Bibi Breaks the Ice

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EREZ CHECKPOINT, Gaza Strip: The Likud opened the path to negotiations with Palestinians Tuesday with the meeting between Foreign Minister David Levy and Yasser Arafat. It is the first time a high-level official from Benjamin Netanyahu's newly-elected government has met with the man long branded a terrorist by the Likud. "The importance of this meeting is that it took place," reports TIME's Eric Silver. "They broke the ice. It was successful in that they both shook hands warmly and seemed to have a good rapport." After Tuesday's meeting, Silver says, the Likud will have no excuses for sending relatively low-level officials for further negotiations with the Palestinians or for not resuming the negotiations even though nothing substantive came out of the meeting. "There was no progress on setting a date for the Israeli redeployment from Hebron or resuming negotiations on the interim or permanent status agreements," says Silver. The Hebron negotiations, reached with Shimon Peres' Labor government, are still a sore point between the Palestinians and Netanyahu's government. Silver reports that Arafat's point of view is that all the security concerns have already been negotiated and accepted by the previous government. Meanwhile, Netanyahu continues to hold a hardline stance, refusing to meet with Arafat unless it becomes vital to Israel's security. -->