Not Now, Bibi

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JERUSALEM: Benjamin Netanyahu is trying Washington's patience. The State Department Thursday firmly rejected Israel's latest suspension of the Wye Accord, saying it was inappropriate for Netanyahu to set further conditions before Israel carries out agreed troop withdrawals. The accord "should be implemented as signed," said State Department spokesman James Rubin. Israel Wednesday said it would suspend troop withdrawals until Yasser Arafat renounces plans to declare a Palestinian state and stops demanding that Israel release Palestinian political prisoners. Netanyahu's decision followed a stone-throwing attack on two Israelis in the West Bank.

Rubin's statement suggests Washington expects Bibi to back down before President Clinton's scheduled arrival in the region late next week -- and chances are the Israeli leader will play ball. "Netanyahu has shown recently that he's quite capable of laying down conditions that he later retracts," says TIME Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer. "There's a lot at stake in Clinton's visit, and Netanyahu won't easily sabotage that." But with violence and polarization increasing among both Israelis and Palestinians, Clinton may be in for the most interesting trip of his presidency.