Arafat's Tough Hand

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JERUSALEM: "Violence, sadly, is the only card the Palestinians have," notes TIME's Johanna McGeary. Despite two days of shuttle diplomacy by Dennis Ross, the Palestinians continue to play it on Friday. For the ninth straight day, Palestinians and Israeli police traded rocks and fire-bombs for tear gas and rubber bullets in Hebron. Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that Yasser Arafat unleashes militants at will, using violence as a bargaining chip. He and insisted Friday on a decisive crackdown. That seems unlikely. "Arafat has to weigh whether a crackdown is worth the political price he will pay with the right," notes McGeary. "He needs to receive something in return. And at the moment, he's not getting anything." Arafat wants Ross to convince Netanyahu to stop the controversial Har Homa housing project in Jerusalem. Netanyahu, though, must weigh that calculation against the pressures on him from the right wing of his supporters to maintain a hard line toward Palestinians. For his part, Arafat gave Ross assurances he would do his best to quell further violence, postponing a joint rally for Palestinian unity of his Fatah movement and Islamic militants. "If Arafat can get the settlements stopped, he may crack down on Hamas, but it will be largely a political show for the Israelis and the U.S.," notes McGeary. "If the Palestinian people begin to see real concessions from Israel, they may very well calm down by themselves."