Britain's Mideast Mishap

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Tony Blair will need all of his considerable charm to smooth Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruffled feathers when he visits Israel next month to encourage the Mideast peace process. The Israeli leader yesterday canceled dinner with British foreign secretary Robin Cook -- refusing even a public handshake -- after Mr. Cook met with a Palestinian leader near a disputed Israeli settlement in Arab East Jerusalem.

“Cook was trying to relay the European Union’s belief that such Israeli settlements imperil the peace process,” says TIME London correspondent Helen Gibson. “But he appears to have handled it really badly, and to have created major problems ahead of Blair’s visit next month.” Then again, with Netanyahu insisting that such settlement activity is non-negotiable, there may have been no diplomatic way for Cook to make his point.