Then, tensions eased when Israel elected a new prime minister. Now, after Israel's rejection of a U.S. peace proposal, and for reasons that have as much to do with politics as substance, relations between Clinton and Netanyahu are at a turning point. It's not clear whether the two nations can settle their differences. If they don't, and the peace process that began with high hopes in 1993 collapses, the Mideast could again erupt in violence.
U.S. presidential envoy Dennis Ross left Israel Sunday after failing to convince Netanyahu to come to Washington for a peace summit that would have begun today. Netanyahu did not even raise the U.S. invitation for a summit at his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, drawing accusations from critics that he was leading Israel to a rift with its most important ally.
The downward slide in U.S.-Israeli relations began after initial Israeli troop withdrawals gave Palestinians at least partial control over 26.9% of the West Bank along the Jordan River, land that Israel has occupied since winning the 1967 war. But it is a patchwork quilt of territory that is impossible to stitch into a state, as Arafat has said he intends to do next May when the 1993 Oslo accord expires. That historic accord saw Palestinians recognize Israel for the first time, and Israel agree to exchange land for peace. Both parties agreed to negotiate their differences.
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