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Impasse on Peace Process Leads to Renewed Violence in Territories

Arab activists used the latest impasse in the peace process to escalate violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Yom Kippur.

Five Palestinians were killed in fierce clashes with Israeli security forces Monday. A sixth was shot dead by a fellow Arab.

Two Israeli soldiers were burned in a Molotov cocktail attack in Nablus. More Israeli cars were set afire in East Jerusalem, bringing to 21 the number torched this month.

The latest upsurge, in response to a leaflet issued by the intifada leadership, was seen by Arabs and Israelis alike as a calculated reaction to the Inner Cabinet’s rejection by tie vote Friday of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s invitation to host an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in Cairo.

The local leadership of the uprising, apparently under guidance of the Palestine Liberation Organization, felt that in face of the hardened Israeli position it too should adopt a hard line.

“The intifada will now become stronger, more effective, but still without the use of firearms,” said Faisal Husseini, an influential Palestinian from East Jerusalem whom the Israelis regard as a supporter of the PLO.

The Palestinian community generally was disappointed with the outcome of the Inner Cabinet meeting, especially since the intensive political activity of the past month raised expectations.

HOPES SHIFTED TO WASHINGTON

They have now shifted their hopes from Cairo to Washington, apparently expecting the United States to pressure Israel to accept the PLO as a negotiating partner.

Their target date is Nov. 15, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is to meet with President Bush at the White House.

Although Shamir has always insisted he would never yield to pressure if it were applied by his American ally, the Palestinians are convinced he dare not show up in Washington without some concessions.

They believe, accordingly, that the Israeli leader will offer more if the intifada intensifies and regains the attention of the world news media, which it has lost in recent months.

“We shall escalate the struggle so that the Israelis understand that there is no other way but to talk to the Palestinians,” said Husseini, whose name has appeared on several lists of a potential Palestinian negotiating team.

Only the radical left wing in the Palestinian camp was pleased by the Inner Cabinet’s rejectionist vote.

It is their belief that only a further deterioration of the situation in the territories will force the Israelis to accept a solution.

Moderate Palestinians, however, are speaking of the need to shift Israeli public opinion in favor of peaceful compromise. They have readymade allies in the Israeli Peace Now movement.

Last week, Peace Now attempted to hold a dialogue with Palestinian moderates in the West Bank town of Tulkarm.

They were barred by Israel Defense Force roadblocks. Hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians demonstrated on both sides of the barrier.

The Israeli authorities seem determined to prevent ad hoc peace initiatives by the local populace, Israeli or Arab. They have banned a Palestinian news conference in East Jerusalem.

They have prevented diplomats and journalists from visiting the Arab town of Beit Sahur, where the residents are on a tax strike.

That ban was ridiculed in an editorial Tuesday in the Hebrew daily Ha’aretz. “As a result of the blocking efforts, the Beit Sahur event received more local and international attention than otherwise,” the newspaper pointed out.

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