More Talks About Talks

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WASHINGTON: After a flurry of high-level talks, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have reached agreement -- to go home and keep talking, and then to return to Washington in October and talk some more. The White House Monday was clearly hoping to revive the moribund peace process and give President Clinton a foreign policy achievement to crow about. But the only concrete step to come out of the initiative was that Madeleine Albright (to her thinly veiled irritation) will fly the Middle East with Dennis Ross on October 6 to nudge talks along before Arafat and Netanyahu return to Washington.

Negotiations have been stalled since the beginning of the year, when Arafat accepted a U.S. compromise proposal over Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank and Netanyahu -- to the U.S.'s dismay -- refused. "The only way you get any movement in this process is by setting deadlines," says TIME correspondent Douglas Waller. "But the last time the U.S. set a deadline for the Israelis, it backfired on Clinton because he wasn't prepared to risk a backlash from pro-Israel interests in the U.S. So the real question remains whether the White House is prepared to force the two sides to make peace."