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Peace Prize Ironies

PEACE not firmly anchored in justice is slippery. Hence the many ironies surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat for the Sept. 13, 1993, peace accord.

The Nobel announcement came during a hostage crisis that ended with five dead Israeli soldiers and two dead Hamas kidnappers. It would be one thing if the kidnapping took place despite a peace deal clearly moving ahead with the enthusiasm of most involved. But the Hamas action took place under a treaty that many Palestinians call a surrender.

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Israel announced yesterday that it would at some unspecified time resume negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had been suspended after the hostage crisis, but Mr. Rabin also has said that Arafat must ``choose between peace and Hamas.''

Such rhetoric may appease Israel's angry right wing. But Arafat has a constituency to respond to, too. If the peace process can weather the murder of 28 Palestinians praying in Hebron, it can weather the desperate act of one wing of Hamas.

But this is minor. In the larger context of peace with justice, Arafat's prize may actually hurt him. To understand what Arafat is being honored for, one must look at what he signed and the long slide it represents from the Palestinian claim for a homeland.

Before 1974 the Palestinians wanted a democratic secular state for Muslims, Jews, and Christians. In 1974 the PLO accepted a two-state solution - one for Jews, one for Palestinians. They would get the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; Israeli withdrawal; and mutual recognition. This was supported by countless United Nations resolutions and a world consensus.

By 1993 the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist and agreed to its current borders. The Palestinians would accept 22 percent of their country under the old British Mandate. (The terms of the 1991 Madrid peace conference allowed PLO sovereignty after five years.)

Now it is apparent that on the White House lawn in 1993 Arafat signed a deal allowing him to police Gaza and Jericho, or 2 percent of Palestine. That's it. The Oslo accords do not give Palestinians the West Bank, Jerusalem, or even sovereignty.

In short, Arafat won the Nobel Prize for accepting what is essentially a tribal reservation in Israel. He started with a state. He ended with ``limited self-rule.'' Meantime, the Oslo accords are helping erase 45 years of UN resolutions on Palestinian rights. The Arab world yawns; Hamas waits.

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