We welcome even baby steps

No one needs to be told how important it is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved. And with the summit in Aqaba concluded, we can't help but express the tiniest bit of optimism.

We were heartened not only to hear Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon say the Palestinians deserve a state of their own but that such a state must consist of contiguous territory — words that have eluded him until now.

We were doubly pleased to hear that Sharon pledged the immediate removal of the outposts in the West Bank, since they are not only illegal by international law but are illegal by Israeli law.

We were also glad to hear Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas pledge an end to terrorist attacks.

While all those words fan hope that, finally, the senseless deaths on both sides will come to an end, reality has a way of taking over.

No sooner had the summit ended than Hamas pledged to continue terrorist attacks. Islamic Jihad followed suit soon after. Not to mention that no matter what Abbas says or does, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat continues to exert his control from behind the scenes.

And on the Israeli side, some settlers vowed they would never leave the outposts. The Yesha settlers council went as far as to call the Aqaba summit a "humiliating ceremony" in which the Israeli government celebrated its capitulation to terror.

Long-time observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are well aware that what the leaders say and what their more extremist constituents do are more often than not, not in sync. Therefore, it remains difficult to express too much optimism about the summit.

We can only hope that both leaders are able to keep their words, and then some.

Critics on both sides are likely to say that what was pledged at the summit are merely baby steps. That may be the case. But at this stage, we'll take it.