In light of the failure by Mr Sharon and Yasser Arafat to offer a way out of the violence that has left more than 3,000 people dead after three years, the accord offers a concrete alternative. It has also shown up the limitations of the US-backed 'road-map' peace plan. The 'road-map' calls for a Palestinian state, but leaves the question of its borders to be settled at a later date. The Geneva Accord maps out definitive borders, down to the empty desert land in Israel the Palestinians agreed to accept in exchange for some Jewish settlements in the West Bank being annexed to Israel.
While Mr Sharon has failed to live up to his promise to dismantle a few illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, the Geneva Accord calls for the evacuation of all settlements except those close to the internationally recognised Green Line border - which has enraged the Israeli right.
'There remains one basic choice for the Israelis,' Mr Carter said in a speech at the Geneva ceremony yesterday. 'Do we want permanent peace with all our neighbours, or do we want to retain our settlements throughout the occupied territories? And it is of equal importance that the Palestinians renounce violence against Israeli citizens in exchange for the commitments of this Geneva initiative. It is unlikely that we shall ever see a better foundation for peace. The people support it.' With a subtle swipe at Mr Sharon, he added: 'Political leaders are the obstacle to peace.'
Fifty-eight former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other leaders, including former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, South Africa's FW de Klerk, and Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo, released a statement yesterday expressing their 'strong support' for the accord.
'The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken far too great a toll already,' said the statement. The ceremony was lent a veneer of Hollywood glamour by actor Richard Dreyfuss, who acted as master of ceremonies. 'Peace is far too serious to be left exclusively to governments,' said Mr Dreyfuss. 'People are terrified of the world they seem to be leaving to their children.' He said the accord was 'the people's claim to their place at the table'.
That claim has not been borne out in Israel, where a poll by Ha'aretz found that 38 per cent of Israelis are against the accord, and only 31 per cent support it. However, those figures represent a major swing towards the peace plan since it was unveiled in October, when 54 per cent were against and only 25 per cent in favour.
Really, what is the alternative? Israel creates a pseudo-state from the Egyptian border to the Jordan and uses fraudulent measures to deny an Arab majority within those borders the vote?