STRANGE, isn't it, how each successive Middle East "peace in our time" involves a subtle rewriting of original agreements. The first peace- in-our-time was the 1991 Arab-Israeli summit in Madrid, the second was the 1993 Oslo agreement, the third came over Hebron in 1997. Now, at Wye, we have peace-in-our-time mark IV. And off we go again with spot the difference.

I'm not talking about the sudden demand by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the release of the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard - a ploy that would be farcical were it not for the fact that it almost scuppered Wye (and the near-certainty that Bill Clinton, after much "serious review", will indeed pack Pollard off to Israel).

No, the identity change started after Madrid. There, Arabs and Israelis met on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 242 which called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands in return for the security of all states (including, of course, Israel) in the area. Oslo - though hailed as the "land for peace" agreement - permitted Israel to decide how much occupied land in Gaza and the West Bank should be returned - thus allowing the Israelis to renegotiate UN resolution 242. Hebron permitted Israeli settlers to stay in the town but made an Israeli withdrawal contingent upon the PLO's promise of an end to anti-Israeli violence.

And now along comes Wye which was praised as the "land for security" agreement. Notice how that all-important word peace has suddenly been transformed into "security". Peace means co-operation, respect, mutual trust. Security means no violence - but it also means prison, hatred and (let's not be squeamish) torture. In return, the Palestinians can now have a total of 40 per cent (perhaps) of their territory under their control - as opposed to the 90 per cent they expected under Oslo. And the CIA, that most trustworthy of institutions, will be in the West Bank to ensure that Yasser Arafat arrests the usual suspects.

The Palestinian Authority has not prevented Hamas members from attacking Israelis (any more than the Israelis were able to do before Oslo). But now, miraculously, they will be able to do so - with the help of the CIA. And the Israelis, hopefully, will not have to face any more suicide bombers. But given the nature of the latest agreement, they probably will - hence President Clinton's familiar rubric about the "hate" that will face the Wye agreement (a "hate" which is supposed to mirror the views of anyone who dares to criticise it). Palestinians holding illegal weapons will be disarmed. The thousands of Jewish settlers on Palestinian land who have weapons (and condemn even the watered-down Wye agreement as "treachery") will, of course, not be disarmed.

As for the Palestinian refugees outside "Palestine", as for the future of Israel's still growing Jewish settlements, and as for Jerusalem - which Israel has already decided must be the "unified and eternal capital" - Wye holds out not a hope; only more talks before 4 May next year.

True, a life saved or a square metre of land returned to its rightful owners is a worthy aspiration. Israelis should be able to live without fear. So should Palestinians. But security comes from peace, not the other way round. Three per cent of the Palestinian land from which Israel will withdraw - perhaps the most farcical item of all - is to be a "nature reserve" on which Palestinians cannot settle or build. One wonders what kind of wild animals are supposed to roam inside this protected area. And what kind will now roam outside its walls.