Despite Critics, a Viable Mideast Peace Is Possible in Criticizing the Oslo Accords, the `Whole Loaf or Nothing' Crowd Expects Too Much Too Soon

Article excerpt

THE current images in the Middle East would have been impossible to fathom 14 months ago. The PLO's Yasser Arafat is greeted by jeers at a Palestinian funeral in Gaza City. Front pages show Jordan's King Hussein lighting the cigarette of his new peace partner, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Syria's Foreign Minister welcomes and meets with American Jewish leaders. Mr. Arafat, Mr. Rabin, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres win the Nobel prize for peace.

Yet amid these remarkable images are tragic and familiar pictures of terror and mourning. Whether through bombing a Tel Aviv bus or firing on Jewish civilians in central Jerusalem, Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group, is doing its utmost to disrupt the peace process. Only the most naive observer of the Middle East would have dreamed the peace process secretly initiated in Oslo would unfold easily and without bloodshed.

So why are so many columnists, diplomats, and hard-liners so quick to put down the peace process - to proclaim it morally corrupt, a sellout of the Palestinians, and practically moribund?

In newspapers and commentary, the "whole loaf or nothing" crowd is chipping away at the Oslo accords in a way they would not dare treat South Africa's, or Haiti's, complicated process. Whether because of Israel-bashing or political hyperbole these critics seem willing to return to the former status quo. Obviously, fair criticism of the process is merited. For many people, the fruits are still largely symbolic, and not yet felt on the ground. Jobless Palestinians and Israel's victims of terror are among them.

However, many critics of the peace process opposed it in the first place. Those who always found it easier to blame the plight of the Palestinians exclusively on Israel still scapegoat Israel for causing Hamas terrorism and Arafat's current failure to implement the political and economic sovereignty he now holds.

"The time has come not only to dream of a new future but to realize it," said Rabin at the signing of the Israel-Jordan accord. "It will not be simply a piece of paper," said King Hussein, "it will be real as we open our hearts and our minds to each other."

Responsibility for implementing Palestinian self-determination is less glamorous than passing United Nations resolutions demanding it. The fruits of the process, even if unripe, need to be demonstrated for Palestinians and Israelis alike. …