Eight months following the Declaration of Principles concluded in Oslo between the P.L.O. and Israel, and signed (in a festive atmosphere) in Washington on September 13th, 1993, the two parties agreed to start with the Gaza-Jericho first scheme. This in effect leaves the door wide open for the resumption of the negotiations concerning an early transfer of authority in the West Bank in at least six spheres of administration and power.
This event obviously raises great hopes, but it also leaves us assailed by many doubts and fears: if negotiations about Gaza-Jericho first have lasted so long, what will happen in the case of the West Bank as a whole? Will the negotiations last seven months? Or will they stretch over several years? And if so, what will both parties do vis-a-vis the growing opposition to the political process, and in face of the ever-mounting waves of violence and the increasing number of victims on both sides?
There can be no doubt about the sincerity of Arafat's or Rabin's good intentions. Both of them want to achieve peace and both of them have made promises to their respective people. Furthermore, they both have placed their own political survival, as well as that of their respective parties, on the stake. Finally, both of them are facing increasing opposition from elements out to scuttle the peace process.
Will Arafat and Rabin succeed in realizing their hopes and delivering whatever they have promised to their people? And will they be able to foil the plans of those who are actively trying to undermine the peace process?
It is not enough to wish something to happen, but hard work is imperative in order to realize our wishes. The gap between intentions and their concretization is vast, indeed, and cannot be bridged merely with words.
What is needed is the courage and vision to make bold, historical, albeit painful decisions to attain the desired aim. The implementation of peace does not only necessitate, but also deserves the taking of risks. Indeed, the attempts to achieve peace require much more courage than the decision to go to war.
Only when such courage exists, and the right decisions are taken at the fight time, then, and only then, can peace become a reality on the ground. The two peoples (Palestinians and Israelis) will thus be able to savor and staunchly defend the peace to which they have always aspired, thus spelling the defeat of the opposition and rallying the masses around the peace-makers.
Hence, the political survival of both Rabin and Arafat, together with their respective constituencies depends to a great extent on the success of the peace process and the opening of new horizons for co-existence and the promotion of cooperation and development in the region. Undoubtedly, the peace we all aspire to is a just and comprehensive one that will put an end to the state of war among all the nations of the region and herald a new era of co-existence and cooperation, not only between Israel and Palestine, but amongst all the nations of the region.
Prime Minister Rabin's statements about his readiness to remove settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights have rekindled our hope that real peace is imminent, and that the leaders of the region have effectively started to move toward its implimentation.
Let us then support all those who are striving for a just peace, to put an end to bloodshed and destruction, and channel our efforts towards construction, development and extricating the Middle East from the vicious circle of conflict, hostility and arms race. But neither a comprehensive peace, nor the development and prosperity emanating from such a peace, will suffice without a halt to the arms race and the inspection and verification of both conventional and non-conventional weapons of mass destruction; this is imperative within the framework of peace and as a preliminary step to realize the vision of beating swords into ploughshares.