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Five years after the start of the Madrid peace process in October 1991, the Arab-Israeli conflict is at a turning point.

Despite its notable accomplishments, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords of September 1993 and the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of October 1994, a series of bloody suicide bombings carried out in February­March 1996 by Palestinian Islamic extremists in Israel has put the process on hold.

Moreover, military and security cooperation--which predated the peace treaty--has moved forward without fanfare.

The warmth of Israeli-Jordanian relations, however, will be tied to the quality of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

This could become another source of friction with Israel.

By contrast, Israel and Jordan have succeeded in creating a relatively warm peace between governments, based on the close personal ties between the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein and a shared interest in containing Palestinian nationalism.

Egypt has also tentatively raised the possibility of terminating the mission of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai--mainly for financial reasons.

Numerous factors make for a volatile situation that could lead to an explosion if both sides do not demonstrate flexibility in accommodating the concerns of the other: In 1996, the suspension of negotiations, Syria's continued support for the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist groups opposed to the Arab-Israeli peace process, and the election of a Likud government committed to fight terror as its first priority all increase the likelihood of a major Israeli military operation in Lebanon in the late 1990s along the lines of the Litani Operation (1978), Operation Peace for Galilee (1982), Operation Accountability (1993), or Operation Grapes of Wrath (1996).

Sinai The 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty divides the Sinai into three zones: in Zone A, Egypt is permitted one mechanized infantry division; in Zone B, four lightly armed border battalions; and in Zone C, only civilian police to supplement the three battalions of the U. Before the treaty came into full effect, several buffer zones were set up to separate Egyptian and Israeli forces. Egypt--seeing Israel as a potential rival for influence in the region, conscious of the growing weight of domestic opinion critical of its peace treaty with Israel, and fearing the loss of its pivotal role in the Arab world--has further slowed the pace of normalization with Israel and tried to reestablish itself as a key player on the inter-Arab stage.

Also, the figure for warships excludes patrol boats and similar small ships.

The Oslo I (September 1993), Gaza-Jericho (May 1994), and Oslo II accords (September 1995) established a roadmap for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

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