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An End-Game in Israel

May 17, 2000



In case this week's violence on the West Bank renewed anyone's interest in Mideast peace, there is some good news to report:

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The first real ingredients for a final deal between Palestinians and Israelis have been put into the mix. Never- mind the fact that the two sides' forces shot at each other during protests. That just confirms the frustration over slow progress since the 1993 Oslo accords. (See story on page 1.)

Last month, Israel declared that peace means the creation of a Palestinian state. Then on May 9, its parliament agreed to turn over a West Bank village, Abu Dis, that might serve as a Palestinian capital in an enlarged Jerusalem.

And secret talks are under way that could solve two other sticking points: a symbolic return of Palestinian refugees and granting the Palestinians control of 80 to 90 percent of the West Bank and Gaza (up from the present 40 percent).

Both Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, however, face tough domestic opposition to making necessary compromises. And on another peace track, Mr. Barak faces a difficult task in pulling troops out of Lebanon.

Much can be done to grease the path to peace. Mr. Arafat can punish his policemen who shot at Israelis. Barak can release more Palestinian prisoners, halt expansion of Israeli settlements, and not link land transfers to "final status" talks.

But most of all, now is the time that American influence and money can make a difference in helping each side live with needed compromises. With more diplomatic firepower, the US can end the gunfire on the West Bank.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society