- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000

JERUSALEM Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak called for a peace "timeout" and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat told him to accept a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital or he could "go to hell."

The fiercest fighting since the latest round of violence began broke out as the Arab summit concluded in Cairo.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders seemed farther than ever apart from the "peace process," so called by diplomats, that their U.S. and Egyptian sponsors have tried to salvage.

On returning yesterday from the two-day Arab summit in Cairo, Mr. Arafat said the Palestinian state would come into being with or without the peace process, or Barak approval.

His response to the timeout, he said, was that his people were "continuing their road to Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state." Whether Barak accepts that or not, Mr. Arafat said in English: "Let him go to hell."

In the fiercest fighting in the Jerusalem environs since clashes broke out on Sept. 28, Palestinian gunmen in Beit Jalla and in Bethlehem opened fire on residential apartment buildings in Gilo, a suburb of Jerusalem, and Israeli police responded with tank, machine-gun and helicopter rocket fire.

Several Palestinian houses were leveled. Electricity and phone lines were knocked down, and Palestinian officials said the power plant was hit.

The Israeli army said it warned residents of targeted areas in Beit Jalla to evacuate before it started the counterattack. Gilo residents gathered in the streets to watch, cheered each hit.

Elsewhere, four Palestinians died in clashes two teen-agers in the Gaza Strip and two men near the West Bank town of Hebron. Stones were thrown at troops in several trouble spots.

One hundred twenty-one persons, most of them Palestinians, have been killed in three weeks of violence.

"We need to have a timeout … to reassess the peace process in light of the events of the last few weeks," Mr. Barak told his weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.

"One would have to be blind to security and political needs to continue as if nothing has changed," he said.

A statement issued by Mr. Barak's office did not say how long the timeout would last. Israeli negotiators will refuse to meet with their Palestinian counterparts until the timeout was lifted.

The intensification of the rhetoric came despite efforts by Egypt and the United States the principal sponsors of Israel and the Palestinians, respectively to salvage the "peace process".

Egypt and the United States convened the summit last week at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik that ended with a cease-fire declaration. The Americans said they would continue to work toward bringing the sides together.

While campaigning yesterday, President Clinton reached Mr. Barak by telephone for a 15-minute conversation, White House spokesman Elliot Diringer said.

Mr. Clinton restated his commitment to working with both sides to "ensure full implementation of the Sharm el Sheik agreement … and ultimately to get back to the peace process," he said.

Egypt, meanwhile, headed off an Arab summit declaration that would mandate breaking off ties with Israel, effectively declaring the peace process dead.

Arab nations "hold Israel responsible for any steps taken in regard to relations with Israel by Arab countries, including their cancellation," said the final declaration of the Cairo summit.

That fell short of efforts by radicals for a clear-cut call for ending ties with Israel and left intact Egypt's moderating role in the region.

Mr. Barak thanked the Egyptians for moderating the summit but rejected the overall tone of the gathering.

"Israel rejects, truly categorically, the language of threats which emanated from the summit and condemns the call, implicit in the resolutions, for continuation of the violence," he told reporters.

Mr. Barak has indicated that if the talks fail, he would take unilateral steps to separate Israelis from the Palestinians by building a border between Israeli-held portions of the West Bank and those areas controlled by Palestinians.

"We got his message and in spite of the balanced, peaceful method of the Arab summit, he sent a message of war unilateral solutions," said Mr. Arafat's information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo.

The United States, Israel's main backer, warned against unilateral acts. "Israelis and Palestinians are bound, even condemned, to live together, side by side," said U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk.

Mr. Barak accelerated efforts to bring opposition leader Ariel Sharon into his fragile government before parliament reconvenes next week an alliance that would likely chill efforts to persuade the Palestinians to cool the violent demonstrations.

White House Chief of Staff John Podesta told CNN "a lot of hot, and, frankly, unfortunate, rhetoric" came out of the Arab summit.

"We don't want to see a long timeout … from the peacemaking process. There has to be a way back.

"But under the circumstances today, the first and foremost need is to get the violence under control and to reduce that level of violence."

In interviews yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition," Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, both said it would be difficult to justify continued U.S. aid to the Palestinians if the violence continues.

• Staff writer Joyce Price contributed to this article.

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