Palestinian President Yasir Arafat came under increasing internal pressure this week to implement structural changes in the Palestinian Authority, but many Israeli leaders and analysts dismissed any chance that the kind of reforms demanded by the United States and Israel would be forthcoming.
At the same time a suicide bomber killed 15 in an illegal gambling casino near Tel Aviv Tuesday, President George W. Bush reportedly agreed in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to shove aside Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under the pretext of political reform of the Palestinian Authority.
Senior Israeli officials in Israel were unable to confirm the report, which the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said it learned from sources within Sharon's entourage.
With a resolution of the stand-off between Israelis and Palestinians in Ramallah and Bethlehem in sight at mid-week, efforts by the United States and Saudi Arabia to address the underlying conflict are expected to begin next week when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets with President George W. Bush at the White House.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon returned to the targeted killing of terrorists this week, broadly hinted at an attack on the terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and ruled out any talk of dismantling settlements.
Gaps narrowed in Israeli-Palestinian talks, but no breakthroughs
Lawrence Cohler-Esses and James D. Besser
Like Lucy holding out her football for Charlie Brown to kick again, President Clinton, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat once more raised the world’s expectations Monday for a breakthrough on their long-stalled peace agreement.
But when the three faced an expectant White House press corps after their meeting, Clinton again voiced the phrases heard so often before.
With Secretary of State Colin Powell's Mideast mission widely seen as a failure, the focus of international diplomacy now shifts to a possible regional conference using the Saudi peace initiative as a basis for talks.
King Abdullah of Jordan said his recent meeting with Hafez Assad has convinced him that the Syrian president is ready to sign a peace agreement with Israel.
"I believe that President Assad is very keen to move in the right direction and have a peace with Israel," he told The Jewish Week on Monday during the final leg of a 10-day visit to the United States. "I am very optimistic with the statements that are coming out of Damascus."
Both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna, who will face off in national elections Jan. 28, were sharply reminded this week that within their own parties they are more dovish than their political colleagues.
Faced with a serious scarcity of available land on its heavily populated coastal plain, the government of Israel is quietly moving ahead with plans to develop what critics are calling "fantasy" islands.
The move comes as the country is beset by terrorist attacks inside and outside the country, a desperate need for water and the worst economy since independence 54 years ago.
In the latest move in a project that has been studied for more than a decade, the cabinet last month appointed a six-member committee to explore its financial feasibility.
With polls showing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon leading by as much as 22 percent over rival Benjamin Netanyahu in this week's primary for Likud chairman, attention already began focusing on the Jan. 28 general election.
"If Sharon wins [the primary] by a great deal, he can pursue his own line," said Gabriel Ben-Dor, a political science professor at the University of Haifa. "But if it's close, he will have to compromise with Netanyahu and that would make life difficult for him" in the general election.