The Bibi and Bill Show Begins

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's first popularly elected prime minister, was en route to Washington Monday for his first meeting with President Clinton since he narrowly won the May 16 election. The conservative Netanyahu's mission: to win over Clinton, who had made clear his preference for former Prime Minister Shimon Peres and the Middle East peace negotiations he had championed. Netanyahu, by contrast, campaigned on promises that could halt the peace talks in their tracks: he vowed not to cede the Golan Heights to Syria, not to stop Jewish settlements in the West Bank and to put off the redeployment of Israeli troops from Hebron. At the same time, the American-educated Israeli fears denting his country's ironclad relationship with the U.S. In that respect, his timing couldn't be better. "There's concern that Clinton is not going to confront Netanyahu with some very hard questions regarding his confrontational policies," reports TIME's Dean Fischer. "These are essential questions for the future of the peace process and Clinton might not ask them in order to avoid a confrontation with Israel before the November elections." Also Monday, in a move that seemed to validate expectations that he would pursue hardline policies, Netanyahu offered former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon the Infrastructure Ministry. "The appointment of Sharon, who led the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, is bad news for the peace negotiations," says Fischer. "He is known for even harsher hardline views." Netanyahu is making the U.S. visit in part to impress members of Congress, the American Jewish community and Wall Street, where he'll lobby for U.S. investments in Israel. -->