- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2000


It's been 27 years since Ehud Barak donned a brunette wig and smeared on blue eye liner as a guise in a commando raid on PLO leaders in Beirut. He may need just as much creativity this week to navigate his way through the obstacle course that awaits him upon his return to Israel. Tension there has been high following reports that the Israeli prime minister was willing to accept a U.S. proposal in which Israel would share sovereignty over East Jerusalem with the Palestinians. But when it came down to putting that concession into writing during negotiations that lasted into the early morning hours Tuesday, he balked, and rightfully so. It is better that Mr. Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat return home from Camp David without a forced peace deal than to sign one they would live to regret.
Before the summit even unraveled, Israel's opposition leader Ariel Sharon was calling for early elections and accusing Mr. Barak of giving away too much to the Palestinians during the summit. He announced Monday that a pact to form a new national government to replace the current government had been concluded. A vote on early elections and whether to disband the parliament is scheduled for Aug. 2. The call came in response to reports of concessions Mr. Barak was making, including giving over strategic parts of the Jordan Valley, allowing Palestinian refugees to return and giving the Palestinian Authority sovereignty over Muslim neighborhoods and Christian and Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem.
With the resistance Mr. Barak is facing from the right, it would have been hard for him to get the proposed peace deal approved even if he had signed it this week. A Gallup poll released in Israel Monday also showed that only 42 percent of those questioned there would support a deal that included Mr. Barak's concessions, while 50 percent were opposed to it and the rest were undecided. Now he must face returning to a divided government; his coalition unraveled after three right-wing members quit the day before the summit started.
Mr. Barak will need all the strength he can muster to deal with the Palestinians as well. Before he left to return home, hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza City took to the streets with calls to solve the dispute with a new Intifada, an armed uprising against Israel. This echoes a speech given by their leader shortly before his departure to the summit, in which he said he was willing to once more stage an Intifada. And the Palestinian Authority wonders why Israel balked at handing the Palestinian Authority sovereignty? Mr. Arafat need look no further than his own violence-inciting propaganda to find out where his visions of peace went wrong.
As for Mr. Barak, at least he can go to sleep knowing that at the end of the summit he stayed true to the pledge he made to his people to protect and rule one Israel, with Jerusalem undivided.

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