- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2000

The name calling on both sides began before Palestinian and Israeli leaders even went into yesterday's emergency summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Then after just four hours of discussion, foreign ministers stopped work on a document aimed at halting the violence in the region, with arguments arising over every proposed concept. Outside the plush Red Sea golf resort on the streets of Middle East cities, Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement had incited thousands to demonstrate in a "day of rage" to protest U.S. and Israeli objectives for the summit. Meanwhile, another Palestinian policeman was killed in a stand-off with the Israeli army. Such meetings will continue to have no influence on the escalating violence in the region if both sides make finger-pointing their only goal.

President Clinton's team was counting itself lucky to get an invitation to the stand-off, and was just hoping for a truce and the possibility of a future meeting with better results. Unfortunately, the role of the United States is not a certain one in such talks any longer; its role as facilitator isn't even trusted. Instead, the Palestinians invited a band of mediators who came with their own diverse agendas: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Javier Solana of the European Union, King Abdullah of Jordan and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

No amount of mediation will help if the preparation for such summits consists of inciting or allowing violence on every front. Weighing in on the summit were Palestinian revolutionaries called the Tanzim, the Palestinian and Hezbollah media, and other armed Islamic groups. The Hezbollah-controlled television station has been encouraging Palestinians to stab Israelis to death, while Palestinians have been training their 12-to-16-year-old children to fight with the Tanzim against the Israeli army.

Meanwhile, Mr. Arafat has met with Islamic fundamentalist groups like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to discuss encouraging the Intifada, or popular uprising. If that wasn't a clear enough statement about his intentions for the peace process, he also released dozens of Islamic terrorist suspects last week.

Mr. Barak for his part will have to decide whether he wants to risk including in his government coalition the Likud party and its leader Ariel Sharon who led an invasion of Lebanon in 1982. If that happens, the Palestinians threaten, the peace process is over.

Some Palestinians have already made the decision to place a gravestone on the process. For the future of the entire Middle East, it must be hoped that the efforts to wean the Palestinians off their habit of premature grave-digging doesn't stop with this week's summit.

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