel, the political right has seized on the strains of implementation to intensify its attacks on the declaration signed last September on the White House lawn. The criticism is worth a careful look. t

Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud opposition, summed up the critical view in a piece for The Los Angeles Times last month. He said that Gaza and Jericho amounted to "beachheads" for a Palestinian state.

Israel should not allow the Palestinians to have a police force or other governing institutions, Netanyahu said. It should limit them to "self-management of local affairs" within overall Israeli control.

"Security," Netanyahu said, should be "provided by the Israeli army and not the Palestinian terrorist army now being built in the territories."

The instructive part of Netanyahu's essay was what he did not say out loud: that, under his plan, Israeli occupation of the West Bank would become permanent - with all its grisly consequences for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Living under military rule and subject to arbitrary arrest and detention by alien security forces, Palestinians would naturally be resentful and express their discontent. Israeli draftees would forever have to carry out the corrupting duties of occupation: the very situation against which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin warned last month.

"We are paying with blood for ruling over another people," Rabin said. "Ruling over another people has corrupted us." He called for the Israel Defense Force to "become a defense army again and not an occupation army against another people."

Netanyahu's description of the Palestinian police in Gaza and Jericho as "the Palestinian terrorist army" was of course political slanging. In right-wing Israeli lingo, Arabs are "terrorists. …