Threatened Peacemakers

Netanyahu and Arafat bear the personal costs of their pact

On NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was aware of a threat to his life by the militant Hamas, but that if he concerned himself about such things, he would be "paralyzed."

On the same day in San Francisco, President Clinton, speaking of the risk that Yasser Arafat is taking for peace, said, "I'll guarantee you there are people who will try to take him out."

Sen. Richard Shelby, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, has expressed concern about the CIA's role in monitoring the peace agreement, saying, "It will put our people in danger."

An American officer losing his life on a peace mission would not be unprecedented. Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins, heading a United Nations peace observation team in Lebanon in 1988, was kidnapped by terrorists and killed.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been quick to give assurances that CIA personnel monitoring the arrests of suspected terrorists will "not be personally involved."

In this era of rampant terrorism, the fear of violence against peacemakers haunts the search for peace.

Its roadmarks are the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in both cases by coreligionists. The fear is ever-present, seldom openly discussed. What is unusual now is the way the fear has surfaced in the wake of the Wye River agreement.

That there will be some violence is taken almost for granted. The first casualty of Wye River may well have been Wasim Tarifi, 17-year-old son of a prominent family in Ramallah. He was killed on Sunday by Arafat's security agents during a violent demonstration against the seizure of illegal weapons.

The confiscations had started as an earnest of Arafat's intention to enforce his commitments. Israel and the Palestinians have learned the hard way about protecting their leaders. But Arafat and Netanyahu are partners now in a dangerous enterprise of peace where the menace lies less between the contending forces than within their own camps.

The rest of the world holds its breath.

* Daniel Schorr is senior news analyst for National Public Radio.

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