Why Sharon Is Wailing

In recent days, Israel's prime minister has attacked more than militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He's also on a warpath against ideas in a "model" peace plan put together by two former Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

Known as the Geneva Accord for its sponsorship by Switzerland, this private plan has outraged Ariel Sharon precisely because it expertly builds on all the plans since the 1993 Oslo accords that he (and Palestinian suicide bombers) helped scuttle. It actually makes more sense than previous ones, and comes when the faltering US road map for peace has become what Labor Party leader Simon Peres calls a "road accident."

If enough European nations, US Jewish leaders, and perhaps even President Bush endorse the carefully crafted compromises in the Geneva Accord, Mr. Sharon's right-wing coalition government could feel increased political pressure to start making concessions toward the Palestinians before a total cessation of attacks on Israeli civilians.

While the accord is similar to one drafted under President Clinton in 2000 to create a Palestinian state, one crucial difference is that it doesn't mention a right of Palestinian refugees to return to their former lands in Israel. Any claim to such a right has been a nonstarter for Israeli leaders in the past.

The accord was worked out over two years by former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, along with others. They plan to sign it on Nov. 4, the eighth anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The substance and symbolism of this plan should help the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, who want a two-state solution, to sideline hard- liners and remobilize the peace process. Otherwise, Israel will someday be stuck with a majority Palestinian population and won't be a Jewish state.

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