Will Too-High Hopes Trip Ehud Barak?

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The easy part was getting elected. Now Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Barak, has to overcome inflated expectations of his peacemaking abilities. Barak, who was sworn in Tuesday, got off to a fast start, issuing a rousing call for a "peace of the brave" with his Palestinian and other Arab neighbors. And in the clearest signal yet that he plans a substantial land-for-peace trade with Syria, Barak offered a peace agreement based on United Nations resolutions recognizing Syrian sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights. He also repeated his campaign pledge to get Israeli forces out of Lebanon within a year. And Barak vowed to implement the Wye River agreement signed — and then suspended ó by his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. But in a sign of possible tensions looming down the road, he also affirmed Israelís demand for undivided sovereignty over Jerusalem, and there was no mention of ending Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

"Thereís a real danger of new tensions arising because of the unrealistic expectation that Barakís election can break all the deadlocks in the peace process," says TIME West Bank correspondent Jamil Hamad. "The disputes between Israel and the Palestinians over issues ranging from the status of Jerusalem and the future of Israeli settlements in the West Bank to the question of refugees are exceedingly complicated, and there are no quick solutions." Barak plans to meet with President Clinton and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat shortly to jump-start the peace process. And while the atmospherics of those meetings will seem light-years away from the sullen exchanges with Netanyahu, donít expect the deep substantive differences to melt like the morning mist.