U.S. Getting Fed Up With Playing to the Gallery

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Did Israeli diplomats leak a working draft of an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty last week? The U.S. believes so and is furious. The secret document, prepared by U.S. mediators during the last round of talks, maps out points of agreement and disagreement between the two sides on a proposed land-for-peace deal.

White House officials suspect that aides to Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak leaked the draft to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz to show skeptical Israelis that Barak is bargaining tough and winning concessions. "That does make our work harder," says State Department spokesman James Rubin. Barak and Syrian foreign minister Farouk Shara were to return to Shepherdstown this week. Clinton aides hope the two will finally start bargaining seriously behind closed doors and stop posturing. "It doesn't instill confidence in your negotiating partners when everything is out in public," says a U.S. diplomat.