This is what those dreaming of a new Middle East may have envisioned - Arabs and Jews with a shared purpose.

It's a reality inside the elegant portals of the new Oasis Casino, where everyone is trying to beat the odds at blackjack, hit the jackpot at the slots and have a good time.The $50 million glass-and-glitz gaming emporium in this Palestinian-run town offers a luxurious, albeit brief, respite from the resentments and suspicion that usually gets between Israelis and Palestinians.

"We are all together. It's very nice," said Menachem Dante, the longtime driver for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as he sipped whisky and placed poker bets with a Palestinian dealer during Tuesday night's invitation-only gala opening.

The opening resembled an elegant cocktail party, with many women in evening gowns and men in natty suits chatting against a backdrop of softly jingling slot machines.

Still, the tense reality of the conflict could not be shut out entirely.

The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, railed Tuesday against the casino, calling it a den of iniquity.

The casino lies just inside Palestinian territory and is just a half hour drive from Jerusalem on a road controlled by Israel. The nearest Israeli military outpost is just a few hundred yards away.

The Austrian operators said they were aware that unrest could spoil their business, but that they would not be discouraged by temporary setbacks.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's government, strapped for cash and still largely dependent on foreign aid, stands to earn millions of dollars in gaming taxes.

Oasis is the start of what will become the largest tourism resort in the Middle East, with three luxury hotels, golf courses and convention facilities - along with 5,000 jobs for Palestinians.

"This is not what we have waited for," Nael Suweiti, a resident of the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp across the street.

Suweiti won't be able to see for himself what is going on inside. Palestinians are barred at the request of the Palestinian Authority, which apparently wanted to appease Islamic opponents.