Disbelief, incredulity, amazement—it is with such emotions that Israelis have responded to the fast flow of political developments since the announcement in September of the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). On the so-called left, where the slogan is “land for peace,” there has been an extraordinary upsurge of hope, and the talk, at least in the first few weeks after the White House ceremony, was all of the “messianic days” —a hyperbole used even by secular Jews when all other terms fail to match the magnitude of (promising) events. Among Jewish settlers on the maximalist right, where the slogans are “Greater Israel” and “peace for peace,” the prevailing mood is one of shock, desperation, and the blackest anger. There the prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, is regularly denounced as a “traitor”; and word is out that the very survival of Zionism and the Jewish state is hanging in the balance.
Even at the most mundane level, it is simply very hard for Israelis to believe the evidence of their eyes or ears. Can the Palestinian flag really be flying from innumerable houses not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but also in Arab quarters of Jerusalem? Until September 13 it was a criminal offense to possess such flags even in the privacy of one’s home. Can Israeli radio really be carrying reports from its own correspondents in the PLO headquarters in Tunis or from the Hashemite capital, Amman?...
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