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
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. …