Obstacles to Peace

January 28, 1995

President Clinton's attempt to prevent money from the United States from reaching Middle East terrorists is correct and overdue. He may not succeed in blocking the flow. But he is showing U.S. support for the peace process that this terrorism is TC intended to destroy. And he is taking seriously the allegations of Israeli authorities that Hamas and other groups receive significant financial and organizational support from the U.S.

The suicide bombing last weekend that took 19 lives and created a crisis of confidence inside Israel was a severe setback for peace. It is driving the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to measures it might not consider in other circumstances to be wise.

One is to explore the possibility of setting up a fence, a sort of East German Wall, on the Palestinian side of the border to keep Palestinians out of Israel. While such segregation can only hasten Palestinian self-reliance in the occupied territories, it would be primarily a hollow gesture to Israelis for political purposes. The other measure is to approve enlargements of Israeli settlements in the West Bank near Jerusalem that can only reduce Palestinian faith in the peace agreement.

The PLO, for its part, does too little to deter terrorism from Gaza. The brief detention of the Islamic Jihad spiritual leader, Sheik Abdallah Shami, hardly counts. Both Islamic Jihad, which claimed credit for last Sunday's attack, and Hamas, which bombed a bus in Tel Aviv in October taking 22 lives, openly challenge the peace agreement and PLO authority in Gaza.

Yet gloomy as these developments are, not all the news is negative. The agreement between the PLO and Jordan on Jerusalem removes a tremendous impediment to peace and relieves Israel of having to choose between them. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat now recognizes the role of Jordan's King Hussein as protector of the holy mosques on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, as has Israel. Jordan now supports the PLO's claim to be the rightful civil government of East Jerusalem, which Israel repudiates but which remains to be negotiated.

The economic success of Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank always required that it have good relations with Jordan, being forged with Mr. Arafat's visit. Since a confederation or other close relation between Jordan and Palestine is the only way to make peace viable, this accommodation was necessary and is in Israel's interest.

The next challenge facing Mr. Arafat is to show that his police can halt terrorism launched from land they control. He will not achieve any of his ambitious goals if he cannot accomplish that one.

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