Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not attend a Mideast peace summit in Washington next week, a senior aide said Friday after Netanyahu and a U.S. envoy failed to reach agreement on a West Bank troop pullout.
President Clinton had set a Monday deadline for Israel to accept an American compromise plan, which calls for an Israeli troop pullback from 13 percent of the West Bank. In return, Clinton had promised to begin talks on a permanent peace settlement, something Israel has pushed for.Clinton dispatched his chief Mideast envoy, Dennis Ross, in a final effort to persuade Netanyahu. However, a 90-minute meeting between Ross and Netanyahu ended without an agreement, and the two did not schedule another round of talks.
"It's quite obvious we won't be able to reach an agreement by Sunday, which means we won't be able to be in Washington on Monday," Netanyahu's senior aide, David Bar-Illan, told the Associated Press.
The Palestinians have accepted Clinton's offer. By saying no, Netanyahu is setting himself up for an open confrontation with the Clinton administration and possible blame for a breakdown in the peace process.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman James Foley said Friday that, as far as he knew, Israel had not yet "closed the door on that meeting." If there is no breakthrough in the 14-month stale-mate, the United States will "re-examine" its approach to the peace process, Foley said.
It was not immediately clear what other options the Clinton administration was considering.
Ross was to remain in Israel over the weekend, leaving open the possibility of more talks with Netan-yahu. Israeli media said efforts were being made to arrange a meeting Saturday evening at the end of the Jewish Sabbath.
Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said Israel had not informed the Palestinians of their decision not to attend the Washington summit.
"Mr. Ross will be seeing President Arafat Saturday, and then we will know where things stand," Erekat told reporters after a Palestinian Cabinet meeting in Ramallah, West Bank.