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THE MIDDLE EAST: A grim scenario

WAISers who desperately want the Israeli-Palestinian talks to succeed say that it is a mistake to describe the Camp David talks as a failure. World opinion is pessimistic. Here is the worst possible scenario.

The defeat of Shimon Peres in his bid for the presidency of Israel is a blow to the cause of peace and to Israeli democracy, since he had the support of the majority of Israelis. The victor, Moshe Katsav, is described as tolerant and polite, but he is a Sephardic Jew allied with the conservative, uncompromising Jews. Arafat says he will proclaim the Palestinian state ion September 15, Israel has warned of the consequences.

The US is accused of being pro-Israel, and certainly its attitude has not been impartial. Clinton too warned Arafat and said the US would cut off aid. There is great international support for the Pope's proposal to give Jerusalem an international status, but Madeleine Albright simply rejected the idea, and thus offended many Catholics. At the Republican Convention, where any serious thought was banned, there was simply a reference to supporting Israel. Not a word about the United Nations, which should have an important role to play.

If Arafat goes ahead and Clinton carries out his threat, Muslim activists have said every American diplomat will become a target. The Palestinians are now well-armed. Arafat has toured the world seeking support, and many governments will recognize the Palestinian state. While France has the presidency of the EU, many European governments may do so also. The United States might find itself virtually alone.

Serious hostilities might ensue, possibly even World War III. Jerusalem is destroyed in the fighting. "By the ruins of Jerusalem we sat down and wept, when we thought of thee, o Zion." A Roman solution, which history may not resort to. Or it may.

Ronald Hilton - 8/09/00