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Bush maintains he has not abandoned the peace process. He is considering whether to call for an international peace conference aimed at establishing the terms of a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. White House sources say Bush will probably discuss the idea with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who will visit Crawford, Texas, this week. But Bush's perceived approval of the Israeli military offensive has infuriated Arab leaders. The Saudis say that before agreeing to participate in peace talks, Abdullah will insist that Sharon lift the siege on Arafat, withdraw fully from the newly occupied territories and settle territorial disputes with Syria and Lebanon.
Don't expect a breakthrough. Israeli officials say they plan to hold their positions in Ramallah and Bethlehem until the surrender of Palestinian militants believed to be holed up there. And even after Israeli troops leave, they may go back into West Bank towns to stage "pinpoint operations" against terrorists trying to regroup. But the Israeli offensive may only invite a more savage Palestinian response. Militants belonging to al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades told TIME they are preparing to avenge last week's arrest of top Arafat deputy Marwan Barghouti. And they believe the U.S. should share the pain. "Now," says a senior Brigades leader in the West Bank, "American targets are the same as Israeli targets."