'Time out' may be what the Middle East needs

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Ehud Barak's request for "time out" from the peace process is - on the face of it - a cynical move to enable Israel's forces to redeploy for a full assault on the Palestinians, while maintaining that he intends to return to the negotiating table as soon as order is restored. If his intention is to unleash helicopter gunships to wash the streets of Jerusalem and Ramallah with Palestinian blood, he deserves the world's repudiation. We can now expect the Palestinians to demand the same flexibility while they rain stones and terror on Israeli troops and settlers. Yet, as we pointed out last week, the Sharm el-Sheikh summit which finished on Tuesday was ill-conceived and ill-timed. It was aimed as much at Bill Clinton's place in history as at Middle Eastern peace, and was doomed to failure. If Mr Barak's wheeze can sustain a dying peace process, it will be worth trying. As Northern Ireland has proved, the path to peace can be littered with twisted semantics and bizarre terminology. A "time out" is a novel idea.

Ehud Barak's request for "time out" from the peace process is - on the face of it - a cynical move to enable Israel's forces to redeploy for a full assault on the Palestinians, while maintaining that he intends to return to the negotiating table as soon as order is restored. If his intention is to unleash helicopter gunships to wash the streets of Jerusalem and Ramallah with Palestinian blood, he deserves the world's repudiation. We can now expect the Palestinians to demand the same flexibility while they rain stones and terror on Israeli troops and settlers. Yet, as we pointed out last week, the Sharm el-Sheikh summit which finished on Tuesday was ill-conceived and ill-timed. It was aimed as much at Bill Clinton's place in history as at Middle Eastern peace, and was doomed to failure. If Mr Barak's wheeze can sustain a dying peace process, it will be worth trying. As Northern Ireland has proved, the path to peace can be littered with twisted semantics and bizarre terminology. A "time out" is a novel idea. But it could be a useful one.

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