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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK
Adversaries fail to bond
The Middle East leaders share a light moment
A light moment for the cameras
By Richard Miron in Jerusalem

Little is known of the negotiations at Camp David but the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, have brought their own differing styles to the talks.

Camp David talks
The relaxed image has masked tense talking
Despite the presence of their negotiating teams, commentators say that trust between the two leaders may be vital in reaching an agreement.

The only television pictures so far from inside Camp David show Mr Barak and Mr Arafat playfully jockeying each other through a doorway at the start of the negotiations.

The jokey atmosphere and camaraderie seemed forced and leaks from inside Camp David appear to indicate that away from the cameras, the personal atmosphere between the two men is cool and businesslike.

Political animal

The Israeli prime minister has an analytical and methodical negotiating style.

But an Israeli political source told the BBC that Mr Barak lacks sensitivity and fails to understand the emotional side of his adversary.

Mr Barak comes from a military background and commentators suggest that he approaches negotiations with the eye of a military tactician and without the subtle approach of a seasoned politician.

The Palestinian leader, by contrast, has described himself as a political animal.

Difficult atmosphere

And Palestinian sources describe him as an emotional negotiator, who attaches great importance to symbols in his talks with his Israeli counterpart.

He reportedly views his Israeli counterpart with suspicion, seeing him still as a military adversary rather than a negotiating partner.

Some commentators suggest that the relationship between the two men remains rooted in the past, with Mr Arafat cast as the leader of a guerrilla army, and Mr Barak as the commando preparing to pursue his enemy.

The lack of a personal bond between the two men may be contributing to the apparently difficult atmosphere at Camp David.

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