Netanyahu's balancing act Enlarging Jerusalem: Appeasing Israel's hawks while making peace with PLO.

March 01, 1997

ISRAEL'S AUTHORIZATION of 6,300 apartments in Arab land between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem endangers more than the peace process. It puts at risk Israel's wider acceptance as a player on the world stage.

Israel has benefited in outreach since engaging the PLO in a peace process and starting Palestinian autonomy. While Palestinians were threatening violence against this long-bruited encroachment on West Bank territory they consider theirs, other things were going on.

Ezer Weizman was making the first state visit of an Israeli president to Britain. He and Mrs. Weizman spent a night at Buckingham Palace, which is a much more exclusive hotel than the White House these days.

The Turkish army chief of staff, Gen. Israel Hakki Karaday, was in Israel expanding military cooperation, which includes Israeli pilot training in Turkish air space and Israeli upgrading of Turkish jets. He discussed cooperation against "extremist elements."

The director general of Israel's foreign ministry met Yemen's foreign minister somewhere in Europe. They agreed that Israelis of Yemenite descent should be allowed to visit that remote tip of the Arabian peninsula.

While Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat was denouncing Israel's cabinet, his Fatah organization was meeting with three terrorist groups, Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They pledged to "support" his talks with Israel starting next month on settlements, Jerusalem and the final status of Palestine. This may mean a truce to terrorism. Whether it does will soon be seen.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew that authorizing the settlement was trouble. That's why a government figure immediately promised that Israel will vacate more of the West Bank than it has committed to do. When Mr. Netanyahu makes a gesture one way, he follows with one the other. Which is all right if it brings Israel's hawks to the peace table.

Mr. Netanyahu could help that process, Israel's place in the world and his own in history if, somehow, those apartments in Har Homa never get completed and occupied.

Pub Date: 3/01/97

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