Trying Another Country

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WASHINGTON, D.C. With little progress made towards resolving the status of Palestinians in Israel since Benjamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister, Yasser Arafat has decided to try a different tack. In a letter to the President Clinton released today, Arafat asked for the U.S. President's help in persuading Netanyahu to block further Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli plans to build more homes and settle more citizens in the West Bank and Gaza have created "an atmosphere of distrust and lack of confidence in the peace process, " wrote Arafat. Arafat also asked Clinton for his help in keeping Israel to the letter and spirit of the Palestinian autonomy accords which delay decisions on the ultimate status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip until Israeli and Palestinian negotiators reach a final agreement. Talks resumed today after being delayed since February 14th, when a string of Hamas suicide bombings delayed meetings until after the election which brought Netanyahu to power. "The timing of this request is very bad," says TIME's Johanna McGeary. "Why would the U.S jump into the Middle East before the November elections? It is foolhardy for Arafat to think that Bill Clinton will or can tell Netanyahu what to do. Especially during an election, Clinton is not about to get into a pissing match with Netanyahu. Furthermore, the Arabs have always had the mistaken notion that the United States has great control over Israel, that the Israelis would roll over if we only told them to. If it came to choosing between taking U.S money and pursuing their own policies, the Israelis would choose policy." Unfortunately for Arafat, the best hopes may still reside in working with the Netanyahu government. Scot Woods