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Palestinian Deal a Very Vague Hint of Progress

Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006

JERUSALEM -- Pedestrians jam this city's lively Ben Yehuda Street during the blindingly bright daylight hours and late into the Middle Eastern night. From the local newsstands, the papers announce an agreement between the Palestinian sides, Hamas and Fatah, to form a unity government, holding out the tantalizing prospect of progress in the quest for peace. The news sifts into conversations along this white stone road, where shops and restaurants buzz with activity and street musicians entertain the crowds even as armed guards posted at every door check restaurant and cafe patrons to keep suicide bombers from striking this, one of their favorite Jerusalem targets. This is what passes for normal in Israel: a full, complicated life, with the constantly looming threat of tragedy, and a perennial hope for peace.

The question this day is whether the just-announced agreement between Hamas, the radical Islamic party that controls the Palestinian government, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah party, will bring this land any closer to peace. ...

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