JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is telling the Israeli Cabinet that the U.S. presidential election will put the Middle East peace talks on hold, possibly for several months, until the uncertainty that the campaign brings is ended.
Although Israel had offered to resume in October the Washington-based negotiations, which are scheduled to adjourn this week, neither its Arab partners nor the Bush administration would agree, Mr. Rabin told the Cabinet yesterday.
"The Bush administration is totally preoccupied with the elections -- that is, with its own fate -- and the Arabs want to see whether this administration does, in fact, survive November," a senior Israeli official commented after the Cabinet meeting.
"We ourselves are willing to go on, for these talks are still quite exploratory, and we do not need U.S. mediation for that. But, with Washington's attention elsewhere, the energy is not there for real progress."
Mr. Rabin nonetheless accused Syria of provoking a "mini-crisis" in the talks last week, cutting short Thursday's session and declaring the negotiations at a near-impasse, in what Israel saw as an attempt to bring in the United States to extract early concessions from Israel and thus "save" the peace effort prior to the U.S. elections.
Israel had hoped to continue this discussion in October, offering to send its delegation back to Washington and thus maintain the momentum.
"We have to negotiate within the framework of American politics, such is the Middle East," Faisal Husseini, head of the Palestinian negotiating team, said in a weekend interview here. "We would like to go faster, but we are caught within the timetable of the U.S. presidential elections."