The fifth anniversary of the signing of the landmark Oslo peace accords, meant to usher in a new era in the Middle East, found Israelis and Palestinians united in only one respect Sunday: an outpouring of sadness and anger.
The West Bank and Gaza were sealed off, locking tens of thousands of restive Palestinian workers out of Israel. Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at stone-throwing youngsters in the West Bank for a third straight day. Islamic militants have made ominous threats of revenge attacks.And an American mediator labored at what many have come to see as a Sisyphean task - trying to break the 18-month Israel-Palestinian deadlock.
The Oslo accords, sealed on Sept. 13, 1993, with a handshake by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn, were aimed at setting Palestinians on the road to eventual autonomy and helping Israel extricate itself from an endless cycle of hatred and violence in the Palestinian territories it ruled.
Since that step toward peace, however incomplete and tentative, more Israelis have been killed by Palestinian militants than in the 15 years before the Oslo accords, according to figures released by the Government Press Office.
Between 1993 and 1998, 279 Israelis were killed, compared to 254 between 1978 and 1993, the Government Press Office has said.
According to the Israeli human rights group Betselem, 315 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or civilians since the signing.
The peace process, commentator Zvi Bar-El wrote in Sunday's editions of the Haaretz newspaper, "looks more and more like a cease-fire between wars."
On the anniversary day, both Israel and the Palestinian governments laid blame for the seemingly intractable impasse with the other side. For people on the street, though, the tone was simply one of human sorrow.
"I'm so disappointed, so disturbed by the Oslo agreements . . . We were expecting a lot out of them," said Ahmad Jabel, 42, owner of a small clothing store in the divided West Bank town of Hebron.
"They promised us that we'd have an economy like Hong Kong or Singapore. But in my shop, you don't see anyone buying clothes. Some days, we open and close without selling anything."
Oslo has wrought changes. The Gaza Strip is self-ruled, and Arafat's Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank's major population centers. The Palestinians have many of statehood's trappings - a parliament, armed forces - and are slowly building other institutions of a nascent nation.
But despite all that, Palestinians from all walks of life say they often feel themselves a subject people. Jewish settlements that dot the West Bank grow daily, Israeli soldiers patrol roads and staff checkpoints, and Israel at any time can clamp shut its borders to thousands of Palestinian workers, as it has for the past three days.
On the Israeli side, ordinary citizens from both the right and left agree that the quarrel with the Palestinians has reached a fever pitch. What they cannot agree on is how to prevent it from spiking even higher.
For the right, spearheaded by the Jewish settler movement, the solution is obvious: keep what they consider Israel's biblical birthright, the West Bank, and abandon the peace accords.
"Bury Oslo, not our dear ones!" about 40 demonstrators shouted Sunday at a protest outside the prime minister's residence. They read lists of names of Israelis killed since the signing of the accords, chanting after each: "God will avenge this blood!"
The Israelis who turned out in the tens of thousands for a peace demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, though, said it was the delay in carrying out Oslo provisions that was costing lives.
"If what Israel wants is real security, then deepening the hatred for your enemies is counterproductive," said demonstrator Ilan Vitemberg.
"Everyone needs a safe place, but not at the expense of others," echoed his friend, marcher Peter Olsen.
Palestinian impatience is growing, as was demonstrated Sunday when marchers in a squalid Bethlehem refugee camp burned a black coffin labeled "Oslo."
"The olive branch has fallen! Long live the armed struggle!" they shouted.
The governments of Arafat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu each say they'll continue the peace process, but those pledges are highly qualified ones.
"We are committed to the agreement, as faulty as it is, on the condition that it will be implemented by the other side, namely in the area of the war on terror," Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday.
Palestinians have an additional motive for keeping Oslo alive. The accords' framework could play a key part in their eventual declaration of statehood.
Arafat has said that declaration will come with or without Israel's agreement on May 4, 1999, the date, according to the Palestinian interpretation, when the Oslo accords expire.
"For now, there is nothing we can do but shelter the flame of peace we signed five years ago," Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qureia wrote in Sunday's al-Ayyam newspaper. "That is bringing us to the moment of the birth of our Palestinian state."