September 28, 1995
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EDT (1930 GMT)
WASHINGTON and JERUSALEM (CNN) -- PLO and Israeli leaders came together Thursday to sign a long-awaited Mideast agreement, one that ultimately will move them apart.
More than a hundred people crowded into the White House East Room to witness the historic event, which marks the expansion of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and fulfills the promise initiated two years ago with the "Declaration of Principles."
"You are showing that it is not by weapons, but by will and by words that peace becomes a reality," said President Clinton, opening a ceremony that would reverberate with words of peace and visions of a brighter future for young Israelis and Palestinians (272K AIFF sound or 272K WAV sound).
A great amount of determination and endless streams of words brought about the meticulous 400-page accord. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres referred to the difficult negotiations as a "tightrope," acknowledging that he and other principals had to overcome "mountains of hatred, chasms of fear" to travel the uncharted road.
Peres alluded to the final frustrating hours of talks in Taba, Egypt, when it looked as if agreement were a lifetime away. By the Jewish new year Rosh Hashanah a few days ago, however, he said, "a dream became a contract, an impasse an opportunity."
The culmination of the negotiation efforts, said Peres, represented a promise to the younger generation of Palestinians and Jews to be free from "clouds of war."
Peres expressed hope that with the agreement there would be a new cultural pluralism and economic growth throughout the Middle East, a desire echoed by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and many other speakers.
Christopher promised political and economic support in implementing the agreement. He also called for a widening "circle of peace throughout the Middle East." Many of the leaders included Syria and Lebanon as part of the wish for peaceful co-existence, with the strongest call coming from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
"Peace has no borders," Rabin said in deep, mellifluous tones (247K AIFF sound or 247K WAV sound).
Arafat, who spent days ironing out the agreement's details with Peres in Taba, hailed the impending arrival of Palestinian statehood, but acknowledged a long road lies ahead, filled with troubling issues such as the rights of Palestinians and the status of Jerusalem.
"We are betting everything on the future," said the fiery PLO leader (255K AIFF sound or 255K WAV sound).
Joining the litany of condemnations against terrorist activity, Arafat said, "We do not want to see a waste or a threat to any Israeli people or any Palestinian people -- enough killing of the innocent."
Success has many fathers, and they were in abundance at Thursday's ceremony. Dignitaries included top leaders from Jordan, Russia, Egypt and Japan.
Clinton beamed as PLO and Israeli representatives inked the agreement, and Rabin and Arafat shared a hearty handshake. Tipper Gore, wife of the U.S. vice president, even pulled out her camera to snap the historic proceedings.
The Mideast agreement will pull Israeli troops from the six largest cities on the West Bank. Final details of the pullback remain to be worked out. Among other issues to be settled is the release date for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
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