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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Analysis: Barak's hopes fade
Barak
Barak has refused to attend peace talks in Egypt
By Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

A week of bloodshed has transformed the situation in the Middle East and radically altered the priorities of the peacemakers.

The urgent task now is to end the cycle of violence.

Even then it will be extremely hard to resume the talks which began at the Camp David summit in July on the core issues of an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

With only three weeks left before the return of the Israeli parliament from its summer recess, Prime Minister Ehud Barak has precious little time to reach an agreement.

With no agreement, his minority agreement seems doomed to fall.

'Humiliating U-turn'

Mr Barak is preparing for the worst by instructing his officials to hold secret talks with the right-wing Likud Party. The aim is to create a government of national unity - or what some are calling a government of national emergency.

Likud party leader Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is blamed by many for causing the crisis
Likud would exact a high price for its participation - the scrapping of all the concessions Mr Barak made at Camp David.

The situation is replete with irony. Having criticised Likud leader Ariel Sharon for his controversial visit last week to Jerusalem's holy shrines - the incident many see as the trigger of the current violence - Mr Barak is now seeking him out as a political partner.

There is no guarantee that it will work, and in any case it cannot be the prime minister's preferred solution. Having staked his political credibility on achieving a historic compromise with the Palestinians, it would be a humiliating U-turn for Mr Barak to give up now.

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See also:

05 Oct 00 | Middle East
Summit fails to end violence
04 Oct 00 | Middle East
In pictures: Tensions run high
04 Oct 00 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Anger and mourning in Gaza
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Israel 'sorry' for killing boy
01 Oct 00 | Middle East
Arab world condemns Israel
04 Oct 00 | Middle East
Feelings run high at the UN
02 Oct 00 | Media reports
Israel apportions blame
02 Oct 00 | Middle East
Mubarak backs calls for Arab summit
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