Magazine article Newsweek International

A Prod for Peace Talks

Magazine article Newsweek International

A Prod for Peace Talks

Article excerpt

When it comes to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, time-tables and deadlines have never meant much. Far more have been missed than met since the two sides signed their first accord in 1993. Barring something extraordinary, the same will happen to Sept. 13, the date set a year ago for completion of a final peace treaty.

No matter. Israeli leader Ehud Barak has already marked a new date on his calendar: Oct. 30. That's the day Israeli lawmakers return from their summer recess for a fresh round of voting on a bill to bring down Barak's government. If no peace agreement is reached by then, Barak, to ensure his political survival, will have to buttress his coalition with opponents of his peace offer to the Palestinians, including the ultra- Orthodox Shas party and possibly the main opposition, Likud. If Shas or Likud is in, conventional wisdom has it, peace is out.

With that in mind, American Middle East troubleshooter Dennis Ross returned to the region last week to pick up the pieces of last month's failed Camp David summit and gauge readiness for a new one. Having let the two sides stew for a month, Washington is hoping for a renewed willingness to be flexible. At best, assembling a second summit won't be easy. Before Israel will agree to another peace conference, officials say, Palestinians must soften their position on Jerusalem, the main stumbling block at Camp David. For their part, Palestinians want Israel to agree in advance to cede sovereignty over nearly all of East Jerusalem. …

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