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Two-fisted approach in Washington
Clinton boosts Barak, Congress hits Arafat
By SHARON SAMBER
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
August 1, 2000
do you do when your best-laid plans fall apart?
the aftermath of the Camp David peace summit failure, if you
are the U.S. administration, you could put your best foot
forward, emphasize that progress was made and press ahead.
President Clinton went a little further when he praised
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak immediately after the end of
the summit for his “particular courage, vision and an
understanding of the historical importance of this moment.”
contrast, he could only bring himself to say that Palestinian
Authority President Yasser Arafat “made it clear that he too
remains committed to the path of peace.”
a number of fronts, both the administration and Congress have
made strong overtures in the last week that support Barak and
said he supports moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel
Aviv to Jerusalem and some in Congress would block to aid to
the Palestinians should they unilaterally declare statehood.
U.S. has been seen before as favoring the Israeli position in
the peace process, but now the public moves to shore up
support for Barak and put pressure on Arafat demonstrate the
accelerated effort on the administration’s part to salvage
something from the 15-day summit.
important that Clinton made it clear who needs to do the
compromising,” said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.
“Laying the blame was legitimate.”
an exclusive interview with Israel Television on July 28,
Clinton warned the Palestinians against unilaterally declaring
a state, although he did not say whether he would support
cutting off aid to the Palestinians if they carry out their
threat to declare a state on Sept. 13, the deadline for a
entire relationship will be reviewed,” Clinton said. “I
think it would be a big mistake to take a unilateral action
and walk away from the peace process. And if it happens, there
will inevitably be consequences--not just here, but throughout
the world, and things will happen.”
also said he would rethink his position on moving the U.S.
embassy, saying there is a designated site in western
Jerusalem and the move would be the “right thing to do.”
a move would represent a turnabout of Clinton’s
long-standing position that moving the embassy would undermine
the peace process.
comments on the embassy were not entirely U.S.-initiated.
Barak, who has also suggested in the past that moving the
embassy would be premature, had been in contact with the
administration and congressional leaders on the issue.
Israeli Embassy in Washington said it would be “natural,
logical and correct” for the U.S. Embassy to be located in
Jerusalem. As for whether Barak’s position has changed,
spokesman Mark Regev said now is the right time to move
forward on the embassy issue because progress could be made.
a move “is not inconsistent with the type of discussion at
the Camp David summit,” Regev said.
the administration is pursuing Mideast peace through
negotiations and carefully worded statements, the Congress has
been more forceful. Since 1995 the Congress has pushed for the
embassy move and criticized Clinton for his inaction.
Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) called Clinton’s remarks on moving the
U.S. Embassy “a shot across Arafat’s bow” and commended
the president for his negotiating and for actively pursuing
week, congressional lawmakers also introduced legislation that
would block aid to the Palestinians should they follow through
on their oft-repeated threat to unilaterally declare statehood
on Sept. 13.
Specter, a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on
foreign operations, wants the United States to pursue the
conciliatory path first, he said he was willing to consider
blocking aid to the Palestinians.
brass knuckles are ready,” Specter told JTA.
administration’s clear praise of Barak came at a time when
the Israeli leader needed help on the domestic front as he
faced a no-confidence vote that could have dissolved his
short-term effect of bolstering Barak may have worked, as
Barak’s governing coalition escaped intact on Monday, but
the tenor of the U.S. approach and whether it will lead any
longer-term results in the peace process is still uncertain.
analysts say plans such as relocating the embassy are only
symbolic, and the real work has to be done by persuading Arab
leaders in the Middle East to use their leverage with Arafat.
said U.S. diplomacy with Saudi Arabia and Egypt on the highest
level is crucial if the Camp David-level talks are ever to be
short of alienating Arafat, the United States is working
behind the scenes to pressure Arab leaders to convince Arafat
he must compromise in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Walker, assistant U.S. secretary of state for Near Eastern
affairs, is currently visiting 14 Arab countries, including
Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and will likely ask leaders to push
Arafat to be more flexible on eastern Jerusalem, the issue
that proved to be the main obstacle to a deal at CampDavid.
proposal will need the support of Saudi Arabia, and the United
States is realizing that,” said Shibley Telhami, a professor
at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow in foreign
policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“The U.S. thought Arafat could do it on his own.”
met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak immediately
following the collapse of the summit, and Sunday he visited
Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
as part of the American effort, U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright called various Arab leaders last week,
including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syrian Foreign
Minister Farouk al-Sharaa.
traveled to Rome to meet with the foreign minister of the
Vatican this week to discuss the Middle East peace process,
although State Department officials would not say whether the
United States was now considering the internationalization of
Jerusalem, a long-held Vatican position.
U.S. focus on moving things forward has highlighted that the
problems are on Arafat’s side, said Daniel Pipes, director
of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank.
U.S. praise of Israel is temporary and America will soon ask
its ally to make more accommodations, he said.
U.S. will look to Israel to bend, and Israel will be
flexible,” Pipes speculated. “That’s been the pattern
for the past seven years.”
U.S. push forward is “bullheaded,” according to Pipes, and
becoming an end in itself, rather than a means toward pursuing
America’s goal of stability in the region.
senior Israeli and Palestinian negotiators from Camp David met
in Jericho on Sunday to continue negotiations, even if their
meeting was more symbolic than substantive.
if Clinton cannot produce more substantive support for Barak
and compromise from Arafat quickly, his promises may end up
being just symbolic as well.
Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.