unt U.S.-sponsored Mideast meetings that have ended without result over the past two years.
At the latest one Tuesday in London, an exasperated Secretary of State Madeleine Albright set a deadline for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept Washington’s compromise proposal for an Israeli troop withdrawal from 13 percent of the West Bank.
If he agrees by next Monday, then President Clinton is ready to preside over the ceremonial launching of talks between Israel and the Palestinians on the final phase of the 1993 Oslo accord — a permanent peace agreement, Albright told a news conference.
If Netanyahu balks, then “we will have to re-examine our approach to the peace process,” Albright said. She did not specify what the Clinton administration might do differently, except that it would not abandon its role as mediator.
One option is to make the U.S. initiative public and openly blame Israel for the failure of the peace talks, a step advocated by Palestinian negotiators.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat already has his ticket to the White House, having accepted the American initiative last month.
Over the next six days, it will be up to the U.S. special Mideast envoy, Dennis Ross, and Netanyahu aides Danny Naveh and Yitzhak Molcho, to try and resolve the differences.
It was not clear how Albright expected mid-level negotiators to succeed where she had failed, especially with Netanyahu adamant that Israel could not accept the American withdrawal proposal.
Israel’s best offer has been a withdrawal from 9 percent of the West Bank, provided the Palestinians make a better effort to combat Islamic militants who have carried out more than a dozen suicide bombings in Israel since 1994. Israeli officials have said Netanyahu might raise his offer to 11 percent.