Middle East Straight Talk from the U.S.

Baker unveils a plan for peace and gets heat for evenhandedness

In the semantics of Arab-Israeli diplomacy, where "evenhanded" and "honest broker" have often meant quite the opposite, last week's curtain- raising U.S. initiative promised an overdue turn to reality. Secretary of State James Baker, in presenting the Bush Administration's first blueprint for the peace process, did not announce a shift in American policy. But he did offer no-frills clarity and a finely balanced call for concessions from both sides. In a sharp and wise departure from Reagan-era practice, his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the most influential pro-Israel lobby, eliminated the sugarcoated reassurances that traditionally soften...

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