Killer In Hebron Achieves His End

March 06, 1994|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun

JERUSALEM -- In the end, Baruch Goldstein succeeded.

The Arab-hating extremist's mass murder of Muslim worshipers at a mosque in Hebron was decried worldwide. But he achieved his goal of further splitting Arabs and Jews, and making peace between them more remote.

The peace negotiations, opposed by Goldstein's band of

right-wing Jewish settlers, are now broken off.

Any lingering euphoria over the accord signed by Israel and the Palestinians in September has been replaced by street demonstrations and bloody clashes.

Palestinians again see Israelis as ruling by the gun; Israelis are bracing for the inevitable retaliation.

The prospects for renewed progress toward a peace agreement any time soon seem dim.

"What was acceptable [before] is not acceptable now," Faisal al-Husseini, a top negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, said yesterday at a rally in Arab East Jerusalem.

The outpouring of anger among Palestinians has prompted the PLO to insist on new terms from Israel before returning to the negotiating table -- demands Israel finds unacceptable.

"We won't resume the peace talks with Israel unless we get a guarantee from the United Nations and Israel on the security of Palestinians," PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat promised in yesterday's Arabic press.

The Palestinians are demanding a U.N. force in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to protect Palestinians from Israeli settlers and soldiers. Israel has refused to consider an armed force. The Palestinians also want to start discussions now on removal of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, which Israel also rejects.

"It's high time that the world deals with Palestinian security," Mr. Husseini said yesterday, shortly before more clashes broke out.

Immediately after the massacre Feb. 25 in which Goldstein killed a still-undetermined number of worshipers -- Israel says 30, Palestinians say at least 50 -- President Clinton attempted to turn the tragedy into a catalyst for peace.

He appealed to both sides to demonstrate a rejection of violence by coming immediately to Washington to begin nonstop negotiations on a peace plan. Prematurely, the president announced they had accepted.

Mr. Clinton did not gauge the depth of anger among Palestinians, which made it impossible for Mr. Ar- afat to so quickly return to the negotiating table.

"People think there should be some time before going back to negotiations, in order to have time to cool off," said a PLO activist in Gaza this past week.

Israel and the PLO signed an agreement Sept. 13 calling for Israeli troop withdrawal from Jericho and the Gaza Strip by April. 13 and autonomy for Arab populated areas.

But implementation of the plan has been stalled while negotiations continued, and the massacre stopped those talks.

Palestinians reject the simple explanation that the tragedy was the responsibility only of the one, crazed settler. They say that Israel created the climate for the tragedy, that it encouraged the zealous settlers, gave them weapons and ignored their assaults on Palestinians stripped mostly defenseless by a harsh military rule.

They see the massacre as simply an extreme extension of their daily burden.

For 26 years of military occupation, the Palestinians have had no recourse for injustice at the hands of Israelis. They have no police, no courts they can trust, no protection against settlers or government oppression.

The strict military laws that apply to them do not apply to Israelis; the protections under Israeli law for Jews do not extend to Palestinians.

"The Hebron massacre came to show us just how frail our security is," said an editorial Friday in the Arabic daily An-Nahar. "Although it was clear last September that most of the people support the Oslo [peace] agreement, it has become clear this past week that most of the people oppose resuming the peace talks, at least until international forces come to protect us from the cowboy settlers."

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has heaped angry blame on Goldstein for the tragedy.

At the same time, he has rejected any suggestion that government policy played a roll in what happened.

And so far he has refused to make any but the most minor of concessions in order to get the Palestinians back to the table.

"We cannot raise new issues," Mr. Rabin said last week. "The agreement between the PLO and us cannot be reopened."

In that, he has support from other Israelis.

"Arafat is now taking cynical advantage of the opportunity given him by a fanatic murder in order to extort further Israeli gestures," said the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot.

"By stating exaggerated demands, Arafat is attempting to exploit the Hebron incident for political gain," said an editorial in Hatzofeh.

The standoff could stall further peace talks for some time. The April 13 deadline for withdrawal from Jericho and the Gaza Strip is quickly becoming unrealistic.

But the Palestinians would lose from any long delays in talks, warned one of the intermediaries in the talks, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa.

"Breaking off or suspending [the peace process] would be quite counter-productive," Mr. Moussa told the Egyptian Parliament yesterday.

"Delaying Israel's withdrawal, obstructing the restoration of Palestinian rights. . . . Only settlers and extremists would gain."

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