Wed, 23 Aug 2000

Another Middle East summit?

After the bluster, realism is now re-entering the Middle East diplomacy. Less than one month ago the Israeli-Palestinian talks had allegedly "collapsed" at Camp David and, it was widely perceived, the prospects for any sort of peace settlement had died with this enterprise. But President Clinton is once again itching for an international triumph to call his own and would host another "last" summit if it were available.

The main obstacle to further progress is Yasser Arafat's formal insistence that he will establish a Palestinian state in four weeks time. If he does, Israel will be impelled to annex the remainder of the West Bank to defend its won security and to abandon the current set of deliberations. This train of events would be a serious setback for the average Israeli and an economic catastrophe for the typical Palestinian.

There is one final but realistic chance of a pact before President Clinton is obliged to depart the presidency. It would require all parties to return to the United States for much, if not all, of September. The sole roadblock to a summit is Mr. Arafat's threat of unilateral action. He should remove that impediment now and seize the chance of a fresh initiative.

-- The Times, London