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Wednesday, 15 November, 2000, 21:20 GMT
Analysis: Burying the peace?
Leah Rabin's funeral
15 November 2000: A day of dashed hopes and regret
By Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

As Israelis buried Leah Rabin, to many the symbol of their hopes for peace, Palestinians gave voice to their yearning for statehood and the daily death toll continued its remorseless rise.

Many of the mourners at Mrs Rabin's funeral in Jerusalem must have felt they were burying the peace process.

Relatives carry body 13-year-old shot by Israeli troops
Palestinian anger at a funeral of their own
Five years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the former general who became one of the architects of the peace process, the Israeli peace camp is bruised and demoralised.

The peace process was supposed to bring them security - security for the state and the nation, and personal security for themselves and their children.

But that is still a dream. The daily reality is, whether they are settlers in the West Bank or citizens in Jerusalem, they live in fear of rocks and bullets and bombs.

Palestinian nightmare

For the Palestinians, the peace process was supposed to deliver statehood. But instead it has given them only the most limited control over their own lives.

Palestinian militiaman brandishes AK-47 assault rifle
Peace process was meant to take violence out of the conflict
As chance would have it, the day of Leah Rabin's funeral coincided with the anniversary of a symbolic declaration of independence by their leader Yasser Arafat back in 1988, when Mr Arafat was in exile in Algiers.

Palestinians might have hoped, 12 years on, they would be able to celebrate real independence.

But that is still a dream. The daily reality is one of continuing funerals and continuing confrontation between young Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli soldiers.

Premature obituaries?

There was little to celebrate, for Israelis or Palestinians, on 15 November 2000. It was a day of dashed hopes and regret over missed opportunities.

Confrontation in east Jerusalem
Thousands of Palestinian protesters have been injured in clashes
So is the peace process well and truly dead?

Its obituary has been written many times before. But remarkably, even as the killing goes on, behind the scenes Israeli and Palestinian officials are discussing the feasibility of another three-way summit with the Americans.

In current conditions, such talk may seem irrelevant, even unreal.

The idea emerged in the separate talks President Bill Clinton had last week with Yasser Arafat, and on Sunday with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak.

American hopes

Although American officials have remained tight lipped about the proposal, the logic behind it is clear.

Clinton lays wreath at Rabin grave
Mrs Clinton was in Jerusalem for the Rabin funeral
First, the Clinton administration is clinging to the hope that the violence will play itself out, either through exhaustion or because the leaders on both sides see that it is pushing the Middle East towards catastrophe.

Second, Bill Clinton still has just over two months in office and wants to use that time to pull Israel and the Palestinians back from the brink.

He may be a lame-duck president, but he is still the leader of the one remaining superpower - and he wants to use the authority that still gives him.

Bitter memories

It goes without saying that the obstacles remain formidable.

The continuing violence, and the climate of hostility and mistrust which it breeds, is only the most obvious difficulty.

Palestinian mourners for Raad Shaqfa in Gaza
Mourning the dead: It is hard to imagine successful talks now
Mr Clinton's other handicap is that all three sides have bitter memories of their last encounter, at the Camp David summit in July.

Fifteen days and nights of rancorous discussions left a bitter aftertaste.

Mr Barak and Mr Arafat cannot bear to be in the same room together. Mr Clinton likened the experience to dental treatment without an anaesthetic.

A post-intifada summit, if it happens, will have to be very different from that pre-intifada summit back in July.

Nevertheless, the American president has offered the two parties an exit strategy. It will be up to them to accept it or reject it.

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See also:

15 Nov 00 | Middle East
Palestinians killed in new clashes
15 Nov 00 | Middle East
In pictures: Rabin funeral
12 Nov 00 | Middle East
Muslim leaders condemn Israel
15 Nov 00 | Middle East
Thousands mass for Rabin funeral
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