Israel: A Fair Settlement?

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JERUSALEM: The Israeli government's decision to press ahead with Jewish settlement construction despite Yasser Arafat's making good on his half of the deal by cracking down on Islamic militants has some observers wondering if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being at all evenhanded with the Palestinian president.

TIME Middle East correspondent Lisa Beyer points out that while Netanyahu's decision to build 300 homes in the West Bank settlement of Efrat breaches international law and violates the spirit of the peace accords, being fair with Arafat is not one of his main priorities. "Is Netanyahu playing fair by building these settlements? Absolutely not," says Beyer. "Netanyahu is basically in this process not to be fair and not to resolve issues, but to get as much for his nationalistic agenda as possible."

Will Arafat feel betrayed, and consequently take the heat of the militants? Beyer thinks not: "This announcement of new housing units is not going to be definitive enough for him to end the crackdown." Then again, the Palestinian leader's trademarked unpredictability makes this a tough call.