- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2001

Missed opportunity

Israeli Ambassador David Ivry spoke sadly about the Palestinians' missed opportunities in peace talks with Prime Minister Ehud Barak, politically weakened by his own peace overtures and facing probable defeat in Feb. 6 elections.

Mr. Ivry, addressing the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs this week, noted the words of Israeli statesman Abba Eban.

"Almost 20 years have passed since Abba Eban made what may have been his most famous remark," Mr. Ivry said, namely that the Palestinians never " 'miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.'

"His words are as relevant now, as they were then."

Mr. Ivry blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for rejecting Mr. Barak's "far-reaching proposals" at Camp David talks last year and for unleashing a Palestinian uprising. The rioting and demonstrations that began four months ago have claimed more than 320 lives, mostly Palestinians killed by Israeli authorities.

Mr. Ivry said Israeli civilians are now being targeted by some of the same terrorists Israel released as part of negotiations.

The ambassador said Mr. Barak "went to Camp David prepared to make the difficult compromises necessary to bring the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to an end.

"Barak offered the Palestinians the most far-reaching proposals ever offered by an Israeli government," Mr. Ivry said. "He broached the most difficult issues between Israelis and Palestinians issues that had never been discussed in [peace talks] final borders, Jerusalem, settlements and refugees.

"Instead of extending an olive branch of their own, the Palestinians responded with unprecedented violence rioting, sniper attacks, lynchings and the destruction of holy sites.

"They sacrificed their own people especially children, by closing down schools for extended periods and sending students to participate in riots."

Israelis have become so frustrated with peace efforts, they are heavily supporting hawkish Likud leader Ariel Sharon, who promises no concessions in talks with the Palestinians.

"Even in the Israeli peace camp, many no longer believe that Arafat is a leader who genuinely strives for peace. This is partially due to the fact that his demands go well beyond what Israel can possibly offer. Remember, this is the view even among those willing to make the most substantial concessions," Mr. Ivry said.

"The Palestinians have once again missed an opportunity maybe their biggest since rejecting the partition plan in 1947. As a result of the violence, Barak has been blamed for going too far. Now, the opportunity to reach a final agreement during Barak's term has all but passed."

Another farewell

The U.S. ambassador to Indonesia yesterday delivered a letter from former President Clinton to Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Mr. Clinton's farewell note expressed his support for Mr. Wahid's efforts to build a secure democracy in the troubled island nation, said Ambassador Robert Gelbard.

"[Mr. Clinton] cares very much about Indonesia's feelings and the new administration, the Bush administration, will of course continue to support the development of strong democracy, strong democratic institutions and a strong market economy in Indonesia," Mr. Gelbard told reporters after delivering the letter.

"[The United States] had a very positive and close relationship with President Wahid and [Mr. Clinton] congratulated Wahid in his progress in building democratic institutions."

New neighbors

New Zealand Ambassador James B. Bolger yesterday said his new neighbors, the Clintons, have arrived in the house on Whitehaven Street that adjoins his embassy compound on Observatory Circle.

Mr. Bolger can look out his office window and see the back of the house.

"The sun is shining on it and on us," he told the Agence France-Presse.

But Mr. Bolger does not know whether he expects to meet the former president and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton anytime soon.

"This is not small-town New Zealand. It's big-town America," he said. "Whether we meet as neighbors is something for the future."

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