Clinton dearly wants to achieve a lasting settlement in the region before he leaves office, and in Barak the U.S. has an ambassador to Arafat who is truly interested in peace. But the Israeli and the Palestinian have a bit of a love triangle to work through with Clinton ó Barak would prefer that Washington hang back a little and preserve Israelís natural negotiating advantage, while Arafat finds himself fighting for U.S. attention now that Barak and Clinton have hit it off so well. If anyone can walk that line in the middle of a funeral, of course, itís the smooth-talking Clinton, and the substance of those five minutes in Morocco was doubtless more than "keep in touch." Every little bit helps.
In the fractious, riven Mideast, a funeral is as good a time as any to talk a little peace. So, as nearly 2 million Moroccans thronged in their capital of Rabat to bid farewell to King Hassan II, who died of a heart attack Friday, President Clinton was careful to pay respects not only to the fallen king but to the cause of which Hassan had been a solid ally: Mideast peace. Clinton, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and PLO leader Yasser Arafat met for about five minutes on Sunday for an insta-summit (the first meeting for the trio) that a White House aide would describe only as "animated." The issues are well known. But the low profile from Washington is understandable.