Bibi's Offer Underwhelms

  • Share
  • Read Later
WASHINGTON: As far as peace in the Mideast is concerned, the ball is very much back in the White House's court following a typical tit-for tat in the region Monday — that is, the Palestinian rejection of an Israeli initiative.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a vague and conditional Israeli withdrawal from an unspecified portion of the West Bank. A spokesman for Yasser Arafat dismissed the proposals as “an attempt to bypass the signed agreements, to change terms of reference of the deals and thus to scrap the peace process,” and appealed to Washington to force Israeli compliance with the Oslo agreements.

Washington, for its part, responded with caution: “It's a step in the right direction, but only a step,” says TIME State Department Correspondent Dean Fischer. “Washington is insisting that Israel comply with the Oslo accords, and they’re not happy with the pace at which it is being implemented.” President Clinton’s reluctance to put pressure on Israel cost him dearly when Arab allies refused to back strong action against Saddam Hussein. “There’s no doubt that Washington will now turn up the pressure on Netanyahu,” Fischer predicts. It remains to be seen, of course, how much Clinton can actually do when Bibi is opposed to the peace deal in principle.