The Work Of Assassins

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None of this makes it any easier for President Bill Clinton in his desperate quest to pull the two sides together. Two weeks ago, Clinton laid out for the Israelis and Palestinians a set of parameters for restarting talks. Israel gave a guarded "yes, but." Diplomatic sources say that last weekend the U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem, Ron Schlicher, called Arafat aide Nabil Abu Rdeineh to say the White House didn't require a definitive answer on tricky questions like the right of return for refugees or the status of Jerusalem, only another "yes, but." After Arafat's three hours of talks with Clinton Wednesday, Palestinian officials say his answer is "la'am"--a conjoining of the Arabic words na'am, yes, and la, no. Israeli diplomats tell TIME it won't be possible to put together a true peace deal by the end of Clinton's term on Jan. 20. However, they reckon there's a fifty-fifty chance that negotiators could agree to a symbolic statement that would let Clinton bow out gracefully and set a more hopeful tone for the new Administration. Without that, there's sure to be more work for the hit squads.
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