only the will is lacking

Thomas Friedman has a nice summary of the "virtual peace deal" hammered out by Yossi Beilin and Yasir Abde Rabbo, without th eblessing of their governments:

There is nothing more enraging than someone exposing your faults � and being right.

What is true at home is true in diplomacy. I was reminded of that watching the enraged, hysterical reaction of Israel's ruling Likud Party to the virtual peace treaty � known as the Geneva Accord � that was hammered out by Yossi Beilin, the former Israeli justice minister, and Yasir Abed Rabbo, the former Palestinian information minister. Mr. Beilin and Mr. Abed Rabbo, with funding from the Swiss government, decided to see if they could draw up a detailed peace treaty, with maps, at a time when their governments were paralyzed. After three years, they did it. They shook hands on it Oct. 12 and today they are mailing copies in Hebrew and Arabic to every home in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Ariel Sharon and his far-right coalition threw a fit, crying treason and sputtering about the gall, the "chutzpah," of Mr. Beilin drawing up a virtual peace treaty with Yasir Arafat's deputy. The Likud's over-the-top criticism of Mr. Beilin � and of the Israeli Army chief of staff when he pointed out the Sharon government's reluctance to strengthen Palestinian moderates � had all the earmarks of a ruling party that knows it has not washed the dishes, not made any creative initiatives for peace since coming to power, and hates being exposed.

The Geneva Accord fleshes out the peace initiative first outlined by President Clinton. You don't have to accept every word to see its basic wisdom and fairness: In return for peace with Israel, the Palestinians get a nonmilitarized state in the West Bank and Gaza. They also get the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and sovereignty over the Temple Mount, but under a permanent international security force, with full Jewish access. The Israelis get to keep settlements housing about 300,000 of the 400,000 Jews in the West Bank (in return for an equivalent amount of land from Israel), including virtually all the new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem built in the Arab side of the city. About 30,000 Palestinian refugees get to return to their homes in Israel proper, and all refugees receive compensation. Polls show 35 to 40 percent of Israelis and Palestinians already support the deal, without either government having endorsed it.

"Our agreement is virtual, because we are not the government and do not pretend to be," said Mr. Beilin, whose deal was co-signed by a former Israeli Army chief of staff, a former deputy Mossad chief and leaders from Mr. Arafat's Tanzim militia. "But we need to create a virtual world that will impact the real world by demonstrating that a workable deal is possible. It is inconceivable that for the past three years there have been no official meetings between Israelis and Palestinians about a permanent solution."

By 2010 or so, there will be more Palestinians than Jews living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza put together. "We will fairly soon be losing the Jewish majority," added Mr. Beilin. "This may not interest President Bush, but it interests me and should interest Sharon. If we don't do something to create a border with the Palestinians, we're going to put an end to the Zionist dream."

The point of this is that many possibilities to find peace exist and can be agreed upon if the parties involved are actually willing (I personally prefer Jonathan's Peace Fence as a first step, to allow the mutual trust required to re-establish the Taba accords, and then eventually leading to a Binational State. This route should circumvent the catch-22 of the two-state solution).

And the writing is on the wall. More and more Israelis - even former Shin Bet security chiefs (who predictably are now victims of a retaliatory smear campaign) - are recognizing the fact that simple demographic, economic, and civil pressures resulting from the occupation are threatening the existence of Israel as a viable and healthy First World state - far more a threat than that posed by the suicide bombers.

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