Showdown at Camp David over future of Jerusalem

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The Independent Online

The Camp David talks between Israelis and Palestinians headed into a tense and angry showdown last night as mutual accusations of bad faith flew, the Israeli Prime Minister threatened to walk out and President Bill Clinton postponed his departure for Japan for the second time.

The Camp David talks between Israelis and Palestinians headed into a tense and angry showdown last night as mutual accusations of bad faith flew, the Israeli Prime Minister threatened to walk out and President Bill Clinton postponed his departure for Japan for the second time.

An exasperated Ehud Barak appeared on the verge of leaving for home at least twice yesterday, even penning a letter to Mr Clinton - according to Israeli radio reports - announcing his intended departure.

"To my sorrow," he wrote, according to Israel's Army radio, "I have come to the conclusion that the Palestinian side is conducting negotiations insincerely and is not willing to negotiate in a serious and practical manner for a permanent peace between us." Earlier in the day, Israeli sources had said Mr Barak, a master of brinkmanship, was going home because the Palestinian side was "not a true partner for peace".

But the White House spokesman, Joe Lockhart, insisted the talks were still proceeding "at fever pitch".

At the start of the talks, all the signs were that many of the most difficult issues in the decades-long Middle East conflict were ripe for solution, with the return of Palestinian refugees, borders and the future of Jewish settlements all on the table.

But the status of Jerusalem has remained the biggest sticking point. Israel illegally annexed the eastern half of Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, and Palestinians want it back. Israel says the city's sovereignty is not up for negotiation.

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