LETTER : Israel: realities and illusions

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From Mr Tim Llewellyn Sir: Helen Davis (letter, 27 December) quotes brief reported comments by three Palestinian leaders in an attempt to challenge Sarah Helm's assertion that Palestinians in general doubt Israel's serious intention to implement self-rule ("West Bank talks end in failure", 22 December). Mrs Davis does not point out that two of the three men quoted - Yasser Arafat and Nabil Sha'ath - were the main Palestinian begetters of the Oslo Accords; or that the third, Saeb Erakat, although he has voiced reservations about the events of the past 15 months, is a member of what passes for the national authority in tiny bits of Palestine. From such people one expects a Panglossian optimism.

Sarah Helm, like most serious Middle East specialists I have read in British broadsheets, journals and heard in the broadcast media, reflects the growing feeling, shared by many former supporters of the Declaration of Principles, that if Israel's government does have any serious intent to grant the Palestinians self-rule worth the name, as a staging post to real self-determination, it has shown little sign of it so far.

What are said by the accords' supporters to be achievements have been proved either grossly insufficient or plain illusory; no West Banker or Gazan sees self-rule as even a remote prospect; we wait and wait for the redeployment of Israeli armed forces that the accords say must be the precursor of Palestinian elections; the Israeli cabinet cannot agree on its objectives, never mind its tactics.

Balanced reporting like that of Sarah Helm is helping readers to get at the truth of what is happening in Israel and the occupied territories, so much of which is obscured by the antics and statements of political leaders in the Middle East and their paid advocates here in the West.

Yours sincerely, TIM LLEWELLYN London, NW6

27 December The writer was BBC Middle East Correspondent from 1987-92.