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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Press mulls 'Jerusalem Syndrome'
The Middle East press has been preoccupied with the dangers posed by failure to reach an agreement at Camp David, and the thorny issue of Jerusalem.

Map of Jerusalem with shadow of Orthodox Jew
Jerusalem: The key sticking point
"There is something about Jerusalem that addles the brain," Aqiva Eldar wrote in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

"Psychiatrists have even given it a name: the Jerusalem Syndrome. Sometimes, it seems that even high-ranking, cool-headed leaders are not immune."

An editorial in the same paper congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak for his willingness to even mention the subject.

There is something about Jerusalem that addles the brain

"Israel cannot make do with declarative rhetoric that 'United Jerusalem is Israel's capital forever," it said.

'Deep disagreements'

The independent Israeli paper Ma'ariv reported that "deep disagreements have erupted" between Prime Minister Barak and the head of the Israeli negotiating team Shlomo Ben-Ami over the team's stance on Jerusalem.

But suggestions that the talks might continue without the Jerusalem issue were not altogether dismissed by another senior Israeli official, delegation spokesman Gadi Baltiansky.

"These are predictions or assessments, and I don't want to discuss the substantive details here," he told Israeli army radio.

"I would not rule out the possibility that discussions on all the issues - including the one you mentioned - will continue."

US 'big stick'

An Arab member of the Israeli parliament said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had categorically rejected suggestions that the issue of Jerusalem be dropped from the agenda.

We don't have much choice but to succumb, willy-nilly, to peace

Ahmad al-Tibi told Voice of Israel radio that "Yasser Arafat rejected a US proposal to formulate a partial agreement that would not include the issue of Jerusalem".

Israel's Globes newspaper warned that the US had never been afraid to use force to pursue its aims and recalled numerous historical examples.

"If we don't want the US passing from 'speak softly' to 'wave a big stick', then we don't have much choice but to succumb, willy-nilly, to peace," it said.

Barak's dilemma

The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat noted that both sides were cautious in public but the most likely end to the talks would be a breakdown over the Jerusalem issue.

Arafat would then go to Cairo for further consultations, and Ehud Barak "will return to Tel Aviv to deal with the accumulating internal crises in his coalition government and even inside his Labor Party", the paper said.

As if to underline the risks facing Mr Barak, an independent Israeli analysis organization released the results of an opinion poll.

"If elections were held for prime minister today, and the candidates were Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu, who would you vote for?" it asked 600 Israelis.

The results were

  • Barak 37%,
  • Netanyahu 44%
  • Not clear 19%

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

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Mid-East peace struggle goes on
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Analysis: A faltering peace
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12 Jul 00 | Media reports
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