The palpable distrust between Israeli and Palestinian leaders despite six days of intense talks in a Maryland compound bodes ill for real progress, whatever the spin on the outcome of the talks. Israel wants Arafat to clamp down hard on his Hamas opponents; Arafat is reluctant to take unpopular steps on behalf of an Israeli government he doesn't trust. "Arafat has lost hope that he can make significant progress with Netanyahu," says TIME Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer. "He's unlikely to make unpopular decisions for a deal he doesn't believe Netanyahu will keep anyway." Arafat's reported illness and the expiry of Clinton and Netanyahu's terms in 2000, says Beyer, mean that "final-status peace arrangements will, by definition, be left to a new cast of characters."
Bill Clinton's portfolio is looking a little heavily exposed in the Mideast, but the President Tuesday kept on investing political capital in pursuit of a prestige-enhancing peace pact. But even if Clinton and Jordan's ailing King Hussein -- expected to arrive on Tuesday -- manage to coax the unenthusiastic partners to cut a deal, it's unlikely to provide a solution to the troubled region's conflict.