Hair Trigger

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JERUSALEM: There is no faster killer of Middle East peace than a housing settlement. Which is why nearly every major player in the process was furious at Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert's decision to award a building permit for an Arab neighborhood to Miami millionaire Irving Moscowitz without letting any of them in on it. "Those two tried to pull a fast one," says TIME's Lisa Beyer in Jerusalem. "Moscowitz and Olmert are both intent on this for ideological reasons, and they don't feel they need anyone's permission." Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had his share of trouble with the settlement issue, exploded over the ambush and broke off a meeting with striking union leaders to discuss the decision with Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. Israel's chief negotiator quickly telephoned Yasser Arafat to assure him of Netanyahu's opposition to the project. A ruffled Arafat was headed to Cairo to discuss the matter with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Beyer thinks the hullabaloo may have a peaceful ending. "The Palestinians are as offended as they possibly can be. Everyone, even Netanyahu, is extremely upset today. Israelis, in negotiations with the U.S. right now about an overall settlement freeze, are not about to let this happen. Netanyahu has promised to stand in its way. There shouldn't be any major damage done with the Palestinians," she said, "unless they see bulldozers."