- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2000

On the arid plains of Israel, archaeologists digging through ancient mounds typically find a layer of ash separating the remains of each successive civilization.
Since the beginnings of human habitation around 7,000 years ago, the ancient Hebrews, Philistines, Hittites, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans conquered, burned and then built anew.
After a 2 and 1/2-week battle between Israelis and Palestinians, longtime observers of the Middle East speak as if yet another layer of ash has descended over the ancient land claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.
"Barring some miracle in the next three or four days, you can write an obituary for the old peace process," said Geoffrey Kemp of the Nixon Center in Washington.
"The question is: Can a new one develop in the last days of the Clinton administration," said Mr. Kemp, a former White House specialist on the Middle East during the Reagan administration.
None among President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat speak with much conviction of reviving the peace process, begun in Oslo and signed in 1993, as they head toward today's summit in Egypt.
All three kept expectations deliberately low. Instead of talk of reviving the peace process, each side expressed doubts about whether the emergency meeting could even succeed in stopping fighting that has killed about 100 people since Sept. 28.
The fighting has tapered off since Thursday, when two Israeli soldiers were lynched by a mob at a Palestinian police station in Ramallah and Israeli helicopters responded by firing rockets at Mr. Arafat's compound and other Palestinian sites.
But ahead of today's summit, which also includes leaders of Egypt and Jordan, analysts said a new peace process is being sketched, one they expect will be far more modest than the Oslo accords:
Gone are the visions of two peoples at peace, respecting each other's religion, rights and history.
Gone are hopes that extremists on both sides can be kept at bay while reasonable folk set the standards of behavior.
Gone is the belief that Palestinians can prosper by working in Israel and that Israelis can invest in Palestinian development creating a new era of Jewish-Muslim understanding and cooperation.
American sailors are being mourned after a terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen a blast that has become a blunt symbol of growing hatred of the United States in the Islamic world that is now fueled by the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
More than 30 American embassies in Muslim countries are closed in fear of attacks, and tens of thousands of enraged Muslims, in the streets from Casablanca to Jakarta, call for death to Zionists and Americans.
It is not now clear whether this is simply a short-term reaction to the bloody events set off by the collapse of the peace process and the recent violence, or whether it represents a deeper clash of civilizations, pitting the Islamic world against the West as Harvard professor Samuel Huntington predicted.
But while U.S. forces hunker down to fight any new terrorist attacks, analysts envision the next attempt at Israeli-Palestinian peace as an attempt based far more on security than good will.
"The idea of a heavily integrated Palestinian-Israeli entity is unlikely," said Richard Haass, a Mideast specialist at the Brookings Institution.
"This is going to require prolonged separation. There are simply too many wounds and too many scars," he said.
The failure at Camp David in July, Mr. Haass said, discredited ambitious peacemaking, and the latest violence destroyed any confidence or trust on both sides. "You can't proceed as if none of this happened."
Added the Nixon Center's Mr. Kemp: Israel will be highly sensitive to "all issues dealing with security and particularly sensitive to the right of Palestinians to enter Israel proper."
That, he said, destroys any hopes of some 3 million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere returning to ancestral homes and villages within the 1948 borders of Israel.
"Riots among Arabs in Israel demonstrated to many Jewish Israelis that you cannot permit any further entry of Palestinians into Israel proper," Mr. Kemp said.
Issues that had been on the table in Camp David are now off the table and unlikely to be offered for a long time if ever.
These include Israeli offers to give the Palestinians 90 percent of the West Bank and to share control over the holy places in the Jerusalem's Old City, packed with sites sacred to three religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
The Palestinians are also unlikely to formally give up claims to West Bank land holding Jewish settlements.
In 1947 the United Nations voted to partition the British mandate of Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. But when the British left on May 15, 1948, the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq invaded in an effort to "push the Jews into the sea."
By the time fighting ended, Israel was intact, but Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip and Jordan took the West Bank, leaving no Palestinian state.
A second war in 1967 against Egypt, Syria and Jordan left Israel in control of, among other territories, the West Bank and Gaza, which it ruled with little opposition until the 1988 intifada, or holy war, erupted into daily attacks on Israelis by stone-throwing Palestinians.
With world opinion inflamed by the sight of Israel's powerful army shooting angry young Palestinian men armed only with stones, the two sides moved cautiously toward an agreement that would lead to a separate Palestinian state yet guarantee Israeli security.
The Palestinian-Israeli peace process began in secret talks in Oslo in the early 1990s leading to the historic pact signed at the White House in 1993 by Mr. Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Since then, Israel has handed over to Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority control of most of the Gaza Strip and about half the West Bank.
The Palestinians had cooperated on security with Israel and in the past two years arrested anti-Israel extremists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, largely ending terrorist attacks on Israeli buses and markets.
Mr. Clinton, under pressure from Mr. Arafat's threats to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state and from the approaching end of his presidency, pushed hard for the two sides to settle their final status issues at Camp David in July.
The most difficult issues were left for last: the fate of Arab refugees and Jewish settlements, final borders of a Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem with its holy sites.
However, Camp David came after Israel had withdrawn its forces from southern Lebanon in May under attacks by Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas, a retreat that only strengthened the hands of hard-liners in the Muslim world.
They encouraged Mr. Arafat to reject all offers short of total control over all of East Jerusalem, including the Old City.
That doomed the meeting to failure, and Mr. Clinton openly blamed Mr. Arafat for an unwillingness to compromise.
Frustrated at the collapse of talks, Arabs went on a rampage after hawkish Israeli leader Ariel Sharon visited the Old City's main shrine known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims on Sept. 28.
Israel says Mr. Arafat tacitly sanctioned the rampage of the next 2 and 1/2 weeks. It responded with strength, killing more than 90 Arabs and leaving the peace process in shreds.
Mr. Clinton earlier sought a meeting to calm the violence, but Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to go along, in part because he is holding an Arab League summit Oct. 21 in Cairo.
Mr. Mubarak, like other centrist Arab leaders, has been forced by the killing of Arabs to adopt a hawkish tone critical of Israeli use of what he and other Arab leaders call excessive force.
The escalating violence peaked Thursday when a Palestinian mob lynched at least two Israeli soldiers and the Israelis responded with missile attacks on Palestinian targets.
The same day, suicide bombers blew a hole in the U.S. destroyer Cole while it was docked in Yemen, a nation at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula that is known as a safe haven for shadowy terrorist groups.
The confluence of events led Mr. Mubarak to shift gears and accept the emergency summit.
Mr. Arafat, however, then refused to attend unless Israel pulled troops back from Palestinian cities and agreed to an international investigation of the violence.
The Palestinian leader Saturday dropped his objections and agreed to an unconditional meeting today at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula.
Mr. Barak has warned he does not want another "fiasco" similar to his meeting with Mr. Arafat and Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright in Paris on Oct. 4 that ended with an informal, unsigned truce that broke down within hours.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been in the region all week trying to end the fighting, said there were no preconditions to today's talks.
One Arafat adviser said the Palestinian leader agreed to the meeting "to give the peace process another chance."
Mr. Clinton is scheduled to appear at a memorial service in Norfolk on Wednesday for those who died aboard the Cole, so it is unlikely the talks will go beyond attempting to arrange a truce.
Rather, analysts anticipate an attempt to separate the sides and try to win promises that Mr. Arafat will rein in the stone-throwing youths and that Mr. Barak will reduce the level of firepower arrayed against Palestinian towns in the West Bank and Gaza.
Even the issues on which Palestinians and Israelis had reached an agreement at Camp David in July can no longer be considered as settled.
Israel had offered to surrender the Jordan Valley to the Palestinians while retaining some rights to station troops there. That will be a non-starter now, analysts say.
Israel had also been willing to share sovereignty over the holy sites in Jerusalem. But after last week's burning of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus and the burning of an ancient synagogue in Jericho, there is little chance Israel will make that offer again. Both were under the protection of Palestinian security forces.
Israelis have been leery of Arab control over Jewish holy sites because dozens of ancient synagogues were trashed and used as stables and warehouses during the 1948-1967 period of Jordanian control over the Old City.
That was time when Israelis could only stare with longing past barbed wire border fences at their holiest site, the Western Wall of the Second Temple, but were barred by the Jordanians from entering the Old City to pray there.
Israel, on the other hand, which seized East Jerusalem in 1967 after Jordan entered the Six-Day War, had never blocked Muslims from the holy sites atop the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, which were left under control of the Muslim Waqf.
Even on a psychological level, Palestinians have begun a campaign to discredit Jewish claims to the Temple Mount and other holy sites.
It was only after the failure of Camp David that Mr. Arafat and his main negotiator, Nabil Shaath, began to question whether the Temple Mount really contained the Jewish temples of Solomon and Herod.
Asked at a meeting in Virginia last month if he did not recognize the ancient Jewish historical link to Jerusalem's holiest site, Mr. Shaath replied: "I can recognize you have your beliefs, but I do not have to share them. And I don't."
Israeli analyst Zeev Schiff wrote in Haaretz newspaper Friday that Palestinian leaders who had turned a peaceful face toward Israel during the peace process, had said completely different things in Arabic to the Palestinians.
"After seizing Joseph's Tomb and converting it into a mosque, Salah Ta'amri, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and chairman of the PLC's Lands Committee, said: 'Now we have to kick the soldiers out [of Rachel's Tomb] …"
At the same time, articles appeared in the Palestinian press to explain that Rachel's Tomb is actually a mosque (Billal bin Rabbah) and that the area in fact belongs to the Muslim Waqf.
Even if the fighting dies down and the summit in Egypt can draw up an effective truce, the future of the Palestinian people remains very much in doubt.
The Palestinian Authority controls only islands of population in the West Bank, and Arabs must pass through Israeli checkpoints to go from one Arab town to the next.
Palestinians also need to work in Israel as day workers to keep at least some families solvent, and for now, the border remains sealed shut with calls by some to keep it that way and import guest workers from other, non-Arab lands.
The Palestinian areas also depend on Israel for water, electricity and access to ports and airports.
Some Israelis now believe only a complete separation of the two peoples for several generations will allow real trust to emerge. But they are unwilling to allow the Palestinians to have open borders with Jordan and Egypt, fearing the regions could allow militant forces from outside to mass on Israel's borders with any Palestinian entity.
If the situation appears hopeless, to some in the extremist community such as the government of Iran, it is exactly what they sought: proof that Muslims cannot live with Israel and should seek in the long run to destroy it.

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