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The document jointly formulated by Israeli and Palestinian public figures, which outlines the conditions for a permanent agreement between the two peoples, deserves praise, not the damnation to which it has been subjected by government spokespeople. The initiative is a positive one in principle, and the agreement's components should have the support of the public unless the details disclosed so far prove to be inaccurate.

In light of the government's harsh attacks on the very existence of Israeli-Palestinian talks, it should once again be emphasized that these talks are entirely legitimate and even essential, in view of the bloody vortex into which the two peoples are being drawn. The effort by the two teams, headed by Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, to reach a permanent agreement is brainstorming with the goal of proving that compromise is possible. It doesn't have the slightest thing to do with a "secret and illegitimate relationship with the enemy," as government spokesmen call it in order to invest it with a negative connotation. There is also no truth to the claims that the initiative is an attempt to pull the rug out from under Israel's achievement, almost at hand, of a military resolution to terror and the removal of Yasser Arafat from the stage of history. Anyone who believes that scenario proves that he or she has learned nothing over the past three years. Palestinian terror nourishes itself on national aspirations; it cannot be overcome by military means.

The Geneva Accord provides a possible key to the end of the conflict. It divides the land of Israel between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine in a way that each can begin a separate and sustainable existence. It declares an end to the conflict and to demands by each side and proffers solutions to all the difficult questions, among them borders, the status of the Temple Mount, control over Jerusalem, the future of the settlements, supervision of the military power of the Palestinian army, and of the armed organizations operating within it, and more.

God is in the details and, therefore, to examine the seriousness of the proposals we must wait for their full disclosure. From the Israeli perspective, this is particularly important with regard to the precise wording of the proposed solution to the question of the right of return. Israel cannot accept a peace plan that does not unequivocally eliminate this demand from the agendas of both peoples, once and for all.

The draft of the accord is difficult for the Israeli side to digest because of the withdrawal to the Green Line that it demands, the administrative division of Jerusalem, the dismantling of a large number of settlements, and other aspects. The accord is not the heart's desire of the Palestinians, either, because it requires them, among other things, to forgo the right of return, it takes a bite out of areas around Jerusalem that they regard as theirs, and its disarmament clause requires them to give up one of the trappings of sovereignty. However, a sober look reveals that the principles of the accord are the only formula for reaching a reasonable compromise that will move the two peoples forward to an immeasurably better future.