Following the departure of US special negotiator Dennis Ross, from the region, it is being reported that officials in Washington are displeased with Israel's failure to cancel punitive actions taken against the Palestinians following the Jerusalem market terror attack.
US officials have argued that the withholding of PA funds and other actions taken by the Israeli administration only served to increase tensions in the self-rule areas and give additional support to those elements seeking to undermine the Oslo process.
Reports from Washington indicate that America expected Israel and the PA to begin resumption of cooperation in matters of security in exchange for Israel removing sanctions imposed on the PA.
Israel has not yet complied and it appears that Jerusalem intends to hold firm until defence officials consider Yasser Arafat to be making a concrete effort to combat the terrorist infrastructure in the areas he controls
by Israeli political commentator Chemi Shalev (MA'ARIV, Aug 12)
These are rare days of affinity between Israel and the United States. US mediator Dennis Ross uses almost the same language as the Israeli government. Both sides demand from Yasser Arafat to do much more to fight terrorism. Both sides agree that the resumption of security coordination is a prerequisite for continuing the process.
Both sides are pressuring Arafat and the Palestinian Authority [PA] to get what they want. However, it should be noted that what Israel wants from Arafat in the security sphere is far more demanding than what the Americans want. Israel wants the PA to wage an all-out war on the "terrorist infrastructure" and meet a long series of demands, including the arrest of hundreds of Islamic activists.
The Americans are prepared to suffice with much more modest proof that Arafat has changed his approach, such as an intensive investigation of the Mahane Yehuda bombing and the arrest of specific wanted men involved in terrorism.
Netanyahu's problem is that when she said that her visit to the region would hinge on Ross managing to get 'Arafat to take firm security measures, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright actually wrested away from him the power to decide when 'Arafat will have qualified. As soon as Albright announces her visit, she will have given a seal of approval to Arafat and drastically reduce Netanyahu's ability to demand further steps from him.
This is the background for the "encouraging signs" of Arafat's willingness to cooperate with Ross discerned yesterday. The US mediator is trying to convince Arafat to go for the kind of deal where you pay now and get the goods later. Ross is telling Arafat that the adoption of persuasive security steps will bring Albright to the region carrying a political package consisting of explicit US demands regarding the settlements and construction in East Jerusalem.
Although this is not being said in so many words, Ross has been hinting to Arafat that he has the ability to put the ball in Netanyahu's court and bring the new and temporary idyll between Jerusalem and Washington to a swift end.