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Keeping Israel to Its Word

American interests in middle East peace and creating a Palestinian homeland are once again being held hostage to right-wing politics in Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is pleading for more time to deal with the security of isolated Jewish settlements on the West Bank before handing over more land to the Palestinian Authority. But that issue was settled when Israel signed the Wye agreement last fall.

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This delay, presumably to deal with right-wing pressures within Mr. Barak's coalition, has raised suspicions that he wants to withhold land due the Palestinians in order to use it as leverage in future negotiations over who controls Jerusalem.

The constant growth of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land over the past three decades was always at odds with peace. Barak, at least, ordered his troops to stop the planting of yet another cluster of settlers' mobile homes on a West Bank hilltop.

But what about the necessity of relocating or dismantling some settlements to allow the Palestinians a governable geographic entity? The Palestinians have waited too long and made too many compromises.

Now is not the time for the United States to go easy on Israel, despite Barak's goodwill and best intentions.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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