Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mideast Talks Hinge on Clinton Analysts Worry That President-Elect's Economic Focus Won't Allow Him to Nurture Negotiations

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mideast Talks Hinge on Clinton Analysts Worry That President-Elect's Economic Focus Won't Allow Him to Nurture Negotiations

Article excerpt

WHATEVER else may be said of President-elect Clinton's electoral sweep, it has come at a potentially inopportune moment for negotiators now gathered in Washington to hammer out a Middle East peace settlement.

Now poised at a critical juncture, the year-old peace process could still be brought to fruition by a Clinton administration as determined and as personally engaged as President Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker III have been.

But any tilt in United States policy or any diminution of US interest in the process could lead to a breakdown, even as the peace talks show their first significant signs of progress.

"The way this peace process has been structured, it's very vulnerable and highly personalized," says Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the National Association of Arab Americans. "Any change in the terms of reference or any drastic change in personnel managing the peace process could cause the process to implode."

One concern voiced by Arabs and Israelis alike is that if Mr. Clinton devotes his full energies to rebuilding the economy at home, as he has promised to do in countless campaign speeches, his administration will be unable to provide the kind of daily nurturing needed to keep the peace process on track. They worry that any slowdown could lead to a breakdown.

"How do you use the State Department to make the economy grow and still take advantage of opportunities {for peace} in the Middle East?" asks Martin Indyk of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In addition to a possible hiatus in the peace process, Arab leaders are wary of Clinton's nearly unqualified support for Israel, a position buttressed by policy advisers known to have strong ties to the Jewish state.

In weighing Arab political and territorial rights equally in the balance with the security needs of Israel, the US's closest ally in the region, Mr. Bush and Mr. Baker have won the confidence that has drawn the Arab parties into the peace process. But what Arabs see as evenhandedness on the part of the Bush administration, some Clinton advisers have criticized as undue pressure on Israel to make one-sided concessions.

Arabs are particularly worried by Clinton's positions on the status of Jerusalem and the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Clinton disputes Bush's contention that settlement-building, which has been substantially curtailed by the Labor government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, poses one of the biggest obstacles to Middle East peacemaking.

Like the last several American presidents, Bush has refused to recognize the incorporation of predominantly Arab East Jerusalem into Israel, insisting that its status must be determined through negotiation. Clinton says that an "undivided" Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and favors the de facto recognition that would result from relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv as soon as possible, "without interfering with the peace process. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.