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Clinton To Meet With Netanyahu Today


WASHINGTON (Jan. 19) -- President Bill Clinton meets today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for critical talks designed to jump-start the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But there are pressure points on Clinton and on his very strained personal relationship with the prime minister.

The pressure begins this morning when Clinton sits down with Netanyahu. And it will continue Thursday during Clinton's talks with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

The bottom line for Clinton and his advisors includes another significant Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank coupled with Palestinian steps to fight terrorism.

Sources say he will spell out his views in detail. Without such U.S. pressure, Clinton fears the stalled peace process will completely collapse.

Taking time out from some volunteer work on Martin Luther King Day, Clinton insisted Monday he has high hopes.

"I'm committed to making it a success. I'm going to do my part and I just want us to have constructive relations where we can move this forward," Clinton said.

If there ever were a U.S. president well-positioned to pressure an Israeli leader, it is Clinton, who in his final term has a solid reservoir of support both in Israel and within the American Jewish community. But Netanyahu enjoys strong support among conservative Republicans in Congress.

Meanwhile, Clinton's long-strained relationship with Netanyahu continues to deteriorate. One former State Department official said while Clinton prides himself on being able to get along with anyone, there appears to be little chemistry between the two leaders

White House aides concede neither Netanyahu nor Arafat will like what they hear, but they insist the alternative is a complete breakdown of the peace process, and with it a return to terrorism and violence.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.
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Tuesday Jan. 20, 1998

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