Mideast Agreement Signed amid Hope and Some Tears Ceremony Overcomes Logistical and Emotional Obstacles

Article excerpt

THERE were tears, wide smiles, and most of all a lot of high expectations, when the "unthinkable" took place Sept. 13.

Henry Kissinger brushed back tears. Jimmy Carter's eyes watered. Cyrus Vance beamed as if he were the father of the bride. George Bush looked stern.

They were among a guest list of 3,000 movers and shakers, including many who tried and failed to bring peace to the Middle East, at probably the biggest event in Washington this year.

However, decades of diplomacy could not stop even these elder statesmen from joining the crowd and gasping when Yasser Arafat shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn after the signing of the peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Giving peace a chance looked so easy on Sept. 13 - the president of the United States gave his green and spacious back lawn over to two men who have warred with each other for decades and they pledged to stop generations of hate and bloodshed.

It looked easy but it wasn't.

Security was as tight at the White House as it has ever been in the building's long history. Guests and journalists formed long, slow-moving lines to get in and pass through metal detectors. Helicopters hovered overhead and security men stood on the White House roof.

Professionally, the ceremony went off without a hitch. Emotionally, it looked and was hard for the participants.

Mr. Rabin fidgeted while Mr. Arafat spoke, shuffling papers from one pocket to another, applauding his old foe only tepidly and as rarely as possible. Looking more like a baseball fan dragged into a night at the opera than a peacemaker, he applauded with his hands held below the belt.

Arafat was more relaxed but even he stood impassively while Rabin spoke, showing no emotion but applauding at times.

It took President Clinton to nudge Rabin forward to shake Arafat's outstretched hand; and when he did, the audience let out an audible sigh that filled the South Lawn for a long moment. …


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