Israel Withdraws

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In a holy land, miracles come in all shapes and sizes. The barren 195-square-mile chunk of the West Bank that Israel on Friday handed over to the Palestinians may not sound like much, but the decision is being greeted as a minor miracle in the Mideast. "This particular bite of the West Bank isn't particularly nutritious," says TIME Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer. "But the real significance here is that the Wye Accord is actually being implemented, and that's really something. There were plenty of reasons to think the agreement was worthless, and now people are going, 'My God, this is actually happening.' "

Despite the rhetorical exchanges of recent days, Israel's cabinet voted to approve the withdrawal after Israeli military leaders confirmed that the Palestinians had more than fulfilled their security commitments for the first phase of the agreement. Reasons for optimism in this peace process have been so few and far between that the actual implementation of agreements leaves people on all sides pleasantly nonplussed.