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Wye River agreement: Peace seemed within reach between Israel, Palestinians

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On this day 25 years ago, violence between Israelis and Palestinians did not feel inevitable, and peace seemed almost within reach.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Benjamin Netanyahu was Israel's prime minister back in 1998, just as he is again today. Yasser Arafat spoke for Palestinians when Netanyahu and Arafat met in rural Maryland to hammer out a pathway toward peace.

INSKEEP: President Bill Clinton served as their mediator, and the two sides came up with what is called the Wye River Memorandum. Israel agreed to give Palestinians control over additional parts of the West Bank, and in exchange, Palestinians would take specific steps to prevent attacks on Israeli civilians.

MARTÍNEZ: At the signing event, Netanyahu sounded optimistic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Today's a day when Israel and our entire region are more secure. Now, this has required sacrifice from both sides and reaching into what Lincoln called the better nature of mankind.

MARTÍNEZ: Arafat, through an interpreter, affirmed that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YASSER ARAFAT: (Through interpreter) We are fully committed to whatever is required from us in order to achieve real security and constant peace for every Israeli person.

INSKEEP: The Wye River memorandum had widespread support inside and outside Israel, but attacks on Israelis continued, and within months, Netanyahu suspended the agreement as well as the promises made on that day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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