Palestinians win - and lose

SOON AFTER Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, returns to Gaza, the Palestinian Security forces are expected to start arresting suspects named by Israel as being behind acts of violence aimed at Israel. He is also expected to start confiscation of illegally held weapons and to reduce the size of the Palestinian police.

The 2.7 million Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank will judge the achievement of their leaders at Wye by what they get in return. Their acceptance of any security plan for Israel is likely to depend on whether they see any increase in security in their own lives.

Israel receded from its demand for the extradition of 31 Palestinians to Israel in return for a guarantee that 30 will be arrested and kept in Palestinian jails. The CIA will monitor their continued captivity as well as the reduction in the size of the Palestinian police force and the confiscation of arms.

Palestinians will be disappointed that only 750 out of 3,000 Palestinian prisoners are to be released in Israel. The issue of revocation of the Palestinian covenant matters far less to Palestinians, whose official position is that all clauses calling for the destruction of Israel were removed in 1996.

The gains for the ordinary Palestinian will be that if he or she lives in the 15.2 per cent of the West Bank to be handed over to full Palestinian security control then they will no longer be under direct Israeli authority. For the 1 million people in Gaza, unfettered access to the West Bank will relieve the siege they have been under since gaining autonomy in 1994.

A bizarre element in the plan is the role of the CIA, which will be in charge of monitoring the detention of those arrested by Palestinian security. Human rights groups have raised serious concerns about their treatment.

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