The Hebron massacre provided a golden opportunity for Mr Rabin to tackle at least the settlements of terror in and around Hebron. His refusal to do so, on the grounds that this will undermine his coalition government, raises a question mark over his willingness to compromise.
As Ms Helm pointed out, Israel continues to build settlements on a broad swathe of land around Jerusalem. Furthermore, since George Bush handed Mr Rabin the dollars 10bn loan guarantees on condition of a halt on 'political' settlements, the Israelis have continued to erect 'security' settlements, with the result that, since the launch of the Madrid peace process in 1992, the number of settlers has swelled by a staggering 25 per cent to 130,000 today. Immediately following the signing of the Oslo accords, Israeli military orders were issued to confiscate tens of thousands of dunums of Arab lands to provide room for expanding neighbouring settlements.
The settlements occupy almost 60 per cent of the Arab land, with the Palestinians encircled in three major areas: Nablus, Ramalla and Hebron. Even in Gaza and Jericho, where the Palestinians are supposed to have 'self-rule', the settlements and the army are staying as permanent hubs of friction. What is frightening the Palestinians is that in five, or even two, years' time, there will not be much left of the West Bank or Arab Jerusalem to hold discussions about.
The atmosphere of Israeli arrogance is both discouraging and frustrating; when the PLO demanded a modest area around Jericho, Mr Rabin told his team 'let them sweat', and when the 13 December deadline for the start of 'withdrawal' passed by, he declared that 'deadlines are not sacred'. Even when the PLO settled for a tiny area around Jericho, he continued to delay and stall. His conduct since the Hebron massacre does not indicate any change of tactic.
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