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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Analysis: A faltering peace
Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
The future of Jerusalem is seen as the key issue
By Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

The fact that the Israeli and Palestinian delegations are staying behind offers no guarantee that they can somehow achieve what they have failed to achieve in nine bruising days of negotiations.

Indeed this may be no more than last-minute damage limitation by an American administration which can't afford a definitive failure.

Modest goal

It is clear that, while other issues proved difficult, it was the question of sovereignty over Jerusalem which finally scuppered President Clinton's best efforts.

Neither Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak nor Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat could afford to go home having compromised on this highly charged issue.

Now the American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has the thankless task of retrieving what she can from a grim situation.

The goal may now be a more modest one, no longer to achieve a wide-ranging agreement, but simply a formula for keeping the peace process alive.

High price

In the current mood of recrimination, even this won't be easy. The price of failure could be high.

Ehud Barak's gamble that he could push through an agreement seems to have failed, and he now faces a highly uncertain political future.

Yasser Arafat meanwhile may feel forced to carry out his threat to make a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in September, a move which could heighten the instability in the region.

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See also:

18 Jul 00 | Middle East
Adversaries fail to bond
18 Jul 00 | Middle East
Refugees: No place like home
19 Jul 00 | Middle East
Jerusalem: Difficult divisions
17 Jul 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Paying for peace
02 Jul 00 | Middle East
Palestinian statehood 'irreversible'
31 Jan 00 | Middle East
Jerusalem: Eternal, intractable
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