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A Memorable Anniversary

By Michael Freund
5/5/2006, 12:00 AM

Talk about an inauspicious start.

Ehud Olmert’s new government was sworn into office on Thursday, pledging to divide the Land of Israel and turn over still more territory to the Palestinians.

Yet hardly anyone appears to have noticed that Thursday also marked precisely 12 years since the infamous signing of the May 4, 1994 Gaza-Jericho Accords, when Israel agreed to pull out of those areas and transfer their control to Yasser Arafat.

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That ceremony, you might remember, rapidly dissolved into an embarrassing comedy of errors when Arafat refused to sign one of the maps, prompting a great deal of diplomatic discomfiture that was broadcast live around the world. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was host of the Cairo-based event, turned to Arafat and exploded in anger, shouting at him "Ya kalb!" ("You dog!"). Eventually, Arafat relented and signed the deal, paving the way for years of intensified Palestinian terror and additional Israeli withdrawals.

Now, here we are, a dozen years later, and has any of this really changed? The Palestinians still don’t want peace with Israel, even as the Government in Jerusalem pushes forward with plans for still more concessions.

I’d like to think that the timing is merely a coincidence, that it isn’t a sign of some sort or an ominous omen that portends further retreats for our beleaguered country.

But deep down, I fear, that is where things may be headed, because despite all that has happened here over the past decade, our political leaders refuse to learn from their mistakes.

Hopefully, Mr. Olmert will take a moment or two to consider the past - and maybe, just maybe, the anniversary of Israel's previous error in Cairo will somehow illuminate his path.