On October 23, in an internationally acclaimed "breakthrough" in the long-stalled Oslo Process, a visibly pleased Bill Clinton presided over the signing of yet another agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the White House.
The Wye River Memorandum, hammered out over nine days of what the Israelis described as "gruesome" talks, was designed, according to the American leader, "to build trust and renew hope for peace" between the parties. Its was meant to restart the land-for-peace process that had not moved for 18 months.
The talks nearly collapsed three times. First, after a Palestinian grenade attack on a Beersheva bus stop. Then, when the Israelis threatened to leave citing the PA's refusal to take the Jews' security concerns seriously. And on the last day, just hours before the signing ceremony, when Prime Minister Netanyahu asked Clinton to pardon imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, and the president refused, promising only that he would "consider" it.
At the signing, Yasser Arafat received an extended ovation when he said: "We will never go back to violence and confrontation--no return to confrontation and violence."
The signing of the agreement, which outlines "steps to facilitate implementation of the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip of September 28, 1995", all seemed uncannily familiar.
The September 1995 agreement--Oslo 2--which paved the way for an IDF withdrawal from all the Palestinian cities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, was also signed in the East Room of the White House in a carbon-copy ceremony. As with "Wye", there was also a last minute threat not to sign, which saw Clinton take Arafat and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin alone into a side room and persuade them to go ahead. That time, too, Clinton promised Rabin he would consider Israel's request to commute Pollard's sentence--but chose not to.
The statements back then were equally impressive. "From this day on we do not want to see any waste of or threat to any innocent Palestinian life or any innocent Israeli life. Enough killing of innocent people," said Arafat.
And in words that would sound terribly ironic in the ensuing days, Rabin pleaded: "Together, we should not let the land of milk and honey become a land flowing with blood and tears." Oslo 2 gave Yasser Arafat control over all "his" cities. What Rabin's nation got was davka blood and tears in theirs.
Within weeks, a whirlwind of violence and death struck the Jewish state, leaving Israelis grieving the assassinated Rabin and dozens of innocent victims on the streets of Jerusalem, Beersheva and Tel Aviv.
And in the middle of this mayhem Arafat told Arab diplomats gathered in a Stockholm hotel: "I have no use for Jews. We now need all the help we can get from you in our battle for a united Palestine under total Arab-Muslim domination".