Is U.S. Ready to Issue an Ultimatum on Peace?

The Clinton administration is set to launch a “take- it-or-leave-it” initiative next week in a bid to break the impasse in Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, according to the London-based newsletter Foreign Report.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is understood to have decided to use “shock tactics” to break the stalemate after returning “completely frustrated” from her last trip to the region.

As part of the initiative, Washington is expected to present a compromise formula, coupled with an ultimatum that unless the proposal is accepted by Israel and the Palestinians, the United States will abandon any further involvement in the peace process and publicly blame whichever side backs away.

State Department officials in Washington, however, say the United States would never fully abandon a peace process it has invested in so heavily.

At the same time, the U.S. officials make clear that they are serious that both Israel and the Palestinians must take steps to move the stagnant peace process forward.

The U.S. proposal is said to call for a phased Israeli withdrawal from 13 percent of the West Bank during a 12-week period, accompanied by Palestinian fulfillment of what is described as “some of their commitments.”

Washington and Jerusalem, however, are likely to clash over an additional U.S. demand that Israel conduct further withdrawals from the West Bank before the start of final-status talks.

Albright is said to have concluded that only such an ultimatum will convince Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to budge from their entrenched, apparently irreconcilable, positions.

Washington’s resolve is understood to have been reinforced by its failure to win overt Arab support for its confrontation with Iraq because of perceived “double standards” in enforcing U.N. resolutions and its perceived one-sided support for Israel.

According to Foreign Report, some Israeli Labor Party leaders are said to have secretly urged Arafat to accept the U.S. proposal in order to “expose Netanyahu’s obstructionism” and perhaps even contribute to his downfall.

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