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NEWS ANALYSIS `Linkage’ returns as watchword in wake of Jerusalem bombings

JERUSALEM, July 30 (JTA) — “Linkage”” is once again likely to become a watchword in Mideast diplomacy. In the past, the term designated Israeli-Palestinian coordination or interdependence in the peace process. But now, in the wake of this week”s double suicide bombing in Jerusalem”s Mahane Yehuda market, the Israeli government intends to make clear that any further substantive efforts at peace must be linked to Palestinian efforts to stop terror attacks. Indeed, this was the message to emerge from an emergency Inner Cabinet meeting Wednesday night, seven hours after two bombs ripped through Jerusalem”s colorful covered market, which was filled with lunch-time shoppers. When asked if Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would resume as planned, government spokesman Shai Bazak said, “No, for the moment,”” Israel has determined that “in order for it to be possible to make progress in the process, the Palestinian Authority must first of all carry out its commitments to fight terrorism.”” The blast claimed the lives of 13 people, plus the two bombers, and left at least 150 others wounded, some critically. Eyewitnesses described two well-dressed Arab men who were allegedly responsible for the two explosions that came within seconds of each other. The Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a leaflet that it had come in reprisal for last month”s distribution of posters in Hebron that depicted the prophet Mohammed as a pig. The leaflet, signed by the military wing of Hamas, Izz a-Din al- Kassam, blamed the Netanyahu government for the escalation of tensions and demanded the release of all Hamas prisoners held by Israel, including the groups co-founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat declared an emergency in the self-rule areas and ordered the arrests of extremists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which also reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack. Arafat was quick to telephone Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his condolences. In return he received an angry and bitter complaint about the Palestinian Authority”s failure to rein in terrorism. The premier referred to solid Israeli evidence linking top Palestinian police officials to planned terror attacks. He accused Arafat of failing to arrest suspected terrorists, of freeing convicted terrorists and of failing to smash the “terror infrastructure”” maintained by opposition groups and Islamic fundamentalist cells in the self-rule areas. President Clinton, in a news conference in which he condemned the attack, also demanded tougher Palestinian efforts to fight terror. But Israeli observers also noted that Clinton urged both sides to move ahead with the negotiations, and also underscored his administration”s “intense”” efforts to push the peace process forward. But the already stalled negotiations were unlikely to go anywhere in the wake of this week”s attack. U.S. Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross had been due in the region this week to present new American proposals designed to jump-start the long-stalled peace process. But he postponed his mission until “an appropriate period of mourning”” had elapsed. Some observers linked Wednesday”s terror attack to the imminent intensification of U.S.-led diplomatic activity. But others looked to Israel”s apprehension last week of an escaped Islamic Jihad terrorist as the possible trigger for the attack. That was the first time the Israelis had gone back into Palestinian-controlled areas to make such an arrest. The Netanyahu government had been preparing warily for Ross” arrival. In an interview published Wednesday by the Israeli daily Ha”aretz — prior to the terror attack — Netanyahu declared that he would not accept “dictates”” from Washington. There could not be a “take it or leave it approach”” from Washington, Netanyahu warned. Observers said the interview was an obvious signal to Washington that Israel would not agree to a freeze in settlement construction — which was the expected centerpiece of the new American initiative to resume the negotiations. Signals of an imminent burst of activity began emanating from Washington late last week just as Netanyahu confronted a potential crisis prompted by plans to build new Jewish housing in eastern Jerusalem. Some observers saw a connection between the Clinton administration”s decision to invest — and risk — political prestige in a new bout of regional peace diplomacy and the dispute surrounding Ras al-Amud, the site of the proposed new Jewish neighborhood. The American proposals were said to include: * A suspension of new construction by Israel in disputed areas. This includes both Har Homa, the suburb in southeastern Jerusalem where earth-moving work began in March, triggering the suspension of talks, and at Ras al-Amud, where the Miami-based philanthropist Dr. Irving Moskowitz has obtained permission from the Jerusalem Planning Commission to build residential homes on land he owns. * Closer security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, intended to head off terrorist actions and to ensure that the Palestinian security services are fully committed to the peace process. In what observers viewed as a gesture by the two parties toward the evolving American diplomatic initiative, Foreign Minister David Levy and Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Sha”ath announced Monday that two joint committees would resume discussions on issues related to the 1995 Interim Agreement — establishing a safe passage route for Palestinians traveling between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the opening of a seaport in Gaza. But Wednesday”s bombing is likely to set back even that modest forward movement. Israeli spokesmen had hailed the resumption of committee discussions as a breakthrough, while Palestinian officials had attempted to downplay them. The truth is somewhere in the middle: These discussions are not at the core of the conflict, and do not represent a resolution of the months-long crisis. But the decision by the two sides to try to relaunch these talks signified a growing sense that the Americans mean business and intend to exert pressure on both sides to resume the “hard-core”” talks on further redeployment and on final-status issues. Clinton”s reaction Wednesday appeared to indicate that, once the dead are buried and the mourning ends, Washington will re-schedule Ross” mission. Perhaps, given the new deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian relations caused by the bombing, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will make the trip instead of Ross to put forward the American proposals. Albright cut short her trip to Asia on Wednesday because of the bombing. While the attack Wednesday predictably triggered a torrent of hard-line rhetoric from the right of the political spectrum — and from hard-liners within the coalition — the intelligence community was quick to reiterate its own somber warnings that diplomatic deadlock will exacerbate — not moderate — the risk of further violence.

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