Raging Against Peace

Still furious over the Hebron massacre, Palestinians insist Rabin's concessions are not enough

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The 111 bullets Goldstein fired left the peace process badly wounded. The rage that fueled the intifadeh had been tamped down by the Oslo accord last summer. Now it has exploded once more. And, said a Western diplomat in Cairo, "anybody who thinks this is as bad as it can get doesn't have much imagination." There was no sign that Palestinian anger was cooling. Tough restrictions on the Jewish settlers might have made an impression, but Rabin's steps so far have not. "The scale of the ((Israeli)) concessions humiliates us," said Zakaria al-Qaq, a political analyst in Jerusalem. "Our blood means nothing." The West Bank and Gaza Strip branch of Fatah, the main faction of the P.L.O., last week revoked its September pledge to refrain from violence, saying it is no longer committed "to any agreement to stop confrontation and struggle."

The renewed violence puts Arafat in a particularly dangerous position. His control of the P.L.O. was weakening even before the mosque massacre because he was perceived to be giving in to too many Israeli provisos, and people in the territories were coming to doubt they would ever get a taste of self-rule. He may now be in peril of losing his position altogether if he goes back to the peace talks without extracting some major new concessions from the Israelis. Bill Clinton has tried to rescue the process by inviting the negotiators to Washington. The Israelis have agreed, but the P.L.O. has not, even though Palestinian leaders concede privately that if talks break off at this stage, they may be over for good.

Arafat, who desperately wants the peace initiative to succeed, knows that he must try to exact a heavy price from Israel. In a letter to Rabin last week, he demanded that the Israeli government disarm Jewish settlers, who carry rifles issued by the Israeli army and often their own pistols as well. In addition, he called for some form of international monitoring in the territories, and for closing down hard-line ultranationalist Jewish settlements such as Kiryat Arba.

Rabin, who heads a minority government, to date has shown little willingness to take drastic measures to save the peace talks. In a bid to ease some of the tension, the Israelis released about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. That move scored almost no points for Rabin's government. P.L.O. spokesmen dismissed it as "cosmetic" and pointed out that the aborted Cairo agreement would have freed 3,000 prisoners this week. The Israeli right wing, meanwhile, denounced the government for releasing "terrorists" into the already seething territories.

Despite words of contrition, the government has taken only a feeble swipe at the extremist settlers. Rabin said he could agree to international observers in Gaza and Jericho -- something provided for in the Oslo agreement -- but not to an armed force of peacekeepers. He was adamant that negotiations on the fate of the Jewish settlements had to wait for two more years, as originally agreed in Oslo. The Prime Minister did, however, make clear his loathing for the Arab-hating militants of the extremist Kahane movement, to which Goldstein belonged. In effect he excommunicated them, telling them from the Knesset, "You are not part of the congregation of Israel. Rational Judaism spits you out."

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