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Little Mideast Hope On Anniversary

Twenty-five years after the Camp David Accords, Israel's first peace treaty with an Arab nation, the United Nations came close to condemning Israel for its attacks on Palestinians and Israel was backing off building a security fence through the West Bank.

On Sept. 17, 1978, after 12 days of negotiations brokered by then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter at his Camp David retreat, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the blueprint for the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab neighbor after four Mideast wars.

"The actual signing was a very impressive and I would say emotional event," Zalman Shoval, a member of the Israeli delegation then, told CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger. "There was a great amount of feeling and hope that actually we had turned a new page in the Middle East conflict."

There has been no full-scale war between Israel and any of its neighbors since.

"It's a cold peace, but if it is just an end to belligerency — that means no more war — that's good enough," said Shoval.

The "cold peace" includes chilly relations between Israel and the Arab countries: In protest over Israeli military actions against the Palestinians, Egypt has withdrawn its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

On Tuesday, the United States vetoed a U.N. resolution that called on Israel to halt threats to expel Arafat from the West Bank, saying it was "lopsided" and didn't condemn terrorist groups attacking Israel.

"It's a black day for the United Nations," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said by telephone. "I hope that Israel will not interpret the killing of this resolution as a license to kill Arafat."

Syria, the only Arab nation on the Security Council, pressed for the U.N. vote since last week's decision by Israel's security cabinet to "remove" Arafat in a manner and time to be decided.

Senior Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Rdeneh told reporters the veto could jeopardize the U.S-backed "road map" for Mideast peace.

"The American veto is a real encouragement for the Israelis to continue their escalation," he said.

Of the 15 Security Council members, 11 voted Tuesday in favor of the resolution. Britain, Germany and Bulgaria abstained.

Arafat himself dismissed the veto of the U.N. resolution that sought to shield him from possible Israeli action. "No decision here or there will shake us," Arafat told supporters at his West Bank headquarters Wednesday. "We are bigger than all decisions."

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte reiterated that the United States didn't support the elimination or forced exile of Arafat and believes that his diplomatic isolation is the best course.

He said of the resolution, "It was lopsided and ... it didn't take into account the elements we thought it ought to take into account, including a robust criticism of Palestinian terrorism."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, meanwhile, postponed a decision on the path of a security fence through the West Bank, a minister said Wednesday, a day after Washington warned Israel might lose part of $9 billion in loan guarantees over the barrier.

The Israeli security cabinet had been scheduled to decide Wednesday whether the security barrier should include several Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank.

Israeli government officials said John Wolf, a U.S. envoy to the Middle East, raised specific objections to a stretch of the barrier planned to cut into Palestinian territory south of the Jewish settlement of Ariel.

Wolf told Amos Yaron, the director general of the Israeli Defense Ministry, that money spent on construction of that segment would be deducted from the loan guarantees.

Israeli Housing Minister Effie Eitam said the Cabinet meeting was called off because of growing U.S. pressure.

"Those who are postponing and oppose building the fence along the route that the security establishment has recommended are the Americans and they are applying pressure," Eitam told Israel Army Radio.

Paul Patin, spokesman of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, said no decision has been taken yet on whether to apply penalties over the partially built 370-mile barrier of fences, trenches, razor wire and concrete walls. He said Washington is following developments closely.

"Our position on the fence is that the fence itself is not a problem ... but if the fence goes into Palestinian territory ... then it becomes a concern of ours and we are discussing it among ourselves and we are discussing it with the Israelis," Patin said.

The Israeli-Palestinian standoff follows a second Camp David Summit in the summer of 2000 that was not nearly as successful as the first. Then-President Clinton failed to achieve a breakthrough with Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.