Mideast Negotiations Back in Breakdown Lane

Back to work, Sisyphus! Israeli-Palestinian talks aimed at reviving the moribund peace process collapsed Wednesday, and both sides immediately called for Washington to intercede. "Netanyahu wants to slowly kill the Oslo Accords even while proclaiming his commitment to them," says TIME Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer. "He wants to keep the process going without ever achieving an end result. The Palestinians have no leverage, and Israel isn't going to be moved without pressure from Washington, which is unlikely to happen. So right now the peace process is a dead horse."

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Back to work, Sisyphus! Israeli-Palestinian talks aimed at reviving the moribund peace process collapsed Wednesday, and both sides immediately called for Washington to intercede. "Netanyahu wants to slowly kill the Oslo Accords even while proclaiming his commitment to them," says TIME Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer. "He wants to keep the process going without ever achieving an end result. The Palestinians have no leverage, and Israel isn't going to be moved without pressure from Washington, which is unlikely to happen. So right now the peace process is a dead horse."

Arafat's likely response will be to declare a Palestinian state in May 1999. That option may be a trap: "If they do it next May, they're not going to control enough territory to create a meaningful state," says Beyer. "But there's a danger that declaring a state allows the international community to close the file on the Palestinian issue." In the short term, however, look for Washington to send out Dennis Ross to start rolling his boulder up the hill again.