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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Q&A: Mitchell report
In the wake of the Mitchell report which recommended ways of ending months of violence in the Middle East our analyst Roger Hardy provides an at-a-glance guide to some of the issues it raises:

Will the Mitchell report make a difference?

The report is important because it provides a framework for international efforts to end the violence.

While it is clear that the Bush administration welcomes the report, what is less clear is whether it is prepared to put its full weight behind it.

What about the new Israeli rules of engagement?

It looks as if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is trying to have it both ways - signalling restraint while reserving the right to take tough measures should the need arise.

Certainly his calculations are as much political as military.

He wants to wrongfoot the Palestinians, thereby reinforcing his argument that they are the ones perpetuating the violence.

Is there room for compromise on the settler issue?

This remains the toughest issue. Ariel Sharon rejects a freeze on settlement building in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians insist on one.

The US administration may try to fudge the issue somehow but given the clear stance of the Mitchell report, this would disappoint Arab and European opinion.

What is Sharon's strategy?

Some Israeli commentators say bluntly that Sharon, for all his election promises, has no strategy.

But this does not mean he is under serious domestic pressure to change course.

The one form of pressure he has shown himself sensitive to is pressure from Washington.

What can the Bush administration do?

The Bush administration has tied its own hands by downgrading the Arab-Israeli dispute and insisting on keeping its distance.

Now it is obliged to intervene while pretending not to.

The Mitchell report has created certain pressures in Washington, as well as in the Middle East.


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