After Sharm summit, Israelis and Palestinians hope better times ahead.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
sraelis are calling the Sharm el-Sheikh summit
meeting this week the "Summit of Hope" —
hope that the speeches and handshakes really
will signify the end of 4'/2 years of bloodletting and
Tikvah, the Hebrew word for hope, was splashed
in bold letters on the front pages of Israel's newspa-
pers Tuesday, along with smiling photographs of
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Reading quietly from prepared statements in their
native languages, Sharon and Abbas tried to turn a
new page at the summit, after the bloody years of
"Today in my meeting with Chairman Abbas, we
agreed the Palestinians would stop all -acts of vio-
lence against Israelis everywhere, and in parallel,
Israel would cease its military activity against the
Palestinians everywhere," Sharon said.
But Sharon also issued a warning, noting that ter-
rorist groups have not acceded to the truce and have
pledged only a temporary suspension of attacks.
"This is a very fragile opportunity, that the
extremists will want to exploit. They want to close
the window of opportunity for us and allow our two
peoples to drown in their blood," he said.
Like Sharon, Abbas expressed misgivings — for
example, Israel is unlikely to agree to Palestinian
demands to release all Palestinian prisoners or dis-
mantle its West Bank security fence — but hazarded
a little optimism.
"For the first time in a long time, there exists in
our region hope for a better future for our children
and grandchildren," Abbas said.
When it came to discussing longer-term prospects,
however, the rhetoric diverged.
Abbas spoke of the U.S.-led road-map peace plan,
which envisions an independent Palestinian state.
The host of the summit, Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak, pitched in with an appeal to "inter-
national legitimacy," diplomatic parlance for U.N.
resolutions that the Arab world insists require com-
plete Israeli withdrawal from territory conquered in
the 1967 Six-Day War — a view at odds with the
Israeli and American position, and as the historical
record makes clear, even with the resolutions' stated
There was no covenant signed at the summit, only
talk of Sharon inviting Abbas to his Negev ranch
and a possible follow-up summit in Ramallah, the
West Bank seat of Palestinian government.
In a goodwill gesture, Egypt and Jordan
Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon are shown at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit on Tuesday.
announced they would return ambassadors they had
withdrawn from Israel after violence erupted in
2000. Dashing Israeli hopes, however, they declined
to say when the ambassadors would be returned,
and one Jordanian official said the decision could be
rescinded "in 10 seconds" should the peace process
Even U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
who boosted hopes of a breakthrough with a whirl-
wind round of meetings with- Sharon and Abbas ear-
lier this week, struck a note of caution.
"Success is not assured, but America is resolute.
This is the best chance for peace we are likely to see
for some years to come — and we are acting to help
Israelis and Palestinians seize this chance," she told
reporters in Paris.
Abbas pledged at the summit that Palestinians
would cease all attacks on Israelis everywhere.
Sharon in turn promised to end military actions in
the Palestinian areas, if Palestinian attacks stop.
"It's the intifada's graduation party," Aluf Benn
wrote in the newspaper Ha'aretz.
But despite the fanfare and promises of a new
dawn in Sharm el-Sheikh, hopes have been strained
by the years of fighting, distrust and profound sense
of disappointment following the collapse of the
1993 Oslo peace accords.
The question that violence-weary Israelis and
Palestinians are asking is what the words will bring.
Both sides know the road ahead will be a difficult
The newly elected Abbas faces the daunting task
of reining in terrorists over the long term. Sharon
must press ahead with his planned withdrawal from
the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, despite the
rift it threatens in Israeli society.
Still, even a verbal agreement to cease hostilities
marks the most concrete step forward since the
death of Yasser Arafat, Abbas' predecessor, in
Daring To Hope
"I'm finding myself optimistic in spite of myself,"
said Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalem
Center in Jerusalem. "I'm not sure it's a good thing,
because the great fear of those of us who initially
supported Oslo is that we are going to be taken for a